For this year's Austin Rattler, my main goal was to improve on last year's surprisingly good finish (it's tough for Mainah's coming out of winter to compete against guys who are in mid-season form...) and my best bet for doing that was to get a much better starting position, even if it meant getting to the start line 1 hour before the start. I burned WAY too many matches last year trying to get past the hordes of dudes in front of me so I was hell bent on being at the front this year.
Race morning, I arrived at the venue with my bike 100% ready to race so I very quickly dropped my cooler with bottles on course and then took my bike over to the start corral and leaned it against the fence right near the front.
Race morning was cool enough to necessitate the need for the Stio coat. Man that thing is versatile.
Back to the car for final prep and over to the bike 10 minutes later to see that they had put the starting tape up right on top of my bike so I had an almost front row position (the pros were starting in the very front). 40 minutes of additional waiting and we were ready to go.
When the shotgun went off, the 30-ish dudes in front of me and the 600 behind were off in a dusty conga line. I was immediately amazed at how much more comfortable the pace was this year because I wasn't frantically trying to get past 100+ riders before we entered the wood.
I found myself in a bit of no-mans-land for a bit but soon was joined by a guy riding at the same pace as me. It was nice to have the company and it was definitely helpful to have a drafting partner on the fast sections. About 1/2 way through the 1st (of 3) laps, we were joined by a couple of fun loving Texans who were eager to up the pace. I was happy to let them pull (because they were oh-so eager!) through the last fast sections with me helping with the effort but in a conservative manner.
Our happy foursome, me dutifully sucking wheel
sucking more Texan wheel
Lapping through and loving my Hei Hei DL
I succeeded in getting through the opening miles of road without the happy Texans from catching up. I knew at this point my chances were good as long as I didn't cramp up or crash. There are a few sections on course where the trail doubles back so you can get a good sense of how close people are behind you. Through the first few, I saw no competitors approaching but I was catching a lot of riders. I was lapping some but also picking up the ever more shredded lead group. Some blew up so completely that, when I'd catch them, they didn't even try to grab my wheel. I'm pretty certain I would have been in the same boat if I hadn't dialed it back on lap one.
A hard charging Texan
Yay for finishing with no-one on my wheel!
About 10 minutes later, I crossed the line in what turned out to be 10th place, about a minute and a half behind Lance Armstrong with Nevada coming in merely 20 seconds later. Damn, that was close!
Go Team Bikeman
I figured if Lance got to see my wenis before the race, the least he could do is take a pic with me after...