This weekend the Root 66 mountain bike series picked up again, this time up in Vermont. There were two races on the schedule, a short track Saturday and an XC Sunday. For some reason, everyone other than me doesn't want to race short tracks, so Saturday was like 40 people total. And that might be high.
You might think short track is like cross, but you'd be wrong. For one thing, this short track course was 3 minutes long. Seriously. And the only flat section was the start/finish. It was basically a two minute climb and a one minute descent. The climb was no joke, either -- if you put this thing in a cross race, there'd be a line of sniffling roadies a mile long crying about how "that hill is too big for a cross race."
Also, it was only 20 minutes + 3 laps, instead of 45 minutes, which allowed for even more efficient suffering.
Anyway, there's not very much to say. I beat like 7 other guys (one of whom was even in my category) to win the sport race. It hurt. My legs were not good. The end.
After the short track we prerode the XC course, which was AWESOME. 6 miles, 85% singletrack, one lengthy (10 minutes?) climb with the start/finish halfway up it. The descents were steep enough there was no pedaling, there were lots of little bridges, there was nowhere to pass and nowhere to rest. Fabulous course.
So the course was great, but my legs were not. I actually trained in a halfway respectable manner this past week and it turns out that's a good way to feel sluggish on the weekends. While I'm sure it's good in the long run, when combined with Saturday's short track it left me feeling like crap on Sunday. It was one of those pre-race situations where you're supremely unmotivated and end up spending more time in the port-a-potty than warming up.
I rode for like 6 minutes and decided to let my adrenaline response take care of the rest of things when the whistle sounded. This didn't work at all, because everyone else in my category was hellbent on getting the holeshot for a 20 yard section of singletrack despite the fact that there was a nice five minute climb after it. So my compatriots tore across the field like their lives (or egos) depended on it while I tried to jump start my engine. I hit the singletrack last out of about 20 guys. Alex was nice enough to yell "Colin, you're last" from where she was lined up for her start and I was nice enough not to give her the finger in return.
If you look waaaay in the back of this picture you might see a little patch of red jersey. That's me about a minute into the race. There's still plenty of climbing before you hit the singletrack, so I had some time to move up, but my vast cheering squad (Linnea) was understandably disappointed.
I picked off a small number of guys (4 or 5?) before the top of the climb, because everyone was still hyped up from the start. I hit the singletrack feeling like I had no legs, but after some fast descending things started to get better. Just like last time the preride was paying off and I was cleaning sections that other people weren't prepared for, which was basically the only way to pass anyone.
So I thrashed around the woods for a while, riding people's asses until they made a mistake and then riding around them. There was one short muddy, rooty, off-camber climb that I passed at least 3 people on -- have I mentioned that preriding is worth the effort?
I had been seeing people through the woods in front of me for a while, and then about halfway through the lap I passed someone and couldn't see anyone else. I figured this meant that there was a group of guys well off the front that was most likely uncatchable, since I had just wasted much of the lap waiting behind people. I hammered for a while but couldn't seem to find anyone in front of me -- then I asked a spectator breathlessly "what's the gap??" and they just looked at me funny. Then as I was heading away he said, "uh, you're first."
Wow, I wasn't expecting that. I figured that if I had ridden off the front that quickly after my terrible start that I probably had this thing in the bag, so I flew around the rest of the lap thinking about how awesome I was. Unfortunately the lap ended with the first part of the big climb, so my daydreaming was cut short by lactic acid and the sound of someone gaining on me from behind. Ugh. On the dirt road section of the climb I ate my Powergel and two guys pulled up next to me while I finished my tasty snack.
Neither of them seemed interested in leading so we all kind of churned in silence up to the start of the singletrack. Since these guys were clearly climbing better than me I realized I needed to lead the downhill and get away, so I "burned some matches" (as the kids say) to hit the singletrack first, and then I just let it rip. For the next 10 minutes I was hauling steadily downhill, letting the dual suspension fix my plentiful but minor mistakes.
I got back to the base of the climb to the finish with no one audible behind me. I could taste the finish and had a healthy amount of fear-based adrenaline fueling me, so this time up no one was catching me. I rolled through in 1:06:03 (short race, I know) to win one for Mother Russia:
I guess if I can win my class on a bad leg day then it's time to move up to Expert. Extrapolating my lap times (not that I could've actually maintained that) to Expert distance would have put me in the middle of the field, so I guess it's time. You can rest assured that the next entry here will have more of a "dear god I got smoked" tone to it.
Linnea raced her first expert race (which is why I have pictures for a change) and it looked like this:
She was in contention for 2nd place, racing against Jess Ingram, until she laid it down on a corner and embedded a fair amount of the course in her arm.
And here's a nice picture of the women's sport start, prominently featuring Alex riding for IBC, before she decided to liven up her race by crashing off a bridge.
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