The Tread Fest is a race I've wanted to do for the last couple of years but haven't been able to for various reasons. This year, though, I wasn't going to miss out. I've fallen in love with riding there so racing there is a must. The race format was pretty straight forward, the expert/pro class would do three laps plus a prologue loop through the parking area to spread things out a bit. I lined up on the front row and got a really good start sitting third wheel until we hit the first corner of the prologue and the guys in front of me missed the first turn and about 10 guys got by. Then, at the very next turn the guy next to me overshoots the corner forcing me to stop yet again or get into a crash letting more people past. Thankfully, that was the end of the corners and I had about 200 yards of gravel to sprint past everybody and slot in behind Tony Giguere who I knew would be one of the strong men on the day.
I kept Tread (sorta) and Tony in sight for the rest of the lap but just couldn't hang on the climbs. My only hope was that the technical sections would wear them down more than me (not sure how that would happen since they were both on full suspension and I was on a hardtail).
A little over halfway into the second lap, after the 6 Back climb, is a tricky little section. you enter at speed and then have an off camber chundery corner with a hole and then a quick, almost 360 degree, offcamber hairpin to negotiate. In pre-rides, I was always sure to warn my fellow riders to be careful of this corner so I, of course, endo'd nicely there on my second lap. There was no bodily damage and I didn't think the bike was affected either so I quickly got up and got to making up lost time.
A quick assessment proved that all of my body parts were still (mostly) working but the tire definitely needed to be taken care of so I gave it a full blast from a Big Air! canister. At this point an overinflated tire was far better than another crash.
At this point I figured I was out of the running for 1st or 2nd but I still hadn't been passed so I hoped I still had enough of a cushion to hold onto 3rd place overall. But, but, but, just minutes down the trail I came across Tony trying to diagnose a shifting problem. As much as I hate to take advantage of someone else's misfortune, I knew I had to try to get a gap on Tony in case he got rolling again quickly so I made a mad dash through The Works section of trails. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before I realized that my front tire was going soft again and I was feeling a little sideways roll in the rear as well. Frick! I had used my one and only CO2 but I did have a hand pump as well for safety's sake but I didn't want to risk getting passed at that moment so I took a calculated risk and decided to keep rolling at a slightly more conservative pace in the tech sections and drill it as hard as I could on the open climbs.
At the very top of the course, before the descent to the start finish, I caught a glimpse of Tread where the trail passes by closely so I knew that he had about 5 minutes on me at that point. Enough of a gap that wouldn't likely allow me to catch him at my slightly handicapped pace.
Since I assumed that Tread still had a good lead on me, I went into defense mode. I had seen my buddy Wheels a while back and knew that he was slowly reeling me in so my goal for the last lap was to be conservative where I needed to and go as hard as I could where I could to hold onto second.
What I didn't know was that Tread had flatted at the end of lap two and had gone to his car to fix it as he lapped through and was now on a tear trying to catch me.
Luckily, I had enough of a gap (started at around 2 minutes I've heard) that I held Tread off and rolled into the finish in 1st but thinking I was in 2nd. Right after the finish, I saw Chris Riley, the race promoter, and he congratulated me. For what? I asked. Just then, I saw Tread finish up about 45seconds after me. Damn that was a close one!