Monday, July 11, 2011
Race #80: No Place like Home
Photos by Cindy Gay
East Fork was my introduction to Expert Cross Country mountain bike racing last year and what an experience it was. I had turned myself inside out, putting in one of my fastest rides ever — only to come in last place. This is the trail I ride most all year long (when we are not being drenched by weeks of monsoons) so I know every pebble and twig. And on such a fast trail this is a huge advantage for me.
I wasn't feeling that great after my return from vacation and was really worried about how bad it could go for me. But looking at last year's result I couldn't do worse!
East Fork always starts with a road section featuring a long climb, it does a great job of selecting the best riders for the hole shot. This year it was really fast and to my surprise I was hanging in there. The field split but I grabbed Marty's wheel to get up to the front group. We caught the group and Marty kept riding up the side of the train, he was really flying. I was happy to be tailgunner. I did get gapped up a set of little rising rollers but teammate Joe was there to help pace me back up.
I followed Joe into the trail. I figured it would be wise to follow his wheel due to his expert handling and experience. Joe set a great pace on the first lap and I was happy to sit in and pace myself because I knew it would be a long day. It was really hot and going too hard too early may lead to an epic blow-up or extreme cramps. Karwash caught us and we caught up on life —longest conversation I have ever had in a race...
I went harder on the second lap trying pull in riders who might be suffering. The second lap was pretty uneventful but the third was glorious! On the third lap I felt complacent and in no-man's land. I think I started riding a bit slow on the singletrack. The sound of disc brakes woke me back up and reignited my effort. I always let another stronger rider pass and this rider behind me got within 10 seconds and I was about ready to pull over and let him pass.
But part of me wanted to be hard to catch so I got really aggressive and started gunning it again. I think I was riding faster than on the first lap. I went into time trial mode, wisely selecting parts of the course where I could excel and being cautious on sections where I was likely to crash. The rider behind me was really solid and would usually come back within 15 seconds on technical sections. Each power section I gunned it, each hill was crushed. There would be silence from behind for a few moments and eventually squeal of breaks would return.
There was one last long hill on the trail. I gave it everything I had at the bottom, you would think I was trying to win the Tour de France. But by the top I was wasted. I was feeling a cramp coming. I burned the last match with a quarter lap to go. Was it enough?
Nothing but silence from behind. I rode up the final hill to the finish line checking over my shoulder every 5 seconds.
Wow, that was exhilarating! I managed to come in 8th, I am very happy with that race. Not a bad start to the 2011 Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance Race Series. Bjet did one better, she won!