Dudes! MTB race season is back! It's April, so everybody is absurdly pumped to race the same old Hopbrook course! Time to prove, yet again, that me riding fast in a 30 minute TT doesn't mean I will ride fast in a 2 hour mass start!
This time around, the race conflicted with Battenkill, so it didn't draw 400+ racers, and everyone couldn't start asking, "omg, is mountain biking BACK!?" (No. It's April. This always happens.) But we still got 20 guys in Pro/1, so I would have a bunch of dudes to chase and pass when they broke their recently-put-together bikes...unless I was one of those dudes.
Actually though, since I was on last year's race bike the odds of finishing were high... much higher than, say, Linnea's odds, after she, Kevin and I spent all of Friday night cobbling together something for her to race on.
(Before I forget, she DNF'ed after a lap because her trashed middle ring couldn't hang onto the brand new chain we used. Oops!)
I started the 2010 season with a totally awesome reverse holeshot. It was awesome because less than a minute into the race Matt Green tried to lead everyone off the course. I looked up and ten guys were dismounting to jump back over a fence, and then they ran into ten guys who were on the course and basically everyone got off their bikes... except for one super awesome dude who was riding in last place and was able to stay on his bike into the first singletrack section.
I might've even passed one person in the melee, but when the dust cleared and the race strung out I was still firmly planted at the back of the pack heading out onto the course. One of the nice things about the Pro/1 race is that you can pretty much ride wheel-to-wheel through the uphill technical stuff and no one screws up and causes a chain reaction of dismounts, so I was still pretty close to the front. Thus I saw no reason to move up, because Kevin and everyone else I had a chance in hell of beating was still right in front of me.
Then we dropped into the first fast rock garden and Greg Whitney BLEW UP. As Myerson would say, "it was like he rode over a land mine." Somehow Greg managed to avoid piercing his kidneys on the many sharp rocks, but he still managed to block the whole trail with his body. I was not ballsy enough to bunny hop over him, so I locked it up and skidded to a stop with my front wheel resting on his frame.
By the time I got around the mess everyone else was gone. Shit. So after five minutes of racing it's basically a two hour TT? Why do I love this sport, again?
So I time trialed along for a while, trying not to panic. I could see a plenty of folks ahead on the climbs and my younger, stupider self (aka "6 months ago) would have gone anaerobic to get back up there, but I stuck to the plan and only rode a moderately-unsustainable pace on lap one.
Despite this I still managed to get totally owned by a tree at low speed -- I dodged it with my bars only to hook a pedal on it, getting my foot pinned between the tree and crankarm while I fell on my stem, and then thrashed frantically in place trying to get off the tree and moving forward once again. Pro.
Tree-hitting aside, I managed to return to competitiveness by the end of the lap and was still in sight of Kevin and Chris Hamlin, with Jeff Landfried right on my wheel. Totally not a TT! So exciting!
Jeff proved annoyingly hard to drop, and Kevin and Chris proved annoyingly hard to catch. Midway through lap two, on the biggest climb, while I was thinking "crap, I can't get rid of Jeff!," Jeff said to me, "I forgot how much race pace hurts" and suddenly disappeared. Phew. Unfortunately Kevin and Chris were apparently quite familiar with how much it hurts (apparently Chris did the Yale ECCC TT earlier that morning? Really?) so they stayed solidly ahead.
That's ok, I'm just pacing myself along here, no worries. Started lap three 30 seconds or so behind them, but then midway through the lap they randomly slowed down and were just ahead. I finally lost my willpower and decided it was time to burn what remaining matches I had to catch up. I caught them on the big climb and announced my presence by breathing really hard.
Mysteriously I did not feel very recovered, even as I drafted them at 5mph while climbing. A few minutes later Kevin took the lead (for the first time in hours, the lazy wheelsucker) and I was definitely NOT recovered... just confused about how I was suddenly clinging for dear life to some wheels I had just easily caught up with.
It turns out that Kevin is one of those bastards who can actually execute the "save something for the last lap" plan, so while Chris and I were just trying to hang onto something like race pace Kevin was about to do a negative split on the final lap. After ten minutes of clinging Chris cracked, and I followed shortly thereafter.
As always, lap four was nothing but counting down the number of climbs left, while trying not to cramp up or throw up, since my stomach had no idea what to do with the gels I was dumping on it. Fortunately Chris was even more cracked than I, so I was spared the agony of racing him head-to-head for the last half hour. I eventually rolled in to a semi-respectable 13th place, a minute back of Kevin.
Now I'm off to Sea Otter for 9 days to find out if Linnea's winter on the trainer makes her able to hang with the best pros in the country. I already know that my winter of not riding the trainer makes me unable to hang with the best Cat 1s in California, but it should be a good time anyway. Especially if New England is cold and rainy while I'm gone.
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