Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WORS Subaru Cup Super D Race Report



For some crazy reason WORS decided to combine the Pro and Cat 1 Super D fields, and it wasn't a shortage of participants -- I think we had 45 guys waiting on top of the hill to go down, split into four heats. Thanks to some careful timing with the signup sheet I got into Adam Craig's heat and started praying for the best descending race of my life.

By the time we actually got to the start line I was shaking like crazy. Having almost nothing to eat since the end of the short track (3 hours ago) was probably not the best strategy... and yeah, I might've been a little nervous, too.

I semi-botched the clip-in, but got it soon enough and drilled it along with 10 other guys straight at a narrow gap in the tree. After 8 seconds of sprinting we all locked 'em up and went down to single file, with me in fifth. Some junior absolutely crushed the holeshot, and Adam Craig could only manage 3rd into the woods.

There's only 265 vertical feel to work with at the venue, so there's not much D in the Super D. It was tight, pedaling singletrack, so we kept it all pretty tight, right up until the guy ahead of me took a bonus line I wasn't expecting. I had standard mid-race tunnelvision going on so of course I followed him, but I was off-balance so I shoulder-checked the next tree. Crap! Adam, I don't suck! Wait for meeeee!

I sprinted after the group through the singletrack, but by the time I got there Adam had busted through to the front and was on his way to leaving us in his dust. We had almost run out of descent (but not course) and yet my legs were already jello.

I faked it as hard as I could for the last 2 minutes of pedaling, which was good for a place, because the junior that got the holeshot pretty much MELTED DOWN on the final climb. Adam Craig (or 2nd, or 3rd) were nowhere to be seen, unfortunately, so I sprinted in for 4th in just under six minutes of racing.

Update: Nathaniel sent a link to Adam Craig's helmet cam from the same heat. I do not feature in it!

Final Update: Results!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Purgatory Road Race Report

I just realized that I'm up to 7 straight race weekends. Now that I'm over my road racing fear it's even harder to come up with a reason not to race bikes on any given weekend. I might pay lip service to "not burning out before cross," or "doing something productive," or even "riding with friends" but next thing I know I'm on bikereg, blowing cash and committing to getting up way too early. I just want to see my name on the confirmed riders list. I can't remember the last time I slept in. Is this maturity or an addiction?

I forgot to mention it but I've got a new team, Back Bay Cycling Club. They're like my old team except totally different. One of the most exciting differences is that I have 18 or so teammates, so I tried to lure some into doing the Purgatory Road Race. I've never road raced on a team, so I felt like I was missing something.

Despite my best efforts I could only get one teammate, Ryan, to come hang out. With 2 guys in a hundred-rider Cat 4 field... we weren't doing jack. But then I read an exhaustive course preview and realized that teammates didn't matter anyway, because we were just going to ride as fast as we could up a big hill at the end anyway.

Since this is my fifth? Sixth? road race I have half a clue about positioning myself, so I converted my near-back-row lineup into a solid midpack slot by the end of the neutral start. Is that wrong? Hey man, if you're gonna leave a monstrous gap I'm gonna roll into it. I can't resist.

We went live at the base of the first climb and immediately drilled it. BIKE RACING! It got steep and we played shift-to-the-little-ring roulette and of course someone dropped their chain just ahead of me. All hell broke loose and 10 or more guys ended getting stopped, which really sucked for them. I snuck through a crack and proceeded to go crazy (458w for 1 minute) just to hold my place. This jacked my heart rate 40 beats and made me realize that my warmup had been... nonexistent.

I spent the rest of the lap hiding out a few wheels away from the wind, trying to figure out if the terrible sensations in my body were a temporary or permanent problem. I took a pull on the long riser before the descent to the lake and final climb, and was starting to think that I felt ok. But before we crested a bunch of guys rode around me, which is probably the first time I've ever gotten of the front of a Cat 4 field without explicitly swinging off, and a sign that I'm not riding very well. Crap.

