That's right, baby, we run our race reports on exact;y one week delay around here. All part of the plan to fuzz my memories of an event hard enough that I can conjure up some false memories far more exciting than what really happened.
Plus, this whole living-out-of-a-suitcase thing for half of every week doesn't leave me with the ample blogging time I used to have. Just sayin'.
ANYWAYZ, the DARKHORSE is one of my only must-do summer mtb races (along with the 24 hours of Great Glen, even though I have never finished without a mechanical. Something about 40 miles of big-ring singletrack just speaks to me in a way that 50 miles of doubletrack climbing doesn't...
To make things interesting/take the pressure off I did the Gran Fundo on Saturday, which was the exact same 60 miles of FUN as last year. Chill factor was high, and I finished hours behind the "lead group." So far, so good, and I was up and on the road at 5:30 AM from Northampton for the Darkhorse. At the time this seemed a bit rough, but the Cambridge guys were on the road a solid 2.5 hours before me, so... they're even dumber than I.
Eventually I arrived at the event, discovered I had no gloves and no chamois cream (note to self: 5:30 AM is not a good time to figure out if you've packed everything you need) and borrowed some gloves from Team Awesome (Bob Morgan). Didn't borrow chamois cream because that stuff is optional... right?
The race started with a TWO MILE GRAVEL ROAD. Ordinarily this would be super-lame, but with a 50 rider elite field it was actually the ideal way to sort the start out, because there were some real climbs on the road. The dudes at the front were like "let's go roadie fast" up the hill and all but about 15 guys were like "we're mountain bikers, so we'll see you later." So we cut the lead group to 15 by the singletrack and everything was nice and civil entering the woods.
Once into the woods I realized there were a few guys ahead of me whose "roadie fast" abilities vastly exceeded their "steering" abilities... so I obnoxiously tailgated them until I got by. Eventually I ended up riding with a Bethel Cycles guy with no one else in sight... and 35 miles to go. 3 hour TT? Hooray for mountain bike racing!
Bethel Cycles guy was going at 99% of my pace, so I obviously passed him and started riding at 105% of my pace. This worked great and I dropped him... caught some more dudes... moved into 8th place (I think) on the trail, and then THE LEG SADNESS caught up with me and my watch still hadn't cracked an hour. Blast. But you know what they say -- if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break your legs. Right?
I used my massive wattage to pull my rear wheel out of the dropout for the 4th time this season (that skewer has GOT TO GO) and this took the wind out of my sails enough to drop a bunch of places and go back behind Bethel Cycles guy.
Finishing up lap one (20 miles down! 20 to go!) my legs were already sending out "about to cramp" SOS messages and I was in "suffer efficiently" mode. Thanks to some mechanicals/muscular failures, I did manage to pick up some places... but I also got caught by a dude fast enough that I had to ask if he was coming from the SS class. He was like, "nope, I'm elite" which made me wonder exactly how much I was slowing down.
BUT! He slowed a lot after catching me, and admitted he was probably riding too fast to catch me, and got CHATTY! Yay, now we can be ENDURANCE RACING BUDDIES!
So we rolled around and talked about how much we hurt and how we were out of the money. I was like "dude I'm cramping" and he's like "no I'm cramping" and I'm like "no I'll prove it to you" and started cramping.
At mile 35 we reached the BEER STATION (note: Not a USAC-sanctioned event!) and I realized that it was 86 and humid and I would much, much rather stop and drink a beer than go five more cramping miles with my enduro buddy, because that would hurt.
I made special care to confirm with the beer-stop ladies that I was the FIRST elite rider to stop for a beer. Therefore I am the coolest guy in the race, and everyone who beat me is clearly a big old square who takes their bike racing too seriously.
THEN, on the next steep climb, my quad cramped up so bad that I had to get off my bike and sit down. A few lapped sport riders with "impressed" with the drama, to say the least. I maintain it was not related to the beer (which was soooooo tasty) as it was only 30 seconds after consumption; if anything, the fact that I was able to fight through it and ride 5 more miles is a sign that cheap beer cures cramps.
My final five miles was definitely not that spirited, but I only dropped 30 seconds to my enduro buddy so I think everyone was pretty smoked by then. I finished in 9th overall, 3:13 ride time, and comfortably out of the money (6 deep) so I could jet out of there and survive the drive to back Northampton in time to be back asleep by 4pm.
So, the Darkhorse is pretty fun. I finally finished without a mechanical, so know I don't know what to do next year. Maybe not ride 60 miles the day before, and not drink a beer during the race? Grumble.
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