It used to be that I did better at Hopbrook every year, but now that I'm in the twilight of my career (was that a joke? I'm not sure either) I seem to always find myself behind the fitness curve come April. This year's mild winter was especially bad for that, as I spent most of March trying to get healthy and patch my ego back together after the Birkie. Meanwhile, everyone else was out DRILLING IT. So I figured I would just go ahead and avoid Hopbrook, and buy 3 more weeks of secret training before I had to face the Pro/1 music.
BUT THEN I REMEMBERED BIKES ARE TOTALLY SWEET! Hmm.
Christin was planning on skipping Hopbrook so I was like, yo, that's cool, I don't want to go either. But then she was like, "wanna go race Hopbrook?" and my heart did a little flip and I was like YESYESYESYESYESBIKES, so I guess I really did want to go.
No amount of wanting to ride fast will make you ride fast (well, ride fast for 2 hours...), so I knew it would be bad, but whatever. MTB racing! I missed you! Reverse holeshots and jerseys full of half-eaten gels, let's do this! It's been 5 weeks since I lined up for an Elite race I shouldn't be in, so I'm due anyway.
The course was the same as always, except drier, so it was extra pedaly, aka exact the reality check I needed. The first three minutes I felt totally fine. Then we went into a little mud hole, I tried to crank out of it, and WHAM my back wheel comes out of the dropout. Ah yes, now I remember this happening about a billion times last year, because my dropout is slippery and my hand strength is feeble. I frantically jammed my wheel back in the dropout, closed the skewer with the fury of a man watching himself slide into last place, and rode off.
After a short while I caught a dude, and transferred the mantle of "last" onto him. The rest of the lap was dedicated to chasing down not one but TWO more dudes, while discovering that the top half of my cassette no longer shifted. Hmm, that's weird, it worked all winter...
At the end of lap one I was deep into the out-of-shape cave, having been passed by the leading 19-29 Cat 1s already (ugh) and totally unable to shake the two guys from my category I had earlier passed, back when I was "enthused." The day had all the makings of a descent into sadness. Thank God sadness is the spice of blog posts...
The lack of desire in my legs caused the blood to start flowing to my brain again. My brain realized that if I my cassette wasn't shifting worth beans, it was probably because I jammed the wheel in the dropout crooked when I was freaking out. And if it's crooked it in the dropout, the cassette isn't lined up right, nor is the brake.
NOR IS THE BRAKE!
For the first time ever, I can say "I rode like my brakes were dragging" and it's true. I hopped off the bike and gave the back wheel a test spin... it made just over a revolution before stopping. Oh, Colin. You idiot.
Obviously a dragging brake is worth 12 minutes, so I surely would have been 2nd in the race if not for that.
But it really did feel better once I recentered the wheel. And instead of getting SMOKED by the next 19-29 dude to pass me, I only got mildly dusted. And then matched his pace! And then...ever so slowly... over the next hour... clawed my way back to him.
|The Coppola Photography guy/girl were there taking some really nice shots. Am I allowed to borrow this for my blog? And why are my wheels so big? So many questions.|
Epic battles with racers you had a 2-minute head start on? Hey, I'll take what I can get.
So I spent most of the last lap riding my legs off 10 seconds behind some dude who knew I wasn't in his category and probably wasn't trying that hard. But, with a mile or so to go, I closed the gap and my caremeter was shockingly high. Oh, April racing. So much trying!
I came around him just before the last road second and assumed he would disappear, because that's what happens to people you can't see in a bike race. I rode hard on the road and hard on the trail and hit the final climb... only to look back and find out he was still there, now joined by Alec Petro, who was catching me from the 6-minutes-back 40+ field.
This development gave me PRIDE LEGS and I rode ludicrously hard to hold them off until the final descent, at which point all shenanigans were paused so we did not kill the expert woman we were lapping. No places actually hung in the balance, so it was all good.
The results showed me five seconds behind the next Pro/1 guy, which was not as good. But worrying about placing 17th instead of 18th is not pro, right? What if I mention it on my blog? Would that be ok? Hope so.
Here I am being totally not upset at how badly I did. Like I said, my brakes were rubbing.
Watch more video of Root 66 #1 Hop Brook Dam on cyclingdirt.org