We hit the big climb (Lackey Road) and guys went ballistic. As noted elsewhere, the course profile on the race website made it look like nothing more than a 4% roller (not, ahem, 1k @ 9% or whatever it was), so obviously big ringing it flat out was a good strategy. I came into in the front of the group and went straight backward. I looked down after the first 20 guys passed me and my power tap was still at almost 500 watts, to which my inner valley girl said "seriousleeeeee?"

For serious. Fine then, I am sag climbing this, because I'm a smart dude. Was there a prime at the top or something? It was absurd how fast we went, for how long. Maybe the guys at the front refused to admit that this was not a 4% roller.

I crested the hill in 50th or so, which made me think that I must have just saved a ton of energy over staying at the front. Then I noticed that there was a 30 yard gap in the field ahead of me and promptly threw away all that saved energy bridging it with some other similarly perturbed individuals. We made contact just in time for the next climb, and I slingshotted the draft and a very hard effort right up to the front. That's enough of that, I'm staying the hell away from the back. Later on the referee on the moto told us we were down to 50 guys, so fully 50% of the pack got shelled on lap one.

By this time I had confirmed that my legs were going to be crap for the duration of the event, so it was time to RIDE SMART. Boring. Our rapid lap one ascent intimidated pretty much everyone, so the race became almost a 9-mile group ride in between our 1 mile of racing up the hill each lap. And I was just fine with that.

The highlight of the mid race was my front wheel intersecting some dude's pedal stroke. I was certainly to blame for this (braking? what's that?) but was very excited to discover that I didn't panic when it happened. Can I use this to get my Cat 3 upgrade?

The next two times up the climb were moderately uneventful. We shelled another 16 guys to get down to 34 riders, and I was well into the 400+ watt/180+ bpm zone, but no post-climb chasing was required, which had become my only goal.

Finally, on the last lap, we had our first attack of the race. One guy rolled off the front over the top of the Barnett Rd climb, joined shortly afterward by Ian(?) from NEBC. They dangled 10 seconds up for the next few miles, and then a 3rd guy bridged on the last riser. It was doomed to failure, though, because the guys who had been murdering most of the field on Lackey Road could smell the finish and had no intention of letting them out of sight.

On the downhill before the climb they were 10 seconds out and we were having a softpedaling contest, which let me slide up to a front row seat for the upcoming anaerobic massacre. My plan was to make it over the top and win the sprint, because hey, you never know, right? I'd been under duress each lap but I hadn't tried riding my eyeballs out as a strategy.

It was positively stupid how hard the field attacked the beginning of the climb. I average 550 watts for 30 seconds (that's 8.3 f-ing w/kg!) and all I had to show for it was 20th place. Seriousleeeee? Guys?

Believe it or not, that counted as "pacing myself, " because I did 393w for another 90 seconds and picked up 12 places, as most of the field keeled over and died on the second pitch of the hill. I did my best to snort my lungs through my nose at 191 bpm but seven guys somehow managed to keep the pace up right over the top. I looked at the 15 yard gap, put it in the big ring, and gave the chase exactly two pedal strokes before giving up.

With only 500m to the finish, I was able to TT across the line in relatively close proximity to the sprint (won by 16-year-old Brendan McCormack, bet I'll see that name again) for a generous "st" finish in 8th.

After the race Ryan and I went hunting for food while he regaled me tales of how hard it is to climb with a sprained wrist. Apparently he got hit by a taxi two weeks ago and couldn't stand up at all. Needless to say he was not in the group of people that stayed in contact over the top on lap one, nor a finisher at all. Bummer.

We took our recovery food to the finish line just in time to see Linnea come by leading the women's 3/4 race. Oh yeah, did I mention I finally got her to do a road race? Because I did. And her Pro MTB license is still just a Cat 4 road license... so she was on her way to inevitable victory (just ask Kevin) with five other girls when they had a horrendous crash just a minute after passing us. Like...close the course, stop the race, fire up the USAC insurance policy bad. She used her ninja skills to avoid a hospital trip AND save her bike... but she still had enough road rash on her hip to ooze...something... all over the passenger seat the next day. Gross? Gross. Girls are gross.

