I remember EFTA races being more technical than the Root 66 Races, but it had been a while since I have done an EFTA race. I remembered Hoot 'n Nanny being challenging but I was racing beginner back then. Last EFTA race for me was in 2003 as Beginner or "Novice" racer for the Big Bang race. My brother got first and I finished second. That brings back some memories, and according the results I could find online, my first racing season was in 2001, when I finished Big Bang in 27th for Senior 2 Novice category. I think I was still riding my Proflex 756 and had just quit smoking. Talking of Proflex, there was a guy racing one this weekend, w/ a "smart brain"!
Anyways, I am always, though I really should not be anymore, amazed by how a course can be not that technical until you try to ride it at race pace and you are in LTHR zone (my avg hr for this race was 195 btw!). This is my excuse for the numerous crashes I am about to mention... I had never ridden this course (an other reasonable excuse!) and somehow thought it was the EFTA race in a quarry they did years back, but obviously it was not. I had been told by some that it was not very technical at all, while others had said it was quite technical. Before the race someone who had just done a warm up lap, described it as a flat course, with six quite technical rock gardens to get through. She stated there was some mud and predicted the rock gardens would get quite sloppy after the first lap and become very challenging. She was planning on running them. If only I had listened...
We (Nate and I) got there on time for once, and w/ out getting pulled over for once too! There was a large crowd to send off as Pro, Cat 1, and Cat 2 would all go off at the same time, w/ a 1 min interval between cat & age group. Normally not a bad way to start if it's a long lap. Not great other wise as you get stuck too often behind someone, needing either to wait for a place to pass, or end up getting yelled at if you elbow your way past (which I of course attempted a couple of times).
Got a decent warm up and off we went. There were a couple of tight turns in a field and then off into single track I had never ridden. I knew I wanted to be off the front so I could get a clear look at what was coming up. I did not however, expect that I would get the hole shot and be off by myself. For about one mile, I was in front w/ no one behind me. I was starting to have flash back to last year, when I would be able to hold off the field for the rest of the race. Well of course that was cat 2 and wishful delusions for cat 1! The first rock garden I was able to get through quite well w/out dabbing. But then I started to red line. I dabbed and had to dismount in the second rock garden and by the time I was back on the bike I could hear the chain slap of several bikes that were catching up to me. By the next rock garden section, I went OTB, and got passed by quite a few guys who seemed way too calm and collected. Like an idiot, in my excitement to be in first place, I was pushing it way to hard and was not riding smart at all, trying to force it through the tech sections instead of picking my lines carefully. Also somewhere I had convinced myself I was going to ride all the techy sections, which for the rest of the lap and the beginning of the next one, would work until about 2/3 of the way through and then result in a crash. One of them bad enough that I ended up flinging my bike over me and crashing into the rocks ahead. Flinging carbon at boulders is not a good idea! Finally 1/2 way the second lap, since I was getting passed by guys running these sections, I abandoned my "got to ride it" plan and things went much better from then on. I became much more collected and calm (not crashing will do that to you!) and was even able to catch up and pass a couple of guys. I had no idea how many had passed me and where I was in the standings. Not being frantic even allowed to enjoy the course and the race on the last lap. Part of me had wished for one more since I was finally getting the hang of it, while my body was glad it was over as it got quite the beating. I ended up finishing 9th (out of 14) w/ a time of 1:36. Today, I have several bruises and have a few parts that are in some pain! My bike has small "bruise" on the top layer of the carbon which I think will be fine. Overall it was a great race venue and am looking forward to racing it next year w/ a slightly different approach! Thanks to Craig Melo for taking the pics!
Here are some pictures of Nate: