If you're a promoter and you're trying to draw people in to your race. The title here isn't exactly the way to go. I know years ago in the mountain biking heyday there were all kinds of names like this. But maybe we should consider that it's different times these days. The steep entry fee had more than a few of us grumbling also, especially when you consider EFTA doesn't accept USAC licenses and so theres an additional cost tacked on as well.
I guess while I'm listing grievances I should also say WTF! to the promoters of the EFTA series and the Rt. 66 series. It seems like week after week we have mountain bike races on the same day. That is just stupid, it hurts everyone, most of all the promoters themselves. Mountain bike races don't exactly bring in thousands of entrants to begin with, so to put two well established series races on the calendar on the same day is inexcusable. If they looked at how all the cyclocross promoters communicate to avoid this exact issue, they'd see that its completely avoidable, and that they'd enjoy more $ in their pockets. Anyone thinking about a mountain bike race on any given day would have just the 1 option. Anyway that reminds me of a post I'm working on for Cross season and all the races we have there as well.
Onto the actual race. I hit the snooze on my alarm clock at 5 AM. I got up at 5:09. Whats with the clock makers cutting the snooze factor by a minute? I feel so ripped off when I can hardly get my eyes open. I guess nothing is safe from downsizing these days. I got out the door and on the road by 6 thinking it would be 3 hours drive time. (Elite race was at 10) To my surprise I got there in 2-1/2 leaving time for a pre ride lap since it was only a 5 mile loop. It was warm already.....I don't like warm. Hot is obviously worse. Opressive is downright disagreeable. I was scouting out a nice quiet place behind a huge dirt pile to drop the deuce when Matty O rolled up in his SUV and started laughing at me with my little roll of TP in my hand. Good times!
I'll do us all a favor and skip ahead a bit. Matty, Ski, and I kitted up and hit the trail for a pre ride. Matty had done this race about 10 times already and I'd never seen the course before, not sure but I think Ski was a "rookie" too. It was after 9 when we started and it was now officially hot and looking like opressive was a strong possibility. It didn't take long riding to be sweating profusely and I wondered how smart the 5 mile pre ride actually was. I wanted to see the course though so I carried on.
The course had a little of everything, it was pretty damn sweet actually. I felt like it suited me well but I was a bit paniced about the heat. I only had one gel left to my name and those babies are key in the heat. With just minutes before the start I went on a mission so sponge a gel or two from whoever was feeling generous. The boys at the NEMBA tent reconized the despair on my face and produced some power bar gel bloks (they're version of Clif Bar's Shot Blokz). I was greatful to them for hooking me up because I thought that might even be better than a gel since I could use them 3 or 4 times. Thanks guys!
The horn sounded and we were off. Matty took the hole shot and in no time it was the same 3 guys that pre-rode together racing up front. Matty was killing it as is customary at the begining of mtn. bike races. He carried on for quite a while and I just kept thinking that it was WAY too hard to try to do 5 laps like this. Half way into the lap I let Matty and Ski go in a measured risk sort of way. If they could keep doing that they were easily gonna mop the floor with me. Andy Gould who raced lap 1 with Matty and I in Moody Park came along and he was riding pretty fast also. I got on his wheel and tried to recover. I soon discovered that I like riding behind Andy, he selected some great lines and was smooth. Smoothness is paramount in mountain biking sucess. He seemed to want to go after those 2, but I told him they went out too hard and to just chill with me for a while and we'd see tham again on lap 3, 4, or 5.
On lap 2 I was already overheating and my jersy was completely unzipped and flapping in the wind. I hate how that looks and think it's pretty 'unpro" but I had no choice. It also makes finding the things you have in your pockets pretty hard too. I went to the front on a fire road and just turned up the pressure ever so slightly. By the end of that lap Andy was just off and I could catch a glimpse of Matty and Brian every once in a while. The gap stayed between 20 and 25 seconds. Then we hit some major lapped traffic. I'm usually pretty polite when I come up behind someone, I know they're race is important to them, but the way the rule is written is that the slower rider has to actually pull over and give the trail to the faster rider if it's single track. One guy just ignored several requests for some leeway and then flat out said "If you're that good go around". What a dick! It was in the most technical, rooted section out there and momentum is everything. I finally got by with a hairball pass that he left me no choice, but to try, and then without the momentum I needed I bobbled a root section and had to stop. He screamed at me to move out of his way as I was trying to get off my bike, Ya right buddy! He came to a stop and then couldn't get his foot off the pedal and had a slow motion tip over into the mud. That was awesome! I said "have a seat" as I took off. That cost me some time, but I still had more than 3 laps to start riding harder.
On lap 3 I turned up the pace just a fraction again, and less than half way through the lap I saw Matty coming off Brian a bit on a climb. I bolted past Matty and got up to Brian's wheel. He was going strong and I was content to follow for a while. I eventually went by and just tried to do my own thing, there was no attack, too far to go. At the very end of the lap there was a small rock pile that we had to hop up onto to continue pedaling out onto the field and finish/lap area. Brian did something behind me and I heard him say argh or something to that effect, so I put in a little pace increase to start lap 4 also. The plan was to ride harder each lap, but when I got to lap 5 with about 20 seconds on Brian, it was all I could do to just keep the same pace. Cramps were twinging through my legs everywhere. I was really scared I would end up on the ground clutchin at a leg. I simply couldn't push it. I kept checking to see if he was gaining on me, but he was having similar issues, as was everyone, I found out later. Lap 5 was a death march. I kept it going carefully and I was definitely still having fun with the course, but I knew one slight muscle contraction could spell the end of all the fun.
It ended up being uneventful for most of the lap, and I cruised in for the win just 30 seconds or so ahead of Brian. I'd say Matty was just another 20 or so behind him. The temperature had hit the 90's but the humidity was high and there was no breeze, especially in the woods. Racing a mountain bike in these conditions at full effort for 2 hours is something you oughta try sometime if you think you're pretty tough. Humility is good for us all.
Oh, it turns out those Power Bar gel blocks are almost impossible to swallow. For some reason the makers decided they'd be easier to swallow with a big chunk, of what felt and tasted like chalk, pasted onto the bottom of each one. I used to have PowerBar as a personal sponsor back in my Triathlon days and they're a great company....but this is a huge FAIL. It took me half a lap to get 2 of these little crud burgers down. Not to be ungreatful to the guy that gave them to me, but wow! Those things suck!
Thanks for reading, JB