Er, I mean, BIKE RACING!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pinnacle Race Report

Warning: this is long, because the Pinnacle makes me chatty.

A long, long time ago I was a lost soul in Florida, carrying out a failed experiment in the video game industry. After 12 of the worst longest most character-building months of my life, I moved back to the Northeast and decided to try mountain bike racing again. The extent of my experience was a few season in the booming "Junior Beginner" class in the late 90s. The first race I ever did in New England? The Pinnacle.

I had the fitness you'd expect of a man coming off a year of 70-hour weeks, but I lucked out -- halfway through the race, the heavens opened, and the course turned into one of the slimiest, slickest things you'll ever try to ride across a hill. I couldn't pedal hard to save my life, but I could still drive the bike like it was 1999. I turned in a surprisingly respectable performance, had a great time, and raced pretty much every weekend between then and now.

And then, for reasons unknown, I never went back.

Until now!

We ended up with pretty similar conditions to '06, it wasn't raining, but it was foggy with about 95% humidity, which is the same thing from a traction standpoint. The course was narrow, rocky and slick, it was a bike handler's dream, if they had only not stuck 700 feet of climbing per lap into the damn thing I would have had the best finish of my life.

But all that climbing makes it legit. Seriously, this is the most, best, legit-est mountain bike race, ever, if you're gonna win here you need to be good at everything. Even sprinting, right Matt?

Before we can get to the race report, Thom P has been guest-reporting for cyclingdirt, and decided to pre-race interview me while I pumped gas. And ask me leading questions about my competitors. It went "well":

Cycling Videos on CyclingDirt



Alright, race reportage. Huge elite field (30+) because the course rocks and everyone knows it. So big I actually felt compelled to make an effort starting out, and I hit the woods in 20th place or something, a far cry from my reverse-holeshot standards. I went too hard for a little while, tried to get on Chris Gagnon's helment cam, and eventually ended up right with Thom and Sweens, which was just fine with me.

Suddenly Thom realized he was surrounded by scrubs and took off like a man so crazy he would glue pubes to his face. I assumed I would never see him again, but before the top of the climb Kevin and I managed to bridge back up to him. We hit some doubletrack and K-Sweet took off like he was afraid Thom was going to glue pubes to his face. I ignored him because he was working really hard, and I'm not into that.

I got around Thom before the big descent started, and regained Kevin's wheel on the descent as he was waiting on some slow traffic. As soon as I was riding behind him he flatted because that's just what he does. So that was cool.

At the bottom of the hill I caught up with Alec Petro and Jon Bernhard, and I had just enough time to think "hey, that's pretty cool" before they dropped me climbing. I used my "race smarts" to get dropped, er, ride my own pace, and somehow it actually worked! I caught them at the top and decided to go up to 110% of race pace to hit the downhill first. Oh man, I'm gonna drop these chumps!

I put all of 5 seconds on Bernhard (and like, 15, on Petro) before my mad descending skillz smoked my rear derailleur straight into a rock. It stayed in one piece, but bent in a way that lost me my top two gears. Just a flesh wound!

Jon advised me that Brian Wilichoski was up the trail, and holy crap, did I want to race against THE WILICHOSKI. I bombed the rest of the descent and caught him just in time to pass him on one of the last sketchy sections. OH MY GOD I'M AHEAD OF THE WILICHOSKI. This is a big deal. Ask Kevin.

Passing Brian Wilichoski is a bad idea. I do not recommend it. It only angers The Beast. He passed me on the next climb so fast his wake almost knocked me over. I attempted to use my lap 2 strategy of "climb at your own pace" to catch him at the top. It did not work, not at all, because Bernhard and Petro passed me climbing, too.

I noticed my legs were threatening to cramp, and I knew exactly why, because I had been climbing over my head for 90 minutes now, and I still couldn't keep up with the guys I was racing.

Another breakneck descent (sorry, Sport racers I may have been "assertive" with) got me back ahead of Petro and in contact with Bernhard, Wilichoski, and Brent Mellen, just in time to start the final lap. 35 minutes to go, let's do this.

