One thing about mountain bike races -- you get some interesting race names. And I'm still not sure how to pronounce "Brialee."
Brialee is actually the name of a camping resort in northeast Connecticut. It has a lake, a pool, a ton of campers, and a lot of hick-types sitting in lawn chairs next to their campers, wondering what the hell 270 lycra-wearing, gel-eating, camelback-slurping bike yuppies are doing tooling around their campground.
But I'm sure I can equal the derision they were sending my way -- since Brialee is basically a sea of immobilized campers, a glorified trailer park with a nice location. Apparently a significant number of people who own campers don't actually want the mobility associated with them, so they park it permanently at Brialee and build a deck attached to their camper.
I could go on for a while about what sucks about this, but let me just say that my idea of a getaway is not sitting in my folding chair in front of my camper, with a whopping 20 feet of dirt separating me from someone else's permanently beached camper... and coming back here regularly, because they offer such amenities as a pool and a field, which are basically impossible to find elsewhere.
Enough of that. In addition to adding campers to my "often misused vehicles" list, there WAS a bike race, and unlike last time it was on a course that would eat up and spit out a cross bike, probably while sterilizing the rider of said cross bike. In fact, sections were so rough that I wouldn't entrust my fertility to a hardtail, although a certain number of my competitors were willing to try it.
Adding to the fun was a 5.5 mile course that wound through roughly a postage stamp's worth of area, meaning we rode the same 3 muddy streams 16 times per lap. Every section of the course was basically a body-destroying rock garden, a barely rideable mud slog, or a short, steep climb. Or the dirt road through the finish area... but you get my drift.
Linnea and I showed up at 11:00 to get a barely-ethical preride in before the expert race (the sport race wasn't until 2:15 so you can bet a lot of sport riders were hitting the course blind). After the preride I took a bunch of air out of my front and rear suspension and sat around eating tortilla chips and working on my sunburn.
Finally, 2:30 rolled around (start was pushed back since some expert women were still out there) and we got rolling. There were about 15 guys in Sport 19-29 doing the typical sprint-for-the-singletrack start, and I hit the woods 7th. The preride paid off pretty much instantly when we went through the first super rough section -- 6th place got off line and clipped a tree, stopping him with authority, which moved me up to 6th. Then 5th place got caught in the mud in too high a gear and I took over 5th. Then 4th place dabbed on a hard, rooty, muddy corner and I rode into 4th. Like I said... barely ethical.
About 1/3rd of the way into the lap I had moved up to 2nd after two of the fast starters settled into a much more modest pace than they had started with. The leader was only 10 seconds or so ahead of me and when he failed to ride a stream and took his sweet time remounting... I was in first.
Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are. And I wasn't really thrilled that I had 2 2/3rd laps left to ride, but whatever, you can't complain about leading. So began a lonely hour of suffering.
There's not much to say about this part of the race. Sometime during lap one I came through a banked corner too aggressively and when my back wheel skipped out I couldn't get out of my muddy pedal in time to prevent lying down on my side. Sometime during lap two I noticed that I was starting to feel a lot of pain in left hand whenever I relaxed it on the bar. And around the middle of lap two I could tell that I was running out of gas on my solitary ride toward the hurt box.
Near the end of lap two I ate my gel, which usually remedies things, but this one just didn't work as well they usually do. Ending lap two, I was definitely moving away from having fun and starting to pray that the race ended before I completely blew up.
As every cyclist knows, with the bonk comes a stunning lack of technical proficiency. My last lap was marred by poor lines, forgetting to shift, and pathetic dismounts as the brutal course got its revenge on my flagging body. With ten minutes or so left I noticed a rider gaining on me with stunning authority -- was I bonking that hard??
He caught me during one of my worst moments, 30 seconds in which I dismounted, tried to remount, pedaled twice, dismounted again, ran a bit, failed a cross-style mount, and then ran some more. As he rode past me, cleaning the the rocky, muddy stream as had on previous laps, I noticed his number was over 100 different than mine, so he was probably in a different category -- which explained why he was going so much faster. He had made up 4 minutes to catch me.
My legs were running mainly on lactic acid at this point, so there's not much I could've done anyway, and convincing myself he couldn't be in my category was enough to keep from trying to up the tempo to stay with him. Instead, I churned through the rest of the lap at my own pace, fighting through the bonk with surprising resolve thanks to the knowledge that I was still probably going to win a mountain bike race for the first time in 6 or so years. If I had been riding expert at this point I would've been about 10th/14 with a whole extra lap to go -- I think it would've been a spectacular meltdown and I might still be on the course.
Anyway, I got 'er done and rolled across in 1:27, good enough for the 5th fastest sport time and 1st in my category, which got me $15 of my entry fee back. Which I quickly converted into a hot dog. Tastes like... recovery. And processed pork.
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