Wait, wait, wait. No, I don't mean I finished first in the elite class. Far from it actually. This was my first time toeing the line in the elite class of a mountain bike race. It's something I threatened to do all season and finally got the courage to do this weekend. Why did I chose now to finally step up? Who knows really since I stopped "training" well over 6 weeks ago, am in my worst shape of the season and have already packed on at least 3-4 lbs of love pudge. I think that there were two primary reasons for the decision. 1. By hitting up this race I finally pop my cherry and won't be so intimidated to do so in the beginning of next season. 2. Since I'm in bad shape, getting my ass kicked in the elite class wouldn't hurt nearly as much as getting my ass kicked in the expert class. (although, looking at results, I would have been tops of the expert class had I registered for it)
There were thirteen elites registered for the race, much more than I expected with some pretty heavy regional hitters including, Mike Broderick, Andrew Freye, Matt Boobar, John Folley and my boys Will and Alby. This was going to be tough!
When the gun went off I was marveled to realize that I was able to stay with the group quite easily. I was sitting 3 people from the back when we hit the first single track section, prime territory to be screwed when someone fell on the VERY FIRST ROOT ON THE COURSE! I couldn't believe it. Two minutes into the race and I was standing around waiting for folks to get up off the ground. Things sorted out quickly though and Alby, Paul Simoes (who would pull off third for the day) and myself had a nice little Bikeman.com train going on for a while. Eventually, Paul blasted by me on a short climb and it was just Alby and I pulling up the rear.
The LONG climb in the first half of the course really strung the field out and it was in this climb that I made a bobble on a technical stream crossing allowing Alby to pass and BOOM! I'm dfl. I managed to cling to Alby's wheel for a bit but it wasn't long before he pulled away and I was all by my lonesome. I wasn't bummed in the least that I was in last place. Far from it since it's exactly what I expected out of the race. What I was bummed about was just how poorly I was riding the TVR's many technical sections. I pride myself on being a strong technical rider but the first lap saw me bouncing off every stinking rock and doing more than my fair share of dabbing and walking.
In one of the long technical slogs, I passed Andrew who had a flat tire. I felt bad for Andrew but was psyched to no longer be in last. Sure, I only passed him because of a mechanical but that's racing and I'll take it. It's all I've got. And then, before I knew it, I was passing John Folley who also had a flat. Man, I'm getting good at this elite thing!
Sadly, the feeling didn't last long as Matt Domnarski passed me putting me back in dfl (I didn't even know he was back there) of people still racing. Shit. Matt would quickly pull out of sight and, in the process, expose my inner demons. I was sort of enjoying the ride but no longer had the desire to really push and looking at my watch I was realizing that I was going to be out here for close to three hours. Joy!
As I lapped through starting lap two, I caught Matt (thank the lord) and passed him early in the lap. Then I passed another rider who was dropping out. Another five or six laps like this and I might be in the money! Then I caught my once arch nemesis in endurance events, Alec Petro, fixing a flat. OK, now this was getting silly.
A few minutes later, Alec caught up to me flying (at least by my standards) and quickly passed me. I decided at that moment to try to hold Alec's wheel for as long as possible and I soon found myself enjoying the race again. For the rest of the second lap, I easily held Alec's wheel and was having one hell of a good time.
Coming through at the end of the second lap, the automated scorer announced that I was now in 7th place (not bad considering I guess) and I was able to put a small gap on Alec when I decided to forgo a bottle as Alec made his bottle change. This "lead" wasn't to last though. Alec soon caught and passed me and I, once again, settled in on his wheel.
We whipped along for a while but, eventually, I bobbled on a couple of tech sections allowing Alec to open a gap. I tried to close the gap, but cramps were settling into both of my quads and I had to let him go. I rode the rest of the lap pretty conservatively trying to not kill myself on all of the ungodly technical shit that the rat bastard race promoter threw at us.
Finally, mercifully, I rolled across the finish line at just shy of three hours in 8th place. Phew. Glad that's over!