Unfortunately my legs had other ideas. My quads were nice enough to keep firing while they turned into blocks of muscle on the first pitch of the climb, so I didn't fall over... I just climbed very slowly. Petro immediately caught and passed me because he doesn't get slower, at all, ever, under any circumstances, even if it's the 6th day of the Iditabike and the blisters on his feet have turned his socks into bloody rags*. The other 3 were quickly out of sight.

I was at a crossroads, I could give up and ride to survive on the climb, and roll in for a totally decent finish place... or I push the cramps as hard as dared, on the off chance I could keep the time gap small enough to make it a race on the downhill. I asked myself, "what would Jonny Bold do?"

Spoiler alert: Jonny Bold would do whatever was harder, kick your ass, and write about it. I rarely have a chance to do anything Jonny-Bold-esque so I had to take the opportunity.

I climbed really hard, which still wasn't hard enough to keep anyone in sight. I alternately growled at my quads and asked sport riders to get out of the way really pleasantly. I'd be like "excuse me, passing when you get a chance" and then "arghhh eeeeeeeyow arrrrrrrrrr" when the next cramp hit.

The problem with cramping up the entire climb is that when you hit the descent... you keep cramping. Little moves like "weighting the outside pedal while cornering" had a 50-50 chance of freezing my leg in place. And I didn't have time to be patient with sport riders anymore, I had no idea what the gap was, but I didn't just climb through cramps for 20 minutes to sit in traffic. This is a LOCAL AMATEUR BIKE RACE. IT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. YOU NEED TO MOVE. Please, sir.

Unbeknownst to me, Bernhard and Wilichoski were using a strategy they learned from Kevin and I, called "crash out your teammate," to slow their descent. With time running out I rounded a corner to find a bloodied Wilichoski in sight. My adrenal gland kicked into post-iced-coffee levels and I put the hammer down, rewarded for this with more cramps. I kept them at bay with some dramatic growling.

Obviously Brian doesn't care about beating me as much as I care about beating him, so he didn't crash me out when I went for an extremely cheeky pass on one of the last technical spots. I yelled "sorry" over my shoulder while cramping again.

We hit the last section of double track and Petro and Bernhard were right there. I discovered that my bent derailleur couldn't get into the 44x11, and my derailleur cable was hitting the spokes in the 12. I threw down the meanest-seated-cramping-sprint ever on the flats before the final plunge with my rear wheel going tingtingtingting the whole way. I didn't pass anyone, but I was on Petro's wheel as we flew over the ski jump hill.

I had just enough time to think, wow, this is really sketchy, before we were bottoming out at 30 mph and heading into the last wet, grassy turn. With only so much traction available it was an "interesting" compromise between braking and turning, and I managed to get inside Petro (while cramping and grunting, of course) in the turn, and then hold him off through one more turn to line, with Bernhard only two seconds ahead.

Jon dumped his bike on the ground and fell down, but I out drama-queened him by rolling around on group and grabbing my cramping quads like I had just been shot in both knees. In retrospect, I am a little embarrassed at this performance, because it *is* just amateur bike racing.

But on the other hand, I might never beat Alec and Brian again, and holy crap my life is so much better than it was when I worked 70 hour weeks for Electronic Arts in Florda, the drama is just me expressing how happy I am to race bikes every weekend.

Seriously.

*Seriously.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lake Auburn Road Race Report

As my basement had a mere 13 frames in it this week, I decided it was time to acquire more. My primary motivation for getting a road bike was the disturbing realization that my cross bike with TRP's absolutely cannot stop in the rain, and I'm also inexplicably slow relative to my wattage on the road. Was buying a Spooky Skeletor the most cost-efficient solution to these two problems? Probably not, but damned if it wasn't fun.

I bought a Spooky because they sponsored a team my friends rode on last year. Had they not done this, I would never have even heard of the Skeletor, and thus never compared it to my other options and found that it graded out pretty favorably. Plus it has the added cachet of being a small, local brand, which should endear me to the bike snob community. Right?

