It was a punishing trail. Not technical but deceptively tiring. It also had the first stream crossing during a race that I have been a part of. This stream crossing probably cost The Man Formally Known as the Idster a podium spot, as he suffered chain suck twice and lost his #3 position falling back to almost last place, and then recovering to finish in the top 10. Tough breaks, but thats racing.He used a heavier oil lubricant which likely contributed to his problems. I used a thin spray lube and had no problems at all. The stream was almost a foot deep and with the riders blasting through the water was splashing up waist high at times. An interesting mix to the race.
The course started out with an easy wide trail that allowed for easy easy passing. It had a gradual climb to it but was big ring blasting for about 1.5 miles before it narrowed. There was alot of climbing through-out the course and this made for tired riders as the course went on. One of the myths of MTB is that if you have a long climb, at least you will have a nice long downhill. I don't know how Dave Berger of Gone Riding did it, but he proved this myth wrong. He set this course up and I think there was a 2-1 ratio of climbing vs. downhill. This was going to be part of my race strategy after pre-riding on Saturday. Pace myself, pass everybody on lap 2 when they are all sucking air. I figure they would extend too much energy on the easy section, hit the climbs and then fall apart. It almost worked for me. I found myself in the unfortunate position of seeking out the oxygen tent myself on lap 2, doing my best fish face imitaion, trying to inhale as much atmosphere as possible and I didn't have the strength to close as hard as I wanted. The course winded on through the forest and road crossing, back into the forest and then dumping us all out into a field. This may have been a power line field, I wasn't taking in all the scenery so I can't say for certain. We snaked our way back and forth through the field and there were some longer climbs in this area where if you had the power, it was easy pickings for passing people. After the field, back into the woods for some nice sweeping singletrack, then into the parking area, onto theBMX track, through the parking area and into the finish line. For Beginners, two laps, approximately 6.5 miles each lap.
I had an interesting start. I wasn't going out for the lead so I didn't put any pressure on myself. I was mid-pack. The first 100 yards was downhill and then there was a right hand turn, around an oak tree onto a gravel road. As the pack approached the turn we were 5 wide, tire to tire front and rear. I had the inside line approaching the tree and somebody thought they would pass me on the inside. They miscalculated with their speed and line of approach and decided to go to the right of the tree instead of the turning around on the left side of the tree. He was going too fast as he tried to blast his way past, locked up his rear wheel and tried to negotiate the turn. Rocks were flying everywhere as he was out of control. He missed the tree and managed the turn but because his speed wass too high and he had his wheel locked up, he fishtailed through the turn and went tumbling and bouncing on the road. As he passed me going into the turn, I was laughing to myself because I knew there was about to be some shiznits so I was ready and I had slowed waiting for the spectacle, and sure enough this guy was bouncing and rolling right in front of me. His bike bounced and was flipping around and my front tire actually pushed his bike off the track, like a snow plow clearing the road. I was watching him eat dirt and taking those rocks on his hip and I was thinking that has got to hurt like he$%!
I took it slow and easy the first 3 miles, riding at the rear of my class. Dropped my water bottle and went back to get it. No pressure to go all out I thought. Once we we hit the field and other open areas, I was beginning to pass riders as some were already tiring. I blasted by a line of 5-6 riders in one area as I engaged the big ring and opened it up as they were recovering. That felt pretty good and was what I thought I would be able to do. My strategy was working. It was a tiring course and my batteries were getting drained. On lap 2 I got behind two riders who were picking up the pace themselves. They looked like they had the same plan as me. I rode behind them for 3 miles and then one of them tired and got dropped. The other guy kept going. I was really starting to hurt at this point and was thinking to myself that I did not have the juice to pull myself back into a podium spot. I was struggling with my bottles and my gu shots and decided to stop at around mile 4.5 on lap 2, take a big long drink, an energy shot, switch my empty bottle to my back pocket and then hit again. No one passed me while I did this but two riders were coming up and I jumped out on the trail right before they passed. I felt better for stopping because I was having a hard time being able to take a long enough drink to satisfy the thirst, and the fumbling around with the bottles was slowing me down anyways. I knew I had 2+ miles to go, the hardest climbs still in front of me and I thought I was in 9 -10 place. I went into the field area again and took the first climb as hard as I could. This drained me and I felt like I was toast. There were still two more climbs in the field and I wanted to stop and rest to catch my breath but I knew I couldn't let that happen. I spun my way through and got back into the forest. I caught back up to the rider that was in front of me at the beginning of lap 2. I rode his tire for a bit, we passed 4 -5 other riders, most of these were younger guys who had started before us. This guy in front of me wasn't tiring and I was thinking that he was going to last and I was going to go one on one with him on the BMX track. Mentally I was already planning my lines and where to make a move... and then he broke. He pulled up and said go, man. Pass me. I went by and he tried to follow but I gapped him pretty good. As I entered the parking area, there was another rider I could see just entering the BMX track. He had about 25 seconds on me. I hammered it. Big ring blasting as I hit the BMX track. I wanted to catch this guy bad. I was hoping he would slow down. He maintained a good pace. I was closing the gap, closer and closer. The BMX track goes back and forth like 5 times, so you can see the other rider and measure if you aregetting closer. I was closing the gap but he still had10 seconds on me. As we left the BMX track, there was a long straight away, sweeping left turn, then a right hand turn into the finish gate, a slight up hill. I was blasting through all this and just as he finished his right turn for the 30 yards up hill to the finish line I came into the turn at full speed, big ring, but I still had to turn and this lost all my speed and by the time I was cranking again he was at the line.
I thought I had finished in 7-9 place but when the numbers were posted, I was able to take 5'th place. Not as good as I wanted but all things considered, I was very happy and felt fortunate to be #5.