Everyone says Coyote Hill is one of the best courses on the circuit. They say this because they're accustomed to racing on double-track, which is booooring, and Coyote Hill is probably 80% singletrack, which isn't booooring.
Of course, there's one problem with racing singletrack -- you can't pass anyone moving at remotely the same speed as you.
This little nuance makes Coyote Hill one of the most painful starts out there. The way it works is, you start on wide grass for 30 seconds. Then you hit a brief section on singletrack, then you climb 4-5 minutes on double track, and then you enter the REAL singletrack. For the rest of the lap you will have very few opportunities to pass anyone.
So the first lap is an anaerobic deathrace to the top of the climb. Hit the woods behind a worse technical rider than yourself and you're going to lose at least 15 seconds before the first place you can pass. Hit the woods behind multiple bad technical riders and you'll be blocked most of the lap.
With all this lead-in, can you guess where I was after 30 seconds? 15th out of 17, waiting for the traffic to clear in the first short singletrack. And five minutes after that? All the way up to 11th, riding my brakes behind some clown who obviously hadn't preridden.
So while that cost me a bunch of time, I realize that it was entirely avoidable. Well, it's avoidable if you want to start like your saddle is on fire. I made a pretty intense effort, I swear I did, but 10 other people wanted it more than me. They apparently stopped wanting it about 5 seconds after entering the singletrack, but hey, that's their choice. I won't be that whiny guy who tells you to ride faster when he's behind you.
It's been quite a few days since the race so things are a bit fuzzy about the first lap. I gradually worked my way through people in the singletrack, sprinting by on the occasional 1.5-track uphill, and passing one guy who did a sick mid-endo-handlebar-jump, complete with a stuck landing. Anyway, coming through after one lap I was all the way up to 4th, with my victim from the previous day (the guy who crashed and got lapped) visible in the distance. More importantly, I saw Lea Davison just over a minute ahead, meaning I'd taken almost 60 seconds out of her lead in the first lap.
For those that don't know, I kind of have a history of getting my ass kicked by her. Much like the beatdowns Lyne Bessette serves me every cross season, the fact that she's a pro does not make me feel better at all. I try (and probably fail) to not be that annoying guy who gets hypercompetitive about racing girls, but let's just say that I was mildly interested in catching her.
Unfortunately, there were two laps to go. My first lap adrenaline ran out, so I tried to replace it with a gel. All I had to chase the gel with was the soapy-tasting Heed (totally my fault) in my camelback. As this concoction sloshed around my stomach on the descent, things became somewhat uncomfortable. Soon in the lap I saw Lea through the woods -- she was probably back to having a two minute lead. The guy in third place had long since disappeared, replaced by a steady stream of singlespeeders and 30+ guys passing me. I was not enjoying the singletrack so much.
The highlight of lap two, for me, was the series-leading singlespeeder (Rob Stine maybe?) taking an EPIC header through said mudhole a few feet in front of me, smashing his body into the mud, and answering the question of "holy crap are you ok?" with "aw yeah, but now I smell like shit!"
At the end of the lap I started to feel less queasy, and was actually able to see third place again on the main climb, albeit pretty far ahead. Lea was long gone, however, successfully continuing her streak of crushing me without trying that hard (she was 20 minutes ahead of 2nd place).
He was getting closer, thanks in no part to my stupid riding style. After having to run several obstacles I had ridden before, I finally smartened up. I took a 6-second break, shifted into an easier gear, and started pedaling again. The difference was amazing. I caught him quickly, while not crashing into anything and breathing a lot easier than I had been. There might be a lesson here.
I went for the pass right away, because we were running out of course and he seemed to be beating me on the climbs. Ten final minutes of sufferring with minimal thrashing about got me to the finish line 19 seconds ahead of him... good enough for third place.
6 points out of the leader's jersey (due to my excellence attendance, not my excellent results) so if the right people don't show up next week, I could be THE KING OF PARTICIPATION-BASED RACING, which is fine with me! Suckers.