I ordered the bike 11 days before Lake Auburn and took delivery of it 10 days later, which was awesome and troubling at the same time. I started building it at 7:30 PM Friday night -- and by midnight, I had a functioning race bike. And 3 freshly cannibalized cx bikes next to it... but that's beside the point. Racin' time!

The forecast for Lake Auburn was ugly, and the drive up was miserable. The downpour around Portland had we expecting a Sterling redux and contemplating skipping the race entirely, since I did tell the entire internet I would never race in the rain again. Miraculously, the rain stopped 15 miles before the venue, and never started again. Everyone who stayed home: you blew it.

I can't tell why, but the Lake Auburn course is really good. Wide roads, mostly smooth, low traffic, reasonably selective course? Anyway, in my minimal road racing experience it's the most fun I've had. I guess a 40-rider Cat 4 field contributes to "having fun" instead of "riding your brakes" out there, too.

After Sterling I was committed to riding at the front, so I rolled out from the second row and led up the first wall, a mile in. Bike racing!! I was super excited to be on a new bike and winning a race (whoever rides on the front the longest is the winner, right?) so I ignored the fact that I hadn't warmed up and hammered up the hill.

On the downhill some guys came around, some random attacks started flying, and holy crap was I excited. We were 2 miles in so every single person with sight of the front of the race tried to cover every single move. After a while I realized I could let attacks go, ramp it up seated, and with 8 guys jumping on each attack I'd never even have to get in the wind. EXCITING!

Near the end of lap one an attack actually stuck for more than 10 seconds, a Dartmouth guy was solo with 2 dudes chasing. I realized that I really want to play bikes too, so I went after it. The 2 guys chasing were doing a piss-poor job of closing the gap, so my bridge effort went straight through them and up to the leader. Yeah! Bike racing! We rode a 60-second 2-man TT to the base of the stair-step climb back to the finish, looked at each other and went..."whoops."

Then I tried not to go all the way to the back of the pack as they jumped all over us.

End result after one lap and a whole ton of matches burned: everyone riding together. Wait a minute, this is why smart guys just sit in, isn't it?

I noticed the next time up the wall that I was not actually feeling super awesome at all, like maybe I had been riding hard with no warmup on a brand new bike with a different position than I'm used to? My stomach advised that we slow down and my calves agreed. But then another break went up the road! Arghh so tempting.

Graham convinced me that one of the guys in the break was fat and we'd catch them on the climb, anyway. Oh. Well I didn't want to be in a break with a fat guy, anyway.

Sure enough they took the gap out as far as 30 seconds, only to be reeled back in on the stair step climb. Then again, we were not going exactly slow, using the patented Cat 4 chase technique of alternating between 22 and 27 mph until you catch the break.

Over the top of the climb on lap two I figured would be a great place to launch a winning break, with 11 miles to go and everyone hurting. One guy accelerated at the bottom of the climb and opened the gap the whole way up the hill. I thought to myself, "that is a strong man making a well-timed move," so I tried to bridge to the move over the top. My legs scoffed heartily at this effort, but I did manage to separate myself along with 3 others off the front.

Oh crap, I thought, this is totally going to be the winning move! We'll pick up that guy and have a 5-man break going! This will be glorious!

Soon after that I was skipping pulls, trying not to throw up. I DON'T LIKE ROAD RACING ANYMORE. SLOW DOWN, GUYS.

We were mysteriously unable to close the gap to the solo leader, and predictably terrible at getting organized. After a few minutes, the fat men in the field had recovered enough to bring the pelican back to us. Worst of all, much of the field didn't know there was another guy off the front.

Slowly word got around that there was a guy still up the road, and his gap was going up to hard-to-see range. No one seemed to understand the difference between attacking and chasing, so we spent the lap alternately coasting and single-file. After my most recent breakaway failure, my plan had been reduced to drafting 'til the the last hill and hoping "stuff worked out," so I wasn't exactly part of the solution.

On the run in to the final climb, I got caught napping during one of our random slowdowns and overran the wheel in the front of me. My inattentiveness was rewarded with a trip onto the sandy shoulder, jeering from the pack, and new position at the absolute rear of the field.

