We're officially on lap three of my post-collegiate mountain bike race career now, in that this past weekend's Fat Tire Classic was the first race I've done twice before. Three seasons of this nonsense means I'm probably "experienced" enough that any future gains in speed will be fitness-related, and I can't count on the rookie learning curve making me faster each week. Stupid mental errors are definitely not going to happen anymore. Definintely.
Of course the first race I hit three times is one of my least favorites, the Fat Tire Classic is a cross race masquerading as a mountain bike race, except each year it gets a little more technical. In fact at this point it's now a mountain bike pretending to be a cross race that's masquerading as a mountain bike race, which is more layers of indirection than I can handle.
I read Thom's squawking about running his Bontrager XR1's for the course and the "huge advantage" they would bring and got totally spooked, crap, this is a cross race and all I have are these giant Nevegals on my bike. What to do? I came dangerously close to bringing my cross bike, because you gotta admit, some 34mm Grifo's would totally rip on that stuff. For at least two hours of Saturday the plan was to rock the cross bike, but I thought about it some more (and found a lower-profile mtb tire I could use) and realized that by lap four of bottoming my tubies out on the roots I would either have a flat tire or broken wrists. And if I DNF'ed I'd have to live with it for three whole weeks.
So back to racing the MTB on a cross course, which is not nearly as exciting as being a cross bikin' renegade. I was still thinking crossy thoughts, though, so when I got a front row start I made the snap decision to get the holeshot, because it's fast course and I wanted to "control the race" or something clever like that.
Anyway, the whistle blew and I gunned it, as the cyclingdirt video shows.
If you listen closely you can hear two small gunshots as I ride by, which is the sound of my chain slipping in the big ring. You'll notice I make a sad face and sit down, which was pretty much the story of my day. I knew the big ring was pretty trashed but I hadn't actually trying torquing it... whoops.
Hooray, holeshot! What do I do now? Hmm, if it was a cross race I'd drill it for two minutes and then get off the front. So that's what I did. Despite my drilling there was a long train of guys still connected, so if I was going out too fast so were they. We hit the first "climb" and Cat 2 roadie/cross nemesis Ben Coleman came by me, cool, this is just like a cross race.
And just like a cross race, I was straight in the pain cave from five minutes in. Ben was putting out mad watts and I jumped on his draft like a kitten on a Roomba.
After ten minutes all the other cats had fallen off the Roomba so I figured it was down to me and Ben for the win, so I decided to ignore the fact that we were going at 'cross pace because I wanted to win (duh). Even so, he gapped me repeatedly on the straights, and I could only catch back on if a singletrack section came up.
At around the forty minute mark (right when a cross race would be nearing the end, mind you) I challenged Ben's lead up a hill before some singletrack, so we kind of sprinted for it and I beat him to it. I knew I was faster in the singletrack so I skipped recovering in favor of hitting it as fast as I could, because really, when you get a chance to attack your breakaway companion with fifty minutes left you gotta take that, you know?
I came out of the singletrack with a gap so I just kept the jets on, oh man, you are totally winning this cross race dude, off the front solo with 2 laps left... 87 degrees out, good thing you brought the embrocation, good thing you aren't drinking too much, you can totally hang on to this pace right up to the 60 minute mark like Timmy Johnson would. Two laps is only going to take another... hmmm... ohhhhh crap.
Yeah, this isn't good.
So yeah, it was really hot, I had one less gel than I thought I did, and I raced the first two laps completely ignoring that I had to ride the latter two. The guy I was racing against for those laps ended up dropping out. I suspect we might have been rather stupid with our pacing strategy.
Starting the third lap I did much checking of the rear view. No one was to be found. I knew I was in a world of hurt, but I had a big gap and everyone was probably as miserable as I. My lap times were going down the tubes, but as long as theirs were too I was probably safe for the win. Sweet.
Despite the coast being apparently clear, Greg Whitney caught me like ten minutes later, probably due to a pacing strategy that wasn't "moronic." He came up so fast I knew there was no hope, any time someone is taking minutes per lap out of you like that you aren't going to magically rise to their pace, especially not when you've been praying for the fourth lap to start, so you can start praying for the fourth lap to end.
I finished the race with two near-26-minute laps, but Ben and I had just barely established enough of a gap for me to hang on to second. I hadn't seen Cary since the start line, but he rolled across the line only 25 seconds behind me for third, with Jeff, Keith and Eric close behind him. At the rate I was going I think they'd all have gotten me if we rode a fifth lap, although I didn't take a "hey, did you totally detonate like I just did??" poll as they finished.
At least now I got my bad-decisions-in-the-heat race out of my system for the year. Nothing but Pedialyte and reverse holeshots from here on out for this guy.
I was able to console myself post race when my dad told me that Linnea had blown up at least as badly in her race, at least I didn't have to deal with the knowledge that she's smarter. But she still won the pro race... out of one entrant. And that last sentence made me realize that I completed forgot to mention that my parents and grandparents came out to watch, which is probably why I "randomly" decided to get the holeshot. Curse you, extended family!