Sunday June 27, 2004:
After the road race, I did a nice long spin to shake everything out. They hold the trials competition at about the same time as the road race, so I again didn't catch that. I did go and watch a little bit of the mountain X. Ended up I caught the final runs for places. After that, shower, the awards and dinner. Figuring out the recovery process is a huge part of this game. So I drank tons, and tried to eat well. Knowing I had to get something in my legs for Sunday.
I did pick up a smoking hot DirtRag jersey to wear during the race. Impulse buy, but it was black and white! How could I pass it up?
We've been through this a few times, but here is a description of how to win this race from the winner of last years expert field.
To do well in the MTB race, you need to get going on the dorky grass start, then use the little dirt road section to move right up in the big chainring until you are in about top 3 going through the gate. You have to be able to see the trail and the leader going up the first grade and keep contact with the front until the turn onto Snowsnake. The downhill on Snowsnake is a little scary, as you can't see through the tall grass. Keeping on the faint suggestion of a trail is clearly the best and safest route. You have to push the biggest gear you have and get around any slowpokes. Sturdy tires really help here.
Now, the real race starts. There are about 5 pitches going up Snowsnake that you climb in the middle ring, then go like hell on the undulating sections in between. It is crucial to maintain your contact for this 20 minute section of the race or all is lost. You will know Snowsnake is over when you see the big wooden sign at the top. The rest of the rest can be done in the large chainring. Most of the turns can be taken at speed, with the exception of the first right turn on sweetwater, which is just a little sharper. You will encounter lapped riders on ridge, who will scare the heck out of you at 35 mph. There is a little section of single track then you go down the ski hill. Going a little slower here is better than rolling the dice, as falls tend to be awkward and waste time due to the steepness of the hill. The turns are tough to get smoothly, so just take it easy, drop in the middle ring for the transition into the little single track section, then it's time to throw it back into the large ring for the 3 mi uphill. You can climb this thing pretty fast in a big gear, so don't sit and spin too much. There is usually another added loop up top, but generally the die is pretty well cast by this part of the race. Remember to raise you arms when you win the cup. Good luck riders!
Ok, so easy enough from his description, except I use one ring less than he does for the entire race. My strategy was to use my cyclo-cross lessons, be the first(or way up there) into the woods and recover before getting to Snowsnake. Work, but don't bury myself on Snowsnake. Once over the top, descend like a maniac to the top of the Bova (ski hill). Pick my way through the switch backs just to survive. Spin Patterson in the middle ring, and descend again to the finish.
They moved this finish also, instead of it being at the bottom of Bova, they had you sprint down the gravel road, through the start gate, and finish at the main lodge. Ok by me, I don't like that ski hill thing, so maybe I can pick up a place on the gravel road.
2 years ago, I decided to race the next Rally XC race as an expert. Not because I thought I could do well, but because I was really upset with the sand bagging. The top 10 in the sport could probably be in the top 20 in the expert field. I had a reasonable good race, and felt great at the finish. But I was still firmly in the middle of the pack. So, I'll race expert so I know who I'm racing against.
Last year I raced expert and did pretty poorly. A mixture of not being used to 2 days of racing, and some mechanical issues had me place 55 out of 64 experts. 16 out of 19 in my age group. But I knew I was racing above my head, and I had the added excuse of doing a 25 mile hard road race the day before, mostly solo.
So this year? Instead of racing the 25 mile beginner road race, I raced the 50 mile sport race. How would my legs hold up? I had tried to train for 2 day efforts, but one Covered Bridge Race and the Chippewa Creek Road Race had not given me great confidence in how I could do. I did have some good rest before this weekend, and I felt the road race was hard, but not a total leg sapper. So we'll see.
Last year, I finished in 2:39:49, and I knew I had improved fitness this year. So even with the longer road race, I set a goal of 2:20-2:25 given the same course conditions. This would gain me 10 places on last years field. The other goal was "no mechanicals". I figured that would save me 5 of the 20 minutes I wanted to shave. Since I'd done well in the road race on Saturday, the MTB race was all for fun... I still wanted to do well, but there was no pressure.
Before the start, I ran into some of the guys I raced 'cross with from team Lake Effect. I had always marked Kevin Ward as a guy I had to beat, and Bill Marut had soundly won just about every cross race in the series. So... now my goal is to keep Bill in sight, and beat Kevin. Chippewa Creek proved to me that Kevin was a climber, not a power rider, so beating him might be hard, but I was pretty much always in front of him in cross season.
Bill and I pre-rode a mile or so of the beginning of the trails, and they were a bit wet. So, more cross knowledge, I let some air out of the tires. 40 psi front and back. As we're lining up, Kevin, Bill and I are trying to figure out whose wheel to follow. They want to follow me, I want to follow Bill... whatever. I did tell Bill about getting a hole shot. He decided to run 55 up front and 60 in the back.
After standing around for a while, we're off. I feel pretty good about my start, and hit the gravel road about even with Kevin. Of course the test will be the first climbs. Into the woods, and I can still see the front of the race, which is much better than I've ever started before. Kevin is in front of me, and Bill is behind me somewhere.
Once in the woods, I start to feel my legs... not bad, just a bit used. Before we hit the Snowsnake turn off, I see Kevin is sitting in the top 10. Wow, he's going well today. On to the snake.
There is really nothing fun about Snowsnake. It's a grassy climb with some descents thrown in to make more climbing. I've seen some bad wrecks on this section, and even had some people wreck trying to get around me here. It's got the steepest, longest climbs of the race. And the descents are fast and bumpy. Once you're through the snake, the rest is easy.
