Lake Pleasant Race Report

Jungle cross!

Ok, so I don't really know what "jungle cross" means, but I think it means any course that isn't some of that out-and-back type stuff in a park. And Lake Pleasant was definitely not in a park. In fact, I don't think there was a single blade of grass involved. As a mountain biker, this is a good thing.

So the course was basically a big 8 minute lap in the woods, with some smoother dirt road sections and some extremely not smooter power line sections. There were two sets of barriers, a bitchin sidehill descent, and a runup back to the finish line. Someone else said it was either a really technical cross course, or a really easy mountain bike course. I still think a cross bike was preferable to a mountain bike here, but the gap wasn't as big as it would be on most courses.

It was a cool, low-key event, with 29 riders in B and cash prizes going 5 deep, with cash dependent on number of entrants. Pretty much blows the Verge series prizes out of the water -- but I guess when you're a small promoter, it's a good idea to give riders some incentive to show up, since you can't go with the "part of a big race series" angle.

We lined up for Bs, a sweet two or three rows deep, and then played a rousing game of "whose number is on the wrong side?" There were two winners, including some guy who used the "I'm a mountain biker" excuse. And then he wasted us all on a pink singlespeed.

The start narrowed down pretty fast, and someone ate it on the first corner. In a remarkable display of courtesy, people at the front yelled "crash" so the pack didn't trample this guy. Those cross racers, always lookin' out for each other...

A couple minutes in we get to the first dirt road section, and I'm on the wheel of the one and only Ryan Kelly. I didn't notice any change in his body position or pedaling, but all of the sudden he doubled his speed and started passing people. So I tried to draft him, which lasted all of 10 seconds, and reminded me that I'm a mountain biker and thus my legs do not just unleash mad watts at the drop of a hat.

A few laps go past. My race, thus far, has basically consisted on sitting behind poor techincal riders (or as I like to call them, roadies) for most of the course and then sucking their wheels on the fast sections. This is my usual strategy, but it wasn't really ideal for this course, since I was losing a lot more time riding the technical stuff slowly than I was gaining by having someone to draft on the flats. Eventually I figured this out and booked it around my traveling companions going into the gnarly downhill, hit it with no brakes, and poof, they were gone! Well, for a bit. One of them returned later to tow me through the finish for another lap. But then I made a pass on one of the wide 180 turns -- a total Nascar-type, dive-for-the-apex-and-block-his-exit pass, by the way -- and led into another technical section. And this time I dropped him for good.

So anyway, more suffering for another lap or so, because this was the second race of the weekend, and coming up the run up with one lap to go someone yelled that I was in 7th place. In a B race. That really got my delusions of gradeur going, which was exactly the boost I needed for one lap. And somewhere off in the distance was 6th place... and ahead of him, 5th place! So exciting!

Unfortunately the guy in 6th was maintaining about a 10 second gap on me the whole lap, despite my best efforts to take risks and ride like a badass. In fact, the guy in 8th was somehow gaining on me (UNH rider Josh Lipka), which was a bummer because I thought I was hauling ass.

As we come into the last run up, and I can still see that Putney/West Hill jersey dangling in front of me. I've been suffering at like 95% for the last 20 minutes, but finally I'm within a minute of the end, so my brain is able to convince my body to give 110% for just a little bit. It helped that there were people on the hill who knew me and had ovaries. If you can't raise your game for that sort of spectator, you might as well just stop racing.

So I ran like a man possessed, and got to the top with maybe a 15 yard gap left to close. As I left my lady fans behind, an even more exciting sight was in reach -- the finish line. Even my lame stutter-step remount couldn't stop the adrenaline at this point. I put it in the big ring (mainly for effect) and threw down my best sprint on a bike in a long time, and when I pulled even with 50 yards left my opponent gave up.

So there it was, 6th of 29 in a freakin' B race. Nine seconds out of the money! Delusions of grandeur are awesome.


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