So, I wanted to do better than last year, but life has a way of... getting in the way. I tried to ride as often as I could, but once a week was about as good as I could do. In the weeks leading up to the race I turned up the riding a bit. (This is contrary to what any pro would do as most of them tone down the riding in the weeks before a race so they are nice and strong.) I however, couldn't resist the foolish urge to try and make up for a lack of training.
I went out the Saturday before the race and spun out 55 miles on the single speed. Doing a similar elevation gain to the race course. I felt pretty good at the end, but my legs were sore and I took 2 breaks during that ride. On race day there would be no breaks and I'd be at elevation!'
The week leading up to the race I took it easy and just did one final ride 2 nights before for about 14 miles. I just wanted to make sure the bike and I were in working order!
(Side bar: about 4 weeks before the race I was riding my rigid single speed bike in Telluride. The allure of riding their "downhill" course got me to take the chair lift up. After a couple of runs and lots of fun I wrecked my rear wheel. Oops! Those are expensive so I took some old American Classic wheels the bike came with, taped them with Gorilla Tape, inserted some valves and made them tubeless.)
Needless to say, the test ride went well and the "new" tubeless wheels held air! Woohoo! Ready to race!
I headed up to Show Low and found a nice campsite right near the start line. I saw a couple of Toyota trucks so I knew it was a good neighborhood. As I pulled in the person parked next to me yelled "Hello, if you like beer and barbecuing feel free to come on by." Alright!! I knew this was a good camping neighborhood. I pulled over closer to my new neighbor Jesse.
No matter what kind of race I never sleep well the night before. Tonight was no different and I just laid there for the night.
I did notice this great Ecamper! I love these!
The morning of the race I walked around and checked out the start line. I was oddly calm. Funny, how no sleep will do that.
I was standing at the start line a bit early this time. Normally I start towards the back of the pack so there is less pressure and I can pass people as I go. For once I decided to start near the front of the pack. I let the pros all queue up in front of me and then found my friends Matt and Jeff who I've raced with in the past.
I asked Jeff and Matt who was going to win the race for Single Speed. They both pointed to two guys. One of them was standing next to me, Tom Ament who rides for Vassago. All of a sudden he said "Shit, I gotta get out of here." He started moving to the side of the starting gate and lifted his bike over the fence. He said his front fork blew. A seal or something must have gone. Doh!
I looked around and didn't see any other fully rigid bikes... Hmmm. Oh well. (last year I raced on an easier gear and a front suspension fork so this was going to feel pretty new) BAM! Off we went from the start line.
Matt was gone from sight right away and Jeff was pulling away. Yikes! I spun my gears as fast as I dare without generating any pain this early in the race. Finally about a mile in everyone started to settle. A few riders dropped back fast. I caught back onto Jeff's rear tire and we started weaving through the pack.
As we climbed I couldn't stay seated and pedal with my harder gear this year so I stood and pedaled past Jeff. I was hoping we'd fall back in line together when it flattened out. It was a weird feeling not hearing him behind me. At the first near 180 degree turn I looked back and didn't see him. The difference of 2 cogs on the rear sprocket made enough of an impact that we weren't going to be riding together.
When that realization hit it sort of well, sucked. Riding 60 miles together last year was a blast. It made the miles go by fast and feel like a big touring ride. I decided right then that if it wasn't going to be a ride with my buddy then I'd better make it count. I picked up my pace a few RPM's and got to it.
Eventually, I saw Matt's jersey. I hooked onto his rear tire and followed along. Again, it was the hill that helped me. He was spinning fast, but on the hill he was able to stay seated and pedal. I had to stand, but that made my pace a bit faster so I went for the pass when it was open.
Off I went solo. I hammered through the singletrack and the long road section. On the road I wished for a couple more teeth on my rear sprocket. I spun to keep up with geared riders and I tucked in behind them on the down hills.
I kept this up with some see sawing thrown in. (I pass them on the up hill, they pass me on the down hill) Eventually I beat out a couple of geared riders and came upon a fit looking riding with "chain suck." Right as I passed he yelled "Got it! See you in a minute single speeder!!" DOH! Haha, I love the good natured challenges of other riders.
Sure enough in a few miles I heard him ride up behind me. Off he went in the section of the course that looked like a cabbage field. The only problem was that the cabbage were really rocks. This section was about picking good lines. Miles and miles of it. Thank goodness for caffeine.
I was eating caffeinated "Gu" packets like candy at this point. Trying to keep my mind focused on picking perfect lines.
I knew one wrong move, literally less than one inch off and I would have a bent wheel and a long walk.
I felt strong right up until the finish physically, but mentally I was fading. I think the lack of sleep made my mind wander. My legs were spinning as fast as I could, but my lungs were hurting too. Damn asthma. I had my inhaler, but the second half of the course is so technical it doesn't leave much time for eating let alone inhalers.
I saw riders for Pivot and Form bicycles which was a boost to my mind and ego. I hung onto their tires and we had a good group of three bikes rallying along. Passing the 35 miler's was the toughest part. Most of them got right over, but a few refused to move over. It took some time to find room to pass, but eventually we all made it through to clean air.
About a mile from the finish I felt so light headed I thought I might pass out on the bike. Yikes! Just keep spinning!
I made it. 7th place in single speed and 23rd over all. MUCH better than last year and much better than I had planned.
I saw Tom walking by with his bike. Turns out he pulled off a 6th place finish with the blown out fork. A rigid is one thing, but a blown fork will lower the bike and cause you to hit the pedals and frame on lots of rocks. He must have had a bumpy 60 miles!
At the finish I saw my buddy Jon and we partook in some free beer thanks to Epic Rides and New Belgium!!
Jeff and Matt finished strong a short time later. Here Jeff comes across the line.
We hung out with old friends and new. The rain never showed and we enjoyed a perfect day.
A free tree from Todd at Epic Rides!
We watched the rain fall around the area, but none for us thankfully.
I was so jacked up by the good finish and the immense amount of caffeine that I didn't sleep much at all, again!
What a great day!
The next morning we woke up to rain and a muddy field. After a giant coffee we headed back home. Another great weekend.