I am so stoked that Weeping Willow is turning into the MTB version of the Gloucester GP. We're now in year three and it SOLD! OUT! several weeks in advance, making it the only MTB race this side of the Vermont 50 to do so. That might say more about the lack of "landmark" quality MTB races we have, but in any case: the people have spoken, and the people think Willowdale is the new hotness.
29 elite dudes preregistered, and some more managed to get in with secret-race-day-even-though-the-race-is-full reg, so it was LEGIT. As such, I relegated myself to the back row, because I wanted nothing to do with legitimacy on a 85-degree, 2.5 hour race day.
The race started and I got the reverse holeshot. 2 minutes into the race I started to fear I was missing something, and started freaking out trying to move up. I was somewhat stymied by the traffic situation, and kinda just bounced around like a cat on the wrong side of a door. Which I suppose is why I need to keep getting the reverse holeshot, since I can only contain myself using physical obstacles, not my BRAIN.
Sadly there was a lot of doubletrack in the first half of the lap so I extricated myself from my confines and started riding too-hard-even-though-it-feels-sustainable. I passed a bunch of guys and ended up on Tim Daigneault's wheel.
Willowdale is "non-technical" at riding pace, but is actually sneaky technical at race pace, because when you're DRILLING IT you better be looking 2 turns ahead in the singletrack if you actually want to go fast. Otherwise you spend equal time DRILLING IT and JACKING THE BRAKES and don't do anything except tire yourself out.
In related news, I spend most of lap one tiring myself out.
At the end of the lap, Ezra Mullen was also hanging out, and then he tried to pass Tim, and they had a "miscommunication" that left Ezra riding in the woods and both of them feeling horribly wronged. BIKE RACING!
Then they took off up the trail to continue their adrenaline-fueled feud, which I elected to not participate in since were only 25% done with the bike race and it was EFFING HOT out.
Tim's adrenaline ran out first and I caught him on the first road utilizing my new "roadie power" (seriously, I've done as many road races as MTB year!). I even gapped him with a brutal 300w attack. BRUTAL!
Then I noticed that my ordinarily semi-janky bike was starting to sound extra-janky. I spent a while trying to diagnose the rapidly developing case of
Jancaitis jank-itis in my front end to no avail. I changed my brake pads recently, maybe that's it? They seemed a little loose, I dunno, maybe that screw that holds them in is loose? It's a torx head, which is basically magic, so yeah, that's probably it.
I rode along wondering what I should do about this.
Then I stopped to investigate and realized my ENTIRE FRIGGEN BRAKE CALIPER was in the process of falling off, so hey, kids, when you have to take your brake off for your buddy's old-school roof rack, MAKE SURE YOU PUT IT BACK ON TIGHT.
I hand tightened it as best I could, got passed by Tim, and resumed pedaling with a much quieter bike.
I noticed with some concern that Will "Dad Legs" Crissman was now quite close behind me, along with Greg Jancaitis, Alby King and Jacob Harris. This was annoying, as those guys are ENDURO DUDES and I am a CROSS DUDE, and I need to develop a nice cushion early to hold off their inevitable late-race surge.
I talked myself off the ledge of panic and found my singletrack-carving power animal, which is basically the only way to go fast at Willowdale. Somehow, I distanced them slightly, and caught back up to Tim. Hooray!
The only thing I remember about the 3rd lap was telling Tim that 4 dudes were chasing us and we needed to GO HAHD, and him claiming not to care, but then being very diligent about sticking to my wheel. I realized that I might be getting played.
I also realized it was still effing hot and I was getting effing tired, so yeah, those dudes who were chasing us? Two of them caught up - Jacob Harris and Alby King. We also caught Todd Bowden (?!?!?@) at this point, and suddenly we had a five-man party train going into the final lap. OH THIS IS GONNA HURT SO INTERESTINGLY!
Todd is way better than me (us) at pedaling, so we were f-ing flying on the fire road section, with Todd laying down the watts and 4 little ducklings following his every move. This was all going quite swimmingly until Alby decided to zone out while sitting in 3rd wheel and SMOKE the only obstacle on the whole doubletrack section, which led to a spectacular explosion about 6 inches in front of me. Check it out, photo evidence:
|"Hey, this position worked for Graeme Obree"|
|"I guess I'll true my spokes during this crash"|
Alby was kind enough to shout "I'm ok" from the ground so it was obviously still FULL GAS, now with three people, as Tim had also been slowed down in the crash. At this point I was starting to feel the cramps a-comin' so I was relieved to dispose of two dudes. All I need to do now is suffer for another half hour to the line...
Then we got to the singletrack and everything fell apart. Jacob ATTACKED, which is total bullshit, because if I have cramps, everyone should have cramps. Tim caught back up, which was somewhat plausible, but so did Alby, which was utter bull, since he had very clearly died less than ten minutes ago.
The only bright side was Todd actually pulling aside, because he had this funny idea that I wanted to chase Jacob. HA HA! In the 3rd hour, I only chase finish lines, and that was WAY FAR ahead.
I was deathly afraid of Tim or Alby leading at this point, since they were back-from-the-dead zombies with unknown leg strength and a potential hunger for brains. Fortunately Willowdale makes passing pretty hard, and they never asked, so I just droned away on the front of the group at the slowest pace I thought I could get away with. I figured, as long I could lead us all the way to the final half mile of doubletrack, I had a fighting chance with some fast-twitch shenanigans, cramps or no.
Somehow we dropped Todd (maybe he had a mechanical, and that's why he let me pass? I struggle to believe I live in a world in which I can beat Todd Bowden at anything) leaving us with a sweet 3-up sprint for 14th place. OHHH BABY. It's like cross season all over again, only with more cramping!
I led the doubletrack at a whopping 13 mph. Tim and Alby had no intention of coming around, to the point of Tim putting his hand on my back as "encouragement." Dear god it's like a track sprint!
I think Alby made a joke about "actual strategy" or something at this point. I felt briefly ashamed for having an "actual strategy," but luckily it was time to fire off said strategy, before the lack of response to his chat got any more awkward. So I did it (sprint on the last flat stretch, rest on the short downhill, sprint again on the final climb) and neither of them were particular interested in that level of sprintiness.
Meanwhile, Todd Prekaski was busy abusing the Photoshop "Clone" tool on my chest hair: