Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Maine Sport Run Off

In a way, I'd been looking forward to this race all year.  I don't ride there much anymore but it's as close to a home course as I've got and it plays to my historical strengths, climbing and technical singletrack.  Sadly, my historical strengths aren't necessarily my current strengths.  My tech singletrack skillz are still good by my climbing has been wanting this year so I hoped to at least capitalize on knowing the trails well.  With that in mind, I hit up the Bowl's trails about ten times in the last month, enough to get used to the opening 20 minute climb and to get a feel for the flow of the trail.  Sadly, Mad Mike changed the course several times during the week leading up to the race, including a change the night before negating much of my pre-riding.  Of course, the changes he made were all for the better and actually eliminated a couple of my trouble spots so I'm not complaining.

The day of the race, during my warm-up loop, I got to thinking of my performances this year and how I've faded late in races on a couple of occasions.  Knowing that this would be a long-ish race (around 2 hrs) I decided to cut my warm-up super short (for me) and ended up with less than 20 minutes about an hour before the race.  Sure, I'd be somewhat cooled off by race time but at least I'd have gas in the tank.  At least I hoped.  I also decided to not try to stay near the front on the first lap.  A few years back, when I won the overall in this race, I did it by starting slow and coming on strong late in the race so I decided to try that tactic again.  Let's see how it went!
the start line.  as usual I'm about a head taller than anyone else.
Mad Mike did a little tricky start by not giving a count down and instead just said "GO!" after giving his pre-race instructions.  This caught a bunch of us by surprise, me especially as I slipped a pedal and let at least 20 guys past me.  Now, I wanted to start somewhat easy but having 20 folks in front of me on a long technical climb is not my idea of a good time so I took a couple of "creative" lines on the opening slope to pass masses of folks and slotted  in somewhere around 6th or 7th before entering the woodsy singletrack.
wait for me!
For the rest of the climb I just took it easy (at least as easy as you can when there are at least a dozen spots exceeding 20% grade) and tried not to lose too many spots.  By the top I was probably hovering around 8th or 9th and immediately set about picking people up.  I was happy to see that local boy and recent expert upgrader Mike Roy was hot on my heels for the beginning of the descent only to cut his tire and have to dnf.  Before long I was on Brian's wheel who was suffering in the technical stuff and pulled over to let me pass.  From there it was just one continuous rip for the rest of the lap.

Towards the end of the lap, I caught up with these two dudes who had passed me on the first climb.

In the beginning of lap two, I could see my buddy Gabe about a minute up ahead so he was my carrot.  By the top of the climb I had closed the gap to roughly 30 seconds (thank you to whoever the young lady was who was giving me splits to Gabe mid climb) but he would disappear in the first, fast and technical part of the downhill.  We had pre-ridden the course on Friday and he put serious amounts of time on me in that part of the descent so I was wondering if I'd ever be able to catch him.

Going into my third lap, the hard climbing was done (the race did two long loops with all of the climb and two short loops with most of the climb taken out) so I was losing hope of catching Gabe who was now in third place overall but the mystery splits girl and an old friend screaming at me in the woods gave me the motivation to keep pushing.  During the third lap I also noticed something that I hadn't all season.  I was feeling stronger and stronger on the bike and I was flying by people like nobody's business.  I guess that starting slow thing was working.  

By the start of lap four, I caught a peak of Gabe about 30 seconds up and decided to try to reel him in by the end of the short opening climb.  On the final slope of the climb, Gabe was still 10 seconds up and he had just put a lapped rider in between us.  We were about to enter the technical singletrack and I didn't want any traffic between us so I gunned it and finally closed the gap just before reentering the woods.  From there it was a bit of cat and mouse.

Gabe was obviously a bit tired but still riding hard and absolutely nailing all of the technical sections leaving me with no passing opportunities so, after a while, I started looking for creative passing areas.  You know the kind.  Darting around a tree, crashing through a bush, hucking off a cliff.  Basically anything that looked like it had at least a 2% chance of being successful.  Eventually, after a bit of new, super twisty singletrack, I saw my chance as we entered a wider trail section.  I knew that the next trail was wide enough to allow a little elbow to elbow dueling so as we left the narrow trail, I dodged to the left between a couple of small trees and gunned it only to hear a horrible CA-CHUNK! Frig!  I had picked up a stick or something in my rear derailleur and completely sheared it off. FFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!!!!  I still had about 1/2 of a lap to go so I secured the derailleur as best I could and ran like hell.  I knew I had some pretty good gaps on the following riders so I hoped I could still retain a good finishing position even if it was no longer for 3rd overall.

About 10 seconds down the trail I saw Gabe sitting on the side of the trail.  When I tried my pass, he had also gunned it to keep me behind him and had endoed and broken his collar bone.  I didn't think we were far from some course marshals so I told him I would let him know he was there.

Then, for the next twenty minutes, I ran for my life.  Within 5 minutes I was caught by a Bikeman teammate and elite rider Paul Simoes and then a few minutes from the end I was caught by a couple of expert racers but considering I ran for 20 minutes it could have been worse.

derailleur tied around seat post
maybe I should try singlespeeding! :)


Laps said...

That is price you pay when you race with gears.......Good work on finishing, I would have mailed it in.

rick is! said...

I've run a lot this summer for general fitness so it wasn't all bad. I just don't have practice running with a bike in my hands.

Wheels said...

Never a dull moment at the Snowbowl. Way to run it out. I wonder if it would have been faster breaking the chain and going singlespeed for the finish?

rick is! said...

thought about it but it never seems to work when you try to run single speed on a cassette. the chain never stays put with ramped rings.

Dan said...

You were running that last bit as fast as alot of people were riding it.

Anonymous said...

Those rocks look awesome in that picture. Santa Cruz business for sure. Rocky rolling single track. Nice. Miff