I figure I was about 20th entering the snake. This year the grass is wet, making it harder than I've seen it. I'm running a 12/32 in back, and there are sections I'm in the granny. Not wishing for the 34, but I don't have that security blanket of one more gear this year.
This section pretty much sets the race order. I lost a couple more places here, and hooked up with Bill again. My legs felt OK, I was climbing well, just not really well. So I was pretty happy. Bill was not having a good day.
Somewhere here, I felt like my knees where hitting my chin. Either my seat was slipping, or my legs were getting longer! I stopped and raised the seat. Bill came around me, and asked if all was well. I was back on in a flash, and on his wheel.We pretty much did most of the snake together. He was in front of me, but I kept him in view. He was to far away to talk to though, so I couldn't tell him when the bad part was over.
To the summit, and around the loops at the top. These are fun, fast descents with some short reasonable climbs. Just fun stuff, and I was having fun. Instead of free wheeling, I was trying to push as many of these as I could. There were a few that I was a little loose on, but overall just a blast.
There is one super fast portion, you go around a 90 degree right hander, and just drop (it must be around 18K into the race). They had talked about a neutral section (no passing) at the start, and I figured that the whole section was it. My first 2 races I was passed by the experts and fast sports here, and it sucked. Not as bad as being passed on Bova, but harry none the less. No signs as I approached the turn, so I took it pretty quick... but did something weird. I never saw the drainage ditch on the right side of the trail before, and have no idea how I got there, but I rolled right along it, and slid into it. Over steering a right hander into the right side? Wild. No damage, I just unclipped and pulled the bike up and was away. No one passed me, and I even had plenty of space to get back up to speed. The no passing section was at the bottom of this section, before we started the next climb, and was really short..
Having done this a few times, I recognized when I was starting the descent to Bova. My seat had slipped again, and I decided to tighten it, rather than have to stop to raise it more often. At the aid station, I pulled off, got out the multi-tool, and cranked it down. It was REALLY loose. I probably lost 4 places there. I'll make up the time lost, on the descents and Patterson climb and I'll be fine.
Off again, the descent to the top of Bova is a bit tricky. Twisty single track, with no good passing lanes. I was following a couple of guys pretty close, and thought about getting around them, when they started taking more chances than I wanted to, and got away. All was well there.
I really don't like doing Bova. The steep part is fine, the switchbacks would be fun, but it is REALLY rutted up. You don't choose a line so much as are forced into it, it's not a nice trail. Every year, I just manage to survive it. I don't make up time until I get onto the grassy section at the bottom. Then I toss my bottle, grab some food, and get ready to spin up Patterson.
Patterson is a nice climb. It's a constant grade abandoned narrow gauge rail bed. You just pop it into a gear, find your rhythm and spin to the top. This is where I usually pick up riders that went to hard on Snowsnake, and pick up some places. At the bottom, Bill caught me again, while I was eating. We started the climb together. He helped me out making sure I didn't loose my pump, and away we went.
The mud had pretty much caked everything, and I had eaten or drank my share. It's the cost of race. Bill was spending a lot of time tucking his camelback mouth piece behind him. What's more mud? If I was thinking better I should have brushed the mud off my downtube before climbing the hill... that idea came somewhere near the summit. I probably could have saved carrying 5 extra pounds up that climb.
At this point, I had an advantage of knowing I was riding better than most of the guys I was catching because I had given them a minute or so while tightening my seat. So, find the rhythm and go. And I went pretty well. Once I got my cadence, I just kept increasing one gear at a time. I left Bill and started reeling guys in. Summit, and head around the loops at the top again.
When the sport and expert courses came back together, I hooked up with a friend of Kevin and Bill who was racing sport. The two of us had a blast along some of the descents. We passed another expert rider before the turn to the neutral section, and I led it down the hill. I heard the friend just have a blast behind me. Through the section and into the climb, were they both passed me. My legs were feeling it now. I was on the second guys wheel when he miss shifted or something, the chain came off, and locked his rear wheel up. I swore and dodged around him. I think his day was done then.
So it was the friend and I. I could push or catch him on the descents, but my legs were cooked on the climbs. Please make the pain stop! Not yet, we're almost there. Past the aid station at the top of Bova, and again, I'm not taking as many chances as the other guy, so he gets away. I still ended up taking a right hander, and having the rear wheel slide out on me. A little trail souvenir.. but I jump up and hit it some more.
Down Bova, and I see no one in front of me, and hear no one behind me. At the bottom I start to hammer the gravel road. There are a couple of guys ahead, but I figure they're too far up. I did catch one guy on the grass before the finish, because he was riding a flat. But that was it.
2:33 by my time. The official time had 3:03, but I think that was from the start of the beginner race. This was within my time allowance, because Snowsnake was so wet. Preliminary results had me at 26 out of 52 experts, so my mid pack reign is intact, even if it is with the better field. I think I was 6th in my age group. We'll see when they post results.
I beat Bill Marut by about 5 minutes, so a personal victory there. I had no chance with Kevin, he was on fire and came in around 8th overall. I'll just have to be content beating him at the power races, not the climbs.
The best part was I had a blast! No mechanicals to speak of, and I felt reasonably good even after racing on Saturday. My results were decent, which says my training is going well. It also makes me wonder where I'd be without racing the road race... not enough to try that though. I have to much fun doing both events.
I did a lap around the lake for a few miles of warm down, and then remembered I had tossed my bottle before the second lap. Punishment for being lax was I had to climb back up to the bottom of Bova to get it... my legs had one more scream at me for making them work like this over the weekend.
I've got an album of pics from Buffalo Photo CD. The mountain bike race is on the second page and they are a bit out of order.