We (I attended the race with two local expert racers Tom Hayes and Andrew Rigel) arrived to the course Friday morning. Time to get our credentials, build our bikes, fixed any damage from the airlines and then off to pre-ride the course. The several weeks of rain leading up to the event left the course muddy, slick and in parts dangerous due to the washouts caused by flowing water. Several racers were injured during pre-ride including a broken back (no paralysis)...definitely bad jojo going into the race. Our pre-ride went well. No major accidents and only small mechanical problems due to mud in our derialluers. The course was just over 20 miles with 3200' of elevation including two steep climbs of over 20% grade and a grueling 3KM climb to the finishing descent! OFF to clean our bikes, which we soon discovered would be the norm with all the mud and water.
Saturday we watched Andy take 3rd in the Expert Men's 30-39 Short Track Race (a fast anearobic XC race around a one mile course for a predetermined amount of time). The course was so muddy that riders ran 50% of the course with the bikes on their shoulders..ala cyclocross! Thomas and I did some additional climbs and start burst to keep our legs loose for tomorrows race.
Sunday started bright and early at 4:45am. Up for a liquid breakfast, Starbucks and out to the track by 6:00am for our 8:10am start time. I would be racing in the Sport 30-34 category with 95 other races. The start of the race would combine one mile on the pavement prior to sending everyone onto the double and single track. My strategy was to get a clean start and tuck in behind and draft behind the leaders saving my energy. We lined up several minutes prior to start and after several pre-race farts by several competitors the gun went off. OUCH! Heart rate went from 85 bpm to 170 bpm in 200 yards. Don't these jackasses know we have 20 miles still to race...apparently not. Trying to keep up with the Jones's, I tucked into the peloton (weird to say that in mtn bike racing) and tried to hold my line between several other races. Normally in mtn bike racing there is not such a large group, but like road racing there was much elbowing and tire rubbing tying to gain position. I decided to make my way to the outside and get a run into the tight left uphill corner. I knew I would have to use my brakes and could get a good run leading up to the dirt course. It definitely paid off as I moved from mid pack up to around 25th. The next several miles included position swapping and juggling until we came to the first big climbs. This definitely split the field up and allowed for some breathing room. I felt strong from miles 10-14 and gained several positions until someone went down in front of me. I managed to avoid them, but the wrecked definitely disrupted my momentum. I struggled to find my form for several miles. With 5km to go, which included 4.5km of climbing, I was strong again and making several surges on my climbs. Many of the other competitors were hurting at this point, so I was able to pass 10 riders in the last climb (not sure how many were in my age group) and bridge the gap between myself and Tom (I had passed Tom once on the course, but was passed by him after the wreck). He was know only :15 in front of me and I figured he was shooting for a top 10, so this was a very good sign. Unfortunately, I could not bridge the gap any further. Tom finished in 10th and I finished 11th out of 95 (78 finished the race) in our age group and 35 out of 720 overall. The final 1km of the course was a downhill bomb on the road course. The finishing chute was amazing with several hundred fans cheering you on!
Can't wait until next year!