U.S. Cup Round 1 at Bonelli Park is in the books. Since I have no pictures this post will be all text, pictures to follow this evening I hope...
This was a C priority race for me (I inherited my race priorities from Allison so we can train together), and being so we needed to train through it. What does that mean? It means that since we are in Build we needed to beat the hell out of ourselves on Saturday. Since we have real jobs and can't get in much more than 1 hr on any given weekday, we need to maximize our weekend punishment/volume.
Saturday we packed up the truck and headed to Bonelli to get some recon and training done. The course was just about what we expected. Steep fire road climbs, a couple of fast descents and some flat sections with a good stiff headwind. The bad part is there was no technical stuff ot help us out. Allison and I both welcome the technical stuff! Give us big rocks and roots and ruts and we can make big time gaps over the XC weenies.
Anyway I put in 4 hrs of hard riding and had a decent crash while figuring out what race pace was on some of the marbles that could be found on the fire roads. Not the best race preparation. I know, "Duuuumb Justin." Quoted for old time's sake, good old Bill Hagen from our R/C racing days.
After riding we went home and I worked feverishly on three bikes doing race prep work while Allison put together a great pre-race meal. Why three bikes you might ask? Well Luke left his bike since he would be riding up with us on Sunday, and the Team Mechanic just couldn't call it a night 'till all three bikes were race ready. If you are wondering, the answer is NO... I will not work on your bike if you drop it off. :)
Sunday I awoke to pain everywhere. Muscles and joints were sore from the previous day's efforts and crash. I took two Aleve with breakfast in the hopes that it would help me get through the day. We showed up early and hung out talking to people and enjoying the day. What a race! Vast numbers of people and a great atmosphere.
These late race starts on Sunday are new for us! We had a big breakfast, but didn't start our races till after 12:30. Figuring out our nutrition on race day is part of the learning experience this year. We cheered on some sport and beginner race action and then warmed up. This is another area of learning for us. Warming up is a science to some and we are just starting to learn proper technique and timing.
I lined up and didn't know what to expect. This was probably one of the largest fields I had ever raced in, and it was my first Cat 1 race, so I was unsure as to how these guys would go out. I tried to stay toward the front of the main pack. The pace really didn't seem that hard on the first climb, but I knew I was sucking a lot of dust sitting in the pack! I made an effort to conserve energy and draft where possible. Shortly after the first climb, as my brain shut down and I was focusing on my effort and the race, things get a bit fuzzy. I really had no idea of my placing in my AG, I just hoped to make top 10. I thought there was a good sized group that gapped the main pack on the first climb, but I guess I was wrong.
As it turns out I was sitting in third or fourth on the last lap. My pace had started to fall off a tad but I was still motoring along. On the biggest climb (the second one on course) my legs started to cramp. Both quads started popping off... I felt like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I helplessly watched as other racers started passing me. It sucked. I wondered if I would hold my goal of top ten. I was afraid on the descents, my legs weren't working. I had no power on flats or climbs. I was hurting bad.
In the end I wound up 8th of 24. Turns out that the guys that passed me on the last lap were all on the podium. I don't think I was ever near the winner of our AG, but I was certainly swapping positions with the lower steps of the podium.
So Fontana is up next. I am hoping that doing a bit of tapering for that race will help with the cramps, but I am really not sure that will help at all. I will focus more on my hydration and feed schedule. Maybe I can pull off another top ten? I expect that the field will be bigger, so we will see how things turn out.
As an aside, I would like to thank James for being such a great competitor. I did my best to keep him in my sights and he did a great job of joking around with me on course. I only wish that I had some oxygen making it's way to my brain so I could be witty back when he said, "Is that all those big legs of yours got?" Unfortunately all I was able to mutter is "You talking about my boat anchors?" and then as we turned downhill, "Try to hang on." Great racing with you James!!!
I am also very excited about something that should show up in the next few days. Hope to post pics soon...