Monday, May 26, 2008
This race represents my first event as a semi-pro.
Took a leisurely drive due West to return to the venue where I won the expert 40-49 class last year. My purpose was to earn a top-15 in my field to qualify for Natz. Did I have illusions of being on the podium? Sure! But I was realistic and kept to the task at hand.
The day was gorgeous! Still snow on top of Mt. Washington.
I arrived stupid early and decided to do a reconaissance lap to check course conditions and loosen up after the drive. I don't normally do this, but I felt confident I would end up with some useful information. Conditions were dusty dry and very muddy at the same time! There were some irrigation issues that clearly never dry up and left a nice layer of tacky mud on the bike each lap. Everywhere else, it was a hindrence to tail anyone as you just sucked their dust. The lap took a bit longer than I expected, but I wasn't in any danger of not making the start. I'm hoping they added to the course this year because finish times seem a few minutes at least later than last year's and the course was in better shape.
I bumped into series leader and sick SS'er Thom Parsons and prennial workhorse Michael Patrick pre-race. As I'm new to the field, I didn't know who else was who, but assumed it was a pretty competitive group and knew I had my work cut out for me.
The race start was a hammerfest! We did a quick 90 degree turn in a filed then immediately converged into a 1 lane bridge. There was a little traffic jam, but not what I would call a crash. Then it was a drag race up an open road climb. I was in a group that included Parsons and Mike Joos that I thought was appropriate so I settled in. Once in the singetrack the action didn't mellow, it intensified! Gone are the days when I could take a break and recover! These guys kept the foot to the pedal and scrapped and battled for every inch of trail. I was glad to be on Joos' wheel as I admired his little tail whips around turns as he lead me over obstacles quicker than I would have ever dreamed of going. I was also fortunate to have followed him off the trail as we avoided a small pile up. He bushwacked his own path! Eventually there was some separation and we all had some room to find our own lines and ride smoothly. I kept Joos in sight, but Parsons was gone ahead. We also reeled in Patrick before the end of the lap who appeared to be having some bike issues. I lost my water bottle on the first lap and had only 2 in my holder so I was very concerned about surviving the entire race. In fact, I was ready to pack it in right then and there! Man, I haven't felt like that in a while, so that's good! I fumbled and dropped my bottle at the stand and stopped to pick it up. At this point Joos was distancing himself from me and I realized I was going to need to be a bit more conservative from here given the lack of hydration, the effort, and the race distance. I came upon hard-core SS'er Paul Simoes at the top of the climb and decided to ride with him as best I could. I remembered him from Bradbury as smooth and always talking to himself. He was 4th overall, giving French Freye (new nickname because all he does is race in Canada now!) all heck to stay ahead. He was smoother and faster than I and slipped ahead. I was now in no-man's land and would remain there for the rest of the lap and all of the 3rd. I asked for my place at the start-finish line and heard 12th so all I had to do was maintain and I would qualify. Then I saw Simoes on the climb on the final lap and I decided to push the pace on the climb and get into the singletrack ahead of him. As I passed he said he was gassed and was lamenting his choice of riding a rigid SS. I felt for him! Normally on the final lap I ride like a donkey as I'm usually spent and concentration is difficult to maintain. This one wasn't too bad, having to put a foot down a few times. But my body was raising the white flag. My triceps were the first to cramp, then my forearm. My back was chronically sore and my legs had cramp twinges. But, I persevered and ended up passing 2 other guys who had flats putting me in 9th.
I was very pleased with the finish. But I also know there's room for improvement which will help with motivation to get faster. Parsons killed it and finished 3rd. Joos had a very respectable 5th. My time was such that I never would have caught the spot ahead of me had I had a flawless race with no put-downs or bottle droppings, etc.
Thanks to Babs for letting me go while she attended a wicked boring graduation ceremony and took the boys to hockey! I thanked my bike on a number of occassions for saving my ass from flying up over my head and smoothing out the rough stuff. Locking out the suspension on the climb was also a nice treat.
