What a cool race! Big Thanks going out to the promoters of this event. For a minute at the start of the race with all the expert fields lined up directly behind us, and lots of friends and family around it looked like the Hay Days of mountain bike racing in the 90's. Heck, it looked like that all day. I think thats awesome. Mt. Biking is coming back on strong. Promoters should try to follow this formula. Put on a race somewhat close to Boston, make it technical, but not dangerously so and try for a longish loop. You don't have to pay any cops and you need no road use permits. Just sit back and count the money.... and watch everybody have a good time. Way more smiles at mountain bike races than road races.
The PRO/Elite wave lined up with what looked like about 25 guys. We had a 3/4 mile stretch of double track to sort things out a bit before we hit the single track. It didn't sort much out but the position battle settled in with Adam Snyder (Jamis) leading us into the first LONG section of single track. He was buttery smooth and soon rolled off and outa sight. I was slotted in about 5th wheel or 4th in the line with Adam off the front. One of New England's favorite good guys, Matt Okeefe, took a stick in his wheel at one point and I had to body english my way around him narrowly missing a tiny little pine tree. True to form Matty appologized for making me have to take evasive action. No worries Matty, thats mt. bike racing. Just in front of me was Brain Willochoski [Ski] (Cannondale), Dan Valincourt (NCC) and another guy from Biker's Edge who I didn't know.
Just a short way in, I heard a pretty solid crash behind me and didn't dare look to see what happened or I'd likely end up with a similar fate. The course was extremely twisty or even twitchy, which was fun but it made for high focus and not many opportunities to pass or drink from our bottles. Ski was hammering away and the 4 of us separated from everyone else. I was riding blind, so to speak, as I had never seen the course before. I was smart enough to not try to ride a 10 mile loop before the race, so I figured I'd follow wheels for the 1st lap and then see how things shook out.
We came out of the single track at some point and I couldn't believe how hard these guys drilled it on the double track. It was a friggen blast, but WOW! 3 laps like this.....really? I was on the ropes like Ali taking hooks and uppercuts in the "rope-a-dope" (emphasis on dope). We came onto a long flooded straightaway that had mini river crossings and to my surprise, there was Adam just 150 meters in front of us. The guys seemed to ride even harder when they saw him and I just stayed in line trying to see through the blood in my eyes.
We hit some more single track and Adam started to pull away a bit. Shortly after that on some fire road Dan went to the front and slowly crept away. I didn't understand why the other 2, after crushing it so hard just let him get the gap on a slight uphill, but that effort was a big withdrawal from the leg bank and Dan just floated away. I looked up and he was almost across to Adam. I didn't plan on doing this, but I had recovered from the body blows and decided that, this was the race and made a jump to bridge. The other 2 tried to get on, but the steady uphill grade proved too much (or something) and they were off and I was in no man's land. I made a huge effort to "get there" and was concerned about not knowing the course too well. Sure enough we veered slightly left and went uphill on steep, loamy, rooty single track climb. I nearly blew sky high, but stayed within myself as best I could with a 190 heart rate. John Bernard of ccb, was watching the race and shouted some encouragement and also informed me there was a long downhill coming. That was good news. It took another 5 or 6 minutes, but I finally got on Dan who was just off Adam's wheel.
Adam was really nice to us after that as this was clearly the selection. He didn't crush the double track too hard, instead he drank and had a gel or two and Dan & I sat on. Dan waved me thru so he could eat something and soon after we hit the single track again. Adam just smoothed his way away from us. He made a small mistake a while later and we were back on, but not for long. I heard Dan make a mistake too and he was gapped off, but when we hit more lapped riders he got back to my wheel. On the double track he crushed it and I was back on the defensive, but was ok and just told myself it's only about half way thru, long way to go.
On the previously mentioned steep little single track climb, we hit some lappers at just the wrong moment, Dan snuck through but I ended up hitting his back wheel and had to dismount. I lost a gap there and then I proceeded to make a couple small mistakes. I came into a small hill way over geared and had to struggle up because there was way too much torque on the chain to try and shift on the hill. I was telling myself I'd get him back in the main part of the single track on lap 3 and I felt pretty good still. I could see him on a few of the U-turns on lap 3 and was gaining nicely. The lappers were a huge problem at this point, but most of them were so great about making way for me/us. Suddenly when I was exiting out of one of the turns I threw my chain off and couldn't pedal it back on. I had to dismount and the chain was actually stuck between a little guard for the bottom bracket carbon and the small chain ring. I'd been in the big ring for the entire race to that point, but when I finally got back up and running I decided it would be smart to leave it in the little ring for the rest of the single track, just to avoid having that happen again. Dan was outa sight now, but I stayed positive because he could just as easily make a mistake too.
By the time I got back to that brutal singletrack climb with only a short way to go, I could see him again. I gave it everything I had and the legs started to let me know that they weren't too thrilled with me, in the form of cramps on the climbs. I got a little closer on the long downhill and on the last bit of single track, but I made another small mistake that made me have to grab onto a tree for a balance check and that was all she wrote. When I came out onto the last little bit of fire road before the finish, he was a good 100- 200 yards ahead of me. Adam had already finished and Dan crossed in 2nd, I was in 3rd just a few seconds back.
The race was a huge blast and lodged firmly in the North Shore Cycling Community, I can't see it have anything but more sucess. The North Shore is a tremendous cycling community, probably one of the strongest in the U.S. and it's nice to be able to support them and thank them for promoting such a great event.
Thats it for now. Thanks for reading, JB