Saturday morning arrived and I set about re-gearing the El Mariachi for the day's race. For some reason I couldn't get the chain length to work with the two gears I expected to need for the day. As I mentioned before, I had to cut the chain for Friday night's cobble so I had a decision to make. Go with the safe 20t cog and risk spinning out a lot or risk the 19t and hope for good, hard trail conditions to allow me to turn the harder gear. In the end I decided on the the 19t but had a short piece of chain with a SRAM power link at the ready to make a fairly quick gear change on the trail if necessary. (foreshadow, forshadow) (For you purist SS folks, there is no SS class for the race so I feel no guilt for setting myself up to change gears mid-race). It was pretty stupid of me to do this 2 hours before race time but what can I say? I'm stupid. Plus, Steve and I were throwing back a few brews with some riding buddies until lights out so we were too busy for such things. In the morning I also loaded up the Ergon BD1 pack with a water bladder with a Perpetum mix, all of the required safety gear (lighter, fire starter, duct tape, tools, tube etc etc) hand and foot warmers, some food and a lighter set of gloves (in case my heavy mittens proved to be too much) and a few other odds and ends. It was a sizeable amount of crap so I was really glad to have the BD1 since any other pack that I have used would have been miserable with all that junk.
When race time rolled around all 40-ish of us lined up at the start line and I was able to check out the competition (it was too dark Friday night to really scope people out) and was pleased to see that there were only a handful of Pugsley's in the field and one bike with a ski up front. For those of you who don't ride on snow, conditions can vary wildly from day to day, morning to afternoon, foot by foot and can quickly go from being so firm it's like riding on the road to so soft and mushy that it's unrideable. If conditions got nasty the Pugsley's (and ski bike) would have a huge advantage. Since I was on a 29'er with fairly wide 2.35 tires I sat sort of mid ground float wise. Definitely better than the 26" 2.1's I saw but definitely worse off than the fat Pugs'. On the plus side, if conditions turned out to be firm the whole way the advantage would shift my way since this Pugs' fat, 4" wide tires are heavy and slow.
Ok, enough nonsense, lets get to the race.
Pre-race euphoria (photo courtesy of Bike 29)