Race Report for US Cup Mountain Bike Series
This was the big one of the year. The National circuit!
I raced this course two weeks ago for the Root 66 Series w/ a second place finish. At that time, I told myself not to do two laps the day before the race, since it was too much of a work out and it contributed to my legs crapping out on the second lap of the race. Two weeks later, the day before my biggest race of the year, there I was doing a second lap. I did try to convince myself that this was not a sign of being a dumb ass, but rather a result of not having been on the bike at all since last Sunday’s race (the Root 66 Race Series Hodges Villages - 1rst place finish btw). My knee had been really bothering me during that race; so much so I finished the last section of the last lap w/ my right leg unclipped and only pedaling w/ the left. So, I told myself, I needed a little bit of a workout to get the blood flowing again in my legs. That was the reason for the second lap. Yeah sure!
Two weeks ago, the course had been a draining mud fest that was as challenging going up as it was down, w/ no traction in either direction. It had since dried up significantly, making for a much faster course, especially on the downhill. I would almost say it was maybe kind of almost a fun course. The climbs were still stupid steep, w/ sections only the pros could ride, but the techy stuff was now much more manageable w/ good clear lines. The downhill singletrack actually allowed for good momentum w/ out the fear of death, and to occasionally catch some air. Here is a video of the women pros ridding the same course: (http://www.cyclingdirt.org/videos/coverage/view_video/235486-us-pro-xct-5-mount-snow/197715-womens-race-mt-snow-xc)
The day of the race, my brother and I were warming up about an hour before the race and surprise, surprise…my legs were of course sore and feeling tired (as were his). In addition, the guy who beat me by over two minutes here two weeks ago, was warming up, looking very fresh and way too relaxed. Also, since this was a national circuit race, we had to do 3 laps instead of the two. Right there I thought I could see the writing on the wall!!
Since the turnout was absolutely dismal (18 in my age group, maybe 50 for the whole category), “they” decided it was going to be a mass start for all the age groups. Always good to find out of these things 15 seconds before the race starts. I was able to find /fought my way to the second starting row. I needed to make sure not get bogged down by slower riders. I had one thing working for me, which was that in the past two weeks, I had ridden this course seven times. So I knew the lines, and knew that momentum was key in getting through the techy sections. It was really important not to get stuck behind someone who would hesitate, slow you down, or crash.
We went off, and w/in a 100 ft hit the first climb. My legs were feeling really slow and mushy and I was starting to lose some ground. My brother passed me and I tried unsuccessfully to keep to his wheel. At the top of the first climb I was hurting big time already and was not a happy camper. I could no longer see my brother and I knew I had lost track of who was ahead of me. During the decent, I picked up speed and passed quite a few riders struggling w/ the rocks and roots, and regained some ground. Looping back through the spectator area, I was able to spot my brother starting the climb on the other side of the mountain. I told myself that if I was not going to win my age group, I could at least try to have my younger brother not kick my ass. As we climbed, I was slowly gaining ground on him and by the top of the climb had grabbed his wheel. My legs were actually starting to feel better and though I had just put in a big effort, I was feeling better! At the start of the techy decent, he dabbed over a rock garden, and I was able to pass him. I felt good too during the decent, being able to pick my lines cleanly, flowing over the rocks and roots and keeping some pretty high speed. By the end of the first lap I had passed a few more riders. At the end of the first climb on the second lap, I was starting to put some distance on my bro and had again passed a few more riders. By the start of the third lap, there was no one behind me, and I had not seen a rider in front for a while. I had no idea where I was in the standings but thought I was doing alright. My knee felt pretty good and I kept the pace as high as I could. My calf was starting to cramp but I kept pushing through. The last downhill section was all about not cramping up and making sure I did not do anything stupid to end up w/ a mechanical.
I ended up winning my age group by over 5 minutes, and (obviously) beating the guy who beat me two weeks ago, and who came in second this time.
I am going to give my bike some props here. Usually Mt Snow will beat up riders due to the high technical demands of the course, and the steep climbing. Riders have to choose between a hartail for climbing or a full suspension for the downhills. Well, this bike was really having both. It handled the ups like a super stiff and efficient hard tail, and went down like a super plush full suspension bike. That brain concept really works, and a course like mt snow makes that apparent. It was just flawless! (btw, many of the pros were also ridding the Spech Epic)