Next up is Root 66 #6 @ Pat's Peak.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Finally got a race in! Today was the season opener for the Maine Mountain Bike Association Series held at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport. A glorious day welcomed all the racers and the whole Wheelden fam. The weather report earlier in the week had called for rain, and there were showers leading all the way up to the morning of the race, but the dark clouds were pushed away
and it was all sun and fun. I was in a quandry over what tire choice to make as this course has been notoriously muddy for the past 2 years. I was fortunate enough to get a few laps in mid-week when conditions were very dry. But I didn't know how much rain they got on the course so I opted to run my mud tubeless set-up. Turns out they weren't necessary, but I was glad for the confidence I had not risking pinch-flats and thankful for the extra grip they provided.
On race day, I opted to warm up on the road, knowing all I needed to about the course from my earlier recon ride. The kids race preceded my start, so I hung around and cheered on the boys.
The start was crucial and I staked out what I thought was a good spot. We race on a grass field with a few trees for about 30 yards before going single file pretty much for the rest of the event. This photo of the start shows the top-3 finishers, but not in the proper order. Adam LaRochelle got the hole shot and I settled in behind a junior xer whom I didn't feel like banging bars with just yet and Racin' Rick just behind. There was some other talent in the field like Skip Brown, Anders Larson, Tom Gosselin. But they got bogged down by choosing an alternative line once in the woods and were never heard of again. The junior xer did not have his "A" game and I bided my time waiting for the first opportunity to pass. Rick got by as well and he and I now trailed Adam setting the table for the rest of the race. Adam maintained a fairly good pace. But I felt like I good go faster and was concerned the rest of the field might catch up. At the next double track opportunity, I made my move. Adam tried to counter but the trail narrowed quickly. I felt a handlebar on my right hip, then heard the distinct sound of tires breaking sticks off trail and I knew he lsot it. It was way too early for him to challenge and I told him later we should have worked together rather than battle, another lesson learned for the young grasshopper. Rick nipped him on the alternative line choice on the 2nd lap and the real race was on. We were constantly within sight of each other for the remainder of the lap. Fortunately, I felt as one with the bike, I think the riser handlebar was the icing on the cake for me. This course is all about handling. You know you're focused on the task at hand when you relaize you haven't blinked in a long time! I pushed the pace for the 2nd and 3rd laps and created a gap on Rick. Knowing I had some wiggle room, I played it safe on the 4th lap and actually rode the poorest of the race! Fortunately I maintained the lead.
I checked the time and it was 1hr 5min! That was a sprint race for crap's sake! So, I did another lap for kicks and giggles just to get more saddle time. This was a great season-opener in my opinion: no leg punishing climbs, no impossible technical sections.
Of course Babs was the consummate soigneur and was so pro taking pictures, handing up bottles, and referreeing the boys!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
There are only a few places to be prepared for in terms of shifting and handling. Hopefully the trail crew will work on a few areas between now and race day like the giant culvert immediately followed by a couple of pallets; a single loose plank at a water crossing. I did some trail maintenance while I was out there including moving a fallen tree that had endo potential for any beginner, hopefully no one will mind!
It will be great to get out there and see everyone again to get the season started!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Awesome natrual terrain
Awesome man-made stuff thanks to volunteers to keep trails open
Of course, I parked my bike on top to stage the shot only to have it roll off! Doh!
This is the infamous "O" trail. I purposely left this section for last, in an effort to get loose and establish a rythm on the bike. This is the most difficult section out there and you need to have your wits and skills about you. I was instantly impressed and rode with confidence with the new bar pictured. I am looking forward to the race now.
The "O" can stand for several things, depending on your mood:
Today for me, it was:
I rode the section "O"K and
"O" dang, look at the scratch this friggen rock put on my bike!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
The best laid plans go to waste! This weekend was shaping up to be a beauty. Saturday's plans entailed feasting at the fireman's breakfast en route to Drake's baseball game then I mapped out a 3 hour hilly ride to do in Belgrade. For Sunday, Freye and I had plans for an epic day hitting the SIP crit in the morning, followed by trail work and a ride at Bradbury. Instead I had 2 epic road rides in the freezing rain!