So the easy play on words here is, "All Out In MUDDY Park". Parts of this course were seriously saturated, and the destruction we did to the trail network can only be compared to Mt. Snow. I thought we were done doing that sort of thing a long time ago, but I guess not. I felt guilty taking part in it, but it was a race, so I just figured I'd carry on and comment on it later.
The Elite field was a little lean with Putney Mountain Bike Race happening right down the road. Do we really need to have Mt. Bike races on the same day within 50 miles of each other? Seems crazy. We started with 7 elites and I was happy to see New England good guy Matty O at registration and on the line. Matt Boobar and "The Internet" were also numbered up and ready to go. There were also some really young looking cats with that eager/scared look on their faces. But thats not saying much coming from me. To me, everyone looks young these days. So it wasn't super deep, but plenty talented.
There was a short prolouge lap around the parking lot to try to help stretch the field a bit, before entering the single track. I managed to get into the woods 1st, and was soon passed by Matty O. There was another guy from Blue Steel Cyclery that I didn't know that made the selection as the 3 of us sort of separated from the field pretty early on. His name was Andy, I know this because I heard several people cheer him on.
It wasn't muddy for the entire circuit, which was just over 4 miles per lap I guess. There were a few sections of really fast double track and even some pretty stout climbing, but thankfully not too much. Lots of steep climbing combined with heavy mud on the bike and body as well as lots of off & ons takes it's toll.
Matty was impressive on lap 1 riding some of these mud bogs that looked impossible to me. He's pretty good at "creating" lines too. I was a mess, often c-blocking Andy when I dabbed or lost momentum. Late on lap 1, I bobbled pretty bad and Andy went around me as Matty pulled away. Before I knew it he was starting to disappear. I finally got back around Andy when it tilted uphill before we finished the lap.
I didn't see Matty again until very late in lap 2, and that encouraged me. I stayed on the gas and tried to be as efficient as possible, because I knew the shit he was doing in the mud was using up a lot of leg, and that sooner or later he wouldn't be able to do it as well. I just commited to running the mud bogs and even so, it was brutal. There were times my leg disappeared almost up to the knee and getting the leg out was tough & I just hoped my shoe would come with it......it did. At times I tried to lift the bike, but it seemed to weigh 1000 lbs.
I didn't catch Matty before we turned onto lap 3, but I had him in the cross hairs for sure. I was glad to be the hunter instead of the hunted. No one else was close behind me, so I figured it was worth risking cramps and cracking to go for the win. I got close in the first section of single track and mud bogs and when we came out onto the double track he was right there. I went by and commented on how much the mud sucked, and he agreed. I put in a hard attack/surge after a loose sandy 180 degree right hander and just stayed on the gas. I didn't look for awhile, but when I had to get off later for a mud sectiuon I noticed he wasn't there. I was encouraged by that and tried to increase my power output in the next climbing section, but the course was really starting to beat the shit outa me. Too much hard pedaling for 1 mph or less or just trying not to fall off a busted pallet bridge.
There was also the much talked about "Gravity Cavity" and I have to admit it's aptly named. Its a 100 meter or so straight vertical drop over a wide, dry wooden bridge right into a sandy, rooted, steep climb. On the first lap when we hadn't seen it yet we kind of fagged out a little going down, but the rest of the laps I let it rip and I'd say I easily hit 40 mph. It was cool!
I stayed on the gas the rest of lap 3 and kept drinking and shooting gels, which was hard to do because my bottles were disgustingly covered with thick, black, stinky mud. I rode lap 4 as hard as I could while trying to be conservative. Which translated to ripping the double track sections, running as hard as I could in the mud and being careful not to make the big mistake. I had a few of those shooting cramps you get when you put your foot down to balance check or dismount. Thankfully they were fleeting, and didn't have teeth to bite and lock in like a pit bull. I've had that happen before too. Ever see a guy rolling around on the ground with the agony face like he just got shot, for no apparent reason? I'm looking at you Rooter.
The bike performed amazingly well. The drivetrain was completely caked with sticky mud, but I had use of all the gears including both chainrings up front all day. The discs were making some haenous sounds of course, but I think that was everyone too.
I was able to cruise the last half lap and finish without the stress of being hunted. Matty pulled in about a minute later and Matt Boobar was 3rd just a short way behind Matty O. Colin 4th.
My teamate, Bill and I (Bill was 4th in the expert field on his brand new Superfly) found a nice neighbor that let us use her hose for a bike/body wash and that made all the difference in the world for the drive home.
I was a little bummed out to only get $50 for my first Elite win. Shit I got $50 for 4th last week, $200 for 2nd at Big Ring Rumpus, and $75 for third at Weeping Willow. $50 for the win? Really? Entry fee was $35ish, gas was easily $20 each for 2 guys, throw in a sandich & a pint and it cost me $20 to drive 7 hours and win a race. Thats still not bad I guess. I dunno, I just think the race winner should at least be able to break even on the day. Oh well.
Thanks for reading, JB