I decided to head up to Mount Snow a day early to do some sweet "openers" on the cross bike. This year they were doing a short track/summer cyclocross race on Saturday, and since I needed to remember how to 'cross in time for next weekend anyway, it seemed like a good idea. Seemed. The course turned out to have 100 feet of climbing in a 3+ minute lap. I wish I was exaggerating. Turnout was low (of course) but there were some strong dudes there. I accidentally ended up with the holeshot and raced the first 90 seconds like I usually race cross. I got to the top of the huge huge huge climb and looked back, expecting to Kevin Hines and the other fast guys on my wheel. But no! I had a massive gap.
Awesome? Not really. I should never be that far ahead of Kevin Hines in a bike race. If I am, it is a sign I have done something very dumb. And indeed I had! Two laps later the group caught me and I went straight out the back. Ben Coleman was nice enough to get detached soon after so we "raced" each other for the rest of the half hour while suffering badly. Work road climbs should not be in cross races. Maybe I shouldn't be, either.
The next day was much nicer, though, after some killer tour watching, sleeping and eating at Chez Bilodeau I was READY TO SUFFER on the Mt Snow course, along with 30 of my bestest friends in the Pro/1 race.
As usual Kevin and I locked down the rear of the field with the IBC ELITE REVERSE HOLESHOT. I think we lost a solid minute to Greg Carpenter by the top of the work road climb on the north loop. Then again, we finished and he didn't. Then again, he was probably 15 minutes up on me when he dropped out.
We headed down the super-gnarly north loop descent and Kevin immediately showed me the difference between road teammates and mtb teammates by cutting me off going into a rooty spot, making me dismout. I was like "dude wtf was that! I will kill you now!" so I ran after him and jumped back on my bike, unfortunately, this was right into the giant rocks that make up the aforementioned gnar section. With zero feet clipped in I pogo'ed helplessly down it for a while before leaving the trail and going over the bars. THANKS KEVIN. (Not really)
The over-the-bars trip was especially bad because I lost my only bottle, and didn't realize this until I went to take a drink after passing by the feed zone. Oh hey empty bottle cage! At least losing a pound of water will make me climb fast. Good thing we aren't climbing in the sun on ski trails with high humidity... wait.
They changed the Mt Snow climb around again so it's actually kind of rideable this year. Guess what, pedaling up a grassy ski slope hurts just as much as hike-a-bike through the woods. And I might be worse at it. Kevin, the bastard, pulled away while I granny geared along.
Thom didn't have a granny gear so I caught him when he had to walk. But then he got back on and rode faster than me, because he didn't have a granny gear.
Eventually I reached the top. You know how people say that someone like Andy Schleck is a pure climber? I have decided that I am a "pure descender." Now that I am riding the Pro/1 field I can't outclimb anyone, nor can I out-mud-slog anyone... ok, I can't out-pedal anyone at anything. But I can still go down a hill really unsafely, while other people fret about their mortgages, so that's what I did.
Luckily the Mt Snow downhills, when muddy, are extremely dangerous, and if you don't worry about how bad a crash would be you can go a lot faster than those who are thinking about making it to the office Monday. I think I passed six guys on the downhill finishing lap one, but not Kevin. Grr.
Unfortunately lap two starts with the north loop climb again, so I went backwards, like I was just mentioning. Wheels passed me back along with Jon Rowe. Kevin got further away. I got more annoyed.
Then we came back down the North loop, I passed Jon and Todd again (and may have contributed to Randall Jacobs having a huge crash... whoops) and almost caught Kevin. Then we went back up the South loop and they passed me again.
That's basically how the rest of the race went. I would scream down the hills out of control and pass the 3 of them. They would churn by me on the climbs while I thought about how much I hated pedaling. I passed Jon seven times. But he passed me eight!
The problem with descending on the verge of control is that it's quite tiring, and gets progressively less safe (and fast) as you start making fatigue-induced mistakes. By the time lap three rolled around I was getting really sloppy on the descents, not getting as big a gap, and still tiring my self out just as much. We started the climb on lap four -- Kevin, Jon and Todd came by yet again -- and then my legs just sorta went up in flames. It would not have been inappropriate for guys in fire suits to run out of the the woods and cover me in foam like a dragster that had just blown up on the launch pad.
I have two excuses: first, I went 40 minutes in the heat without any fluid because I was too dim to realize I left a bottle behind in my crash. Second, my front tire took a huge hit on lap 3 (because I was sloppy, let's be honest) and was totally flat when I came back from the awards afterward. Let's pretend I was riding around on 15 psi or something. As if that would have mattered with that much mud out there...
The blown-engine nature of my legs was underscored by the fact that I actually lost ground to Susan Lynch on the big climb on the last lap. I realize she's a good climber, but we are talking about a fifty year old woman here. Seriously. At the bottom of the climb I looked back -- all clear. At the top I looked back -- wtf? Susan? Oooof.
Kevin and Todd and Jon were long gone at the top but I figured maybe I could catch someone if I let it all hang out. Oh yeah, that worked great, in that I got my forearms to cramp up, and the only person I passed was Mike Joos who was fixing a flat. Oh well, I bet he was even less pleased than I.
Kevin and the gang caught some other guys to finish in a tight (by MTB standards) group of six people in 90 seconds. I rolled in another minute back, thoroughly disgusted at missing out on the party with my final-lap meltdown.
All in all, though, I was pretty pleased with how it worked out. The heat, climbs and mud destroyed riders and their bikes (dare you to ask me about my chain suck) and tons of guys dropped out. Turns out I was only 3 minutes out of 9th at the end, which sounds pretty good in a field of 30 "Pro" starters, eh? The reality, 15th/22 finishers, is considerably less impressive-sounding, but I'm actually just fine with that, too.
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