I did some work to get back into something resembling for the contention, only to finally pay the price for late-night bike work and drop my chain going into the crucial final pitch. I pedaled slowly while cursing and pleading, but my chain refused to pick up. Unbelievable! Come on Colin, you have been dropping poorly-maintained chains for 10 years and pedaling them back on... you can do this! Finally, at 5mph my chain hooked up with the rings, and I was "only" 20 yards off the back.

I managed to panic-climb back into the rear of the field over the top and then tap into some hidden, adrenaline-fueled Sprinter Della Casa skills I didn't know I had to start moving up inside the pack in the last mile. I was a gap-eating machine, every time I saw a hole I leapt into it. Next thing I know, I'm at the 2nd row with 600m to go. Stuff worked out!

Jeff Bramhall encouraged me to move in front of him, (nice? evil? I'm not sure) and at 200m I had a clear view of the finish line as the sprint opened up. Oh man! I'm gonna win! I launched, and for five pedal strokes I was the king of the world. Then I started cramping, (me, cramping? How novel!) and a wave of carbon-wheeled mofos came up on my left side. I thrashed awkwardly across the line for 4th in the field sprint, with our solo escapee hanging onto a 7 second victory ahead.

Post-race I played the powertap-comparison game with Bramhall and determined that we had almost the same average wattage for the race despite him outweighing me by 35 lbs. Which is to say, I was riding really stupidly, on average. And it was fun!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Charlie Baker TT Race Report

Once I year I like to do a weeknight TT, just to remind myself that I do suck at certain aspects of competitive cycling. Last year I did the Dover TT and promptly blew my knee up while getting beat by a 15-year old. This year I decided my annual appearance would be at Charlie Baker, so even more people could see my pitiful result.

The real motivator behind this all was finally getting my Powertap warrantied (due my own laziness, not Saris). I wanted to PUT OUT WATTS so I would know just how far over my head power-wise against the legitimately strong dudes in mountain biking and 'cross.

Of course my plan to bust out of work with all of 10 minutes to spare to make it to Concord by 6 fell apart, when I jumped on the bike and discovered that my new Powertap head unit couldn't find my wheel. Turns out that when a Powertap and wheel first get together, they need to do a complex mating ritual, and only once this has been done can you just use the "Find" setting to pick it up. I rode for a few minutes while struggling with the notion of doing this TT without power data... and I cracked. I turned around, sprinted home, hit up THE INTERNET to solve my problems, and at 5:27 I had a powertap and wheel that were best friends.

But now there was no way I was making it to Concord in time. I rolled out again, rode 2 blocks, remembered that I OWN A FREAKING CAR, turned around again, jumped in the car and flew out to Concord. I got stuck in traffic just before the rotary, pulled into a random parking lot, whipped the bike out, and made it to the start at 5:59. Ta-da!

The TT itself went without incident. I was going for max wattage instead of speed (I already know I'm gonna end up at 23.5 mph...don't need to pay $10 for that!) so I wasn't worrying about staying especially low, and I was blantantly pedaling harder than usual down the hills. This might be why my 30-second man roasted me at 30+ mph on his TT rig after only 5 minutes of riding.

That was the extent of the excitement for my day. It took me a long time to get my HR up to 182, so I can claim I was fatigued, which is always a good excuse. Once at 182, I just let the little yellow buddy tell me what to do -- since I was shooting for high watts over high speed, I didn't even have to worry about nuances like "go harder on the climbs." Bo-ring. Why am I even writing about this?

So anyway, I came through in 25:11 at 23.2 mph, which is apparently terrible, if my inbox is to be believed. I ended up one measly watt short of my goal, 299W avg for the whole thing, 4.53 w/kg. Is that good? It would be better if I was lighter. OMG I NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT!

Word on the street is that putting out 300 watts to go 23.2 miles an hour on your bike is not normal. I am a parachute with legs, it seems. While I'd like to write that off since "I only care about mountain biking," I have been known to do the occasional road race (like, say, tomorrow) and I'm not thrilled to be epically non-aero on my bike.

