Putney went so well in the Pro/1 field that I decided to do it again at Pat's Peak. After all, Putney has a ton of climbing; Pat's Peak has a ton of climbing, thus they are basically the same course, I will show up with the same legs, and get the same result! Huzzah!
Of course this assumes that the other Pro/1 packfodder guys will be there to pad out my result, and that I'll somehow have a good day at Pat's Peak even though I sucked royally there the last two years.
Enough foreshadowing. This time around, 23 guys took the line in the Pro/1 race, including Jamie Driscoll and Jonathan Page. Oh goody, it's like my first elite cross race! I can't wait to find out if I can hang with them! The whistle blew and they dropped me.
I immediately went for the reverse holeshot, only to lose it to Kevin when he nearly endoed into a deep ditch hidden in the tall grass 100 yards into the course. I slowed down so he could pass me before the first singletrack, so I could "control the race from the back." I then used this control to make him and another guy bobble the palette-mud-bridge-thing and vaulted over them into 21st overall. Suckers!
Soon after that I rolled up to James Harmon, who was stuck in lap 1 of a Pro race on a rigid singlespeed with a climbing gear. Thus everyone with a big ring, suspension, and adrenaline was smoking him. I decided to smoke him too, while I could, which was a good decision because he eventually beat me by fifteen minutes. Or maybe that means that if I had stayed in 32x20 (or whatever he had) on lap one I would have gone a lot faster.
Anyway, we snaked back and forth across the hill through some trail of varying quality. At one point I was on John Foley's wheel, which made me think that I might actually belong in this field. But then we hit the soggy traverse, and the suck started.
So the Pat's Peak MTB Festival involes a 24 hour race run on the same course, directly before the XC. If it doesn't rain, this is a great idea. But it rained, and thus the "drainage issues" on the ski trail traverses reared their ugly head. The course was a 30-foot wide mud slog as people had looked for a dry line for the last 24 hours. There were no dry lines to be found, it was just a 4% climb across a sponge. Guys like Foley got through it by putting out watts. I got through it by dropping a bunch of places. And so it begins!
After slogging comes the real climbing, work roads in the sun. In July. These are completely horrible, er, "challenging," and similar to the mud they are a contest to see who can put out the most watts per kilogram. As someone who is competitive in the Pro/1 field solely via smoke-and-mirrors technical riding, this is very bad for me. There were two of these per lap and we were riding 5 laps, so I started counting down from 10. Oh good... only 9 more monster work road climbs to go.
Then we bombed across a washboarded traverse and I caught James Harmon again, which was pretty funny, but then the next big climb started
and he floated away from me so fast, it was like he was a real athlete on a 19-lb singlespeed or something.
That climb predictably sucked, but somehow I got to the top relatively near Mike Rowell, which meant either a) he was having a bad day b) he was pacing himself or c) I'm really good at this. Since the answer is obviously (c) I attacked the sweet singletrack downhill as hard as I could, caught his wheel, tried unsuccessfully to cut him off three or four times, finally did cut him off, stomped the big ring out of of the rest of the corners, aired out some rocks, and caught James yet again, along with Wheels at the bottom. Damn I am good, not recovering at all on that descent on lap one was a great idea! WOO! ADRENALINE!
Then we started climbing again on lap two and I basically retired from the race. James beat me by 15 mintes, Todd by 10, Mike flatted and still beat me by six. Ouch. There are still some "fun" anecdotes from laps 2-5 to report, though:
I had another "psychological warfare" exchange with a different Bicycle Exchange rider than Putney. Those guys must practice this stuff all week, he had good material. This one wanted to tell me all about how it was his first elite race, and he was just "riding to finish," in fact he didn't even "feel like he was racing." He said this after catching me on a climb, over his shoulder, as he was riding away. I am no expert on social interaction (that's why I make websites) but I'm pretty sure this counts as a "dick thing to say." Anyway. That made me sad. And he beat me by five minutes at the end, too.
It was 80 degrees and sunny, and the course went around a snowmaking pond. You know what that means! Mid-race-swim time! Starting lap four I dumped my bike, ran into the water, flopped around, ran out of the water, back on the bike, totally worth it! Although my jersey got like, two pounds heavier, maybe not the best idea at a ski area race. This, combined with the growing clouds, at least meant I wasn't going heat-crazy at the end.
I lapped Linnea on the lap four descent, so I pushed hard to catch her, then took a horrible line because I was fatigued and had my only crash of the day in front of her. Oh yeah, way to show the girlfriend how pro you are. And then of course she said she was "surprised at how little I pulled away after that." DAMMIT.
By lap five I was just riding to survive and periodically climbing in the easiest gear I had. By some act of god Kevin was still behind me (as were a few other guys who had blown up horribly) and this meant I had to look back once every 15 seconds. I hadn't seen anyone for a long time, and then, on the last climb, when I was soooo close to being done -- bam, it's Mike Loranty from IF, back from the dead (he had detonated on lap 3) and here to take away my last shreds of dignity! So I had to push as hard as I dared on the climb, I could feel my hamstrings threatening to lock up, phew I made it to a flat spot -- I took my foot off the gas to "rest" for a second and BAM (again!) there's the hamstring cramp. I stood on the side of the trail in the woods watching him approach... please don't see me... please don't get motivated to chase me... waaaaah cramps. Then I realized that even he didn't see me he'd beat me if I didn't start riding again, so I gingerly restarted and spun like a mofo to the finish. Much to my surprised I did not cramp up again, nor did he put in a burst of speed to catch me. Almost like he had also been suffering for two hours and forty minutes at that point.
The climbing and heat were enough to knock out five starters (I saw Randall Jacobs basically crippled from cramps, and Jonathan Page allegedly threw up before or after dropping out) so I ended up with an excellent 16th/23 placing, but only 16th/18 finishers... gross. I'm pretty sure some of those guys dropped out while behind me, though, and I still beat Kevin (wait until you hear why), so it could have been worse.
I do not do very well at ski area races. I may not do the pro/1 race at Mt Snow in two weeks. This shit is hard.
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