Was this whole blog post a public excuse for why I am closer to the bottom than the top of the CBTT results? Probably.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coyote Hill Race Report

After two weeks of kicking ass and taking names (at least by my standards), I was starting to think that I was actually kind of a big deal at this mountain biking thing. After all, I was leading the EFTA Elite Series for purely attendance-based reasons -- if that's not the big time, I don't know what is.

It should be noted that my previous successes have come on courses with minimal elevation gain and soft fields. Coyote Hill would be neither of those things, because it's in Vermont. No one goes to races in Vermont expecting them to be flat, and no one entering an elite race that far in the boondocks is a scrub. Well, except for me. And Kevin.

The race starts with a climb that's basically a VOMax interval on Eastern Ave, except instead of stopping at the top and puking up your burrito, you drop into five miles of rooty, lumpy singletrack that will make your back mutiny well before the finish. I've done this thing three times before, so I was able to keep a lid on my interval up the start hill, to the point where my heart rate was only pushing 96% of max as we topped out. And my throat was on fire, and would stay on fire for the rest of the lap. Yup, totally paced myself perfectly there.

Directly ahead of me were Randy Jacobs and Paul Simoes, with Randy playing the part of "guy who didn't preride and is braking too much." Paul was none too pleased with this, especially after he got his singlespeed stalled on a punchy climb in traffic, so he went stomping and thrashing through the woods to get around Randy. "Gee," I thought, "he sure looks overgeared on that singlespeed. That must be a lot of work, I'll catch him later, when he gets tired. Spin to win, baby!"

Then he beat me by 3 minutes.

And of course Kevin "please blog about me" Sweeney rolled up beside me on the next climb, and we set off on our weekly merry jaunt through the woods. After 15 minutes of this I was starting to think I could just paste in my report from last week, but then Kevin decided to blow himself up on a left turn under heavy braking and go flying over the bars.

I slowed down to wait, er, laugh mercilessly, but it turns out that he had blown his tire off the rim. As much as I wanted to stand there and heckle him during the tube insertion process, I had to go. And thus began a time trial!

Seriously, except for passing a soon-to-DNF Noah Tautfest, my position was unchanged for the next hour and forty minutes. This gave me ample time to try to figure out if I had cracked my frame (verdict: no, but I really need to lube that rear shock body) and try to figure out where everyone else in the race had gone to.

The course loops around the woods enough that I kept catching glimpses of other dudes, who didn't want to wait up. I clocked James Harmon at "2 minutes up" and then "oh-my-god-did-i-misread-my-watch up," which was fun, but also Chris Hamlin and Tim Daigneault at a consistent 1 or 2 minutes ahead for an hour straight.

Entering the final lap I realized that something strange was happening. I was 30 minutes away from the finish line and I wasn't cramping. I wasn't even praying for the race to end, I was just tooling along at a pace that seemed sustainable for another half hour.

OH MY GOD DID I JUST FIGURE OUT HOW TO PACE MYSELF?? AFTER 4 YEARS? NO, IT CAN'T BE!

Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. The integral of SUFFERING is VICTORY, and I forgot to SUFFER for the first 3/4 of the race. Doh!

I tried to break myself satisfactorily by killing the last lap, but it was too late, the only cramp I could summon was during an awkward dismount. A far cry from last year when I was screaming like I had been murdered before lap three was over. What have I become?

My final lap attack was enough to bring Chris Hamlin into sight range, but not sprinting range at the finish. I rolled in a tantalizing 17 seconds back in 11th place, which sounds pretty good in a field of 21 starters, but considerably weaker out of 15 finishers. Importantly, one of the six DNFs was Kevin, which takes my winning streak to three. Not that I'm counting.

Linnea, aka the meal ticket, was also back in action in the states after two less-than-satisfying Canada Cups this month. She flatted on lap one, sealed it, and then rode back up to second, to earn meus dinner and claim a 2-minute victory over man hands Jerry. As usual, I cared more about that than either of them. Ha!

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