We packed up the Black Max and arrived in the Rim Nordic parking lot around 10:30pm. I was overjoyed to find that we were now camping for the weekend next to our team mates Brandon Gritters and Ted Willard! This definitely was to make the weekend at least 1000 times better! Anyway we set up our tent and were lulled to sleep by the seemingly continuous road noise as cars sped their way up and down the highway. Thank goodness for wax earplugs!
Saturday's activities started early and it was likely a big mistake that we didn't eat early enough to fully digest before the Hillclimb competition. It was tough though to figure out nutrition as we were to race up the hill, wait around for a while, and then race back down the hill in the SuperD. Expecting delays and not wanting to carry much up the hill in the race I wanted to get my standard race breakfast in my belly!
At the gun everyone sort of eased onto the gas. The pace was not too hard across the rolling fire road at first. The pack lined out pretty quickly though and I think I was in the top 4 or 5 when we started to gain elevation. Romolo was up on the front and Brandon was also in front of me. Not too far up the climb Brandon put in an attack and Romolo followed. I was already on the rivet so I figured I would go ahead and just hold my current pace and try not to blow up. Not long after their attack Mike came by me flying up the hill. I watched as Mike passed Romolo and then Brandon on his way to setting the fastest time up the hill. I held onto my spot narrowly beating Ely. So fourth overall for the Hill Climb, third of the CAT1's (excluding Romolo), I won my age group but that was meaningless as I was the only one!
After the Hill Climb I was absolutely cross eyed. My stomach was trying to eject it's contents and I fought hard to keep my breakfast down. I wish I had felt better as it seemed that all the racers were having a good time chatting but my internal struggles kept me from really joining in.
Eventually we were called up to start the SuperD. By this time I was finally feeling like I would win, I wasn't going to regurgitate my oats! The SuperD wasn't very challenging but it did have some climbs and some very fast corners. I felt like I did okay. I wound up fourth overall again, first of the CAT1's. This was a decent result especially considering how blown I felt after the Hill Climb!
After the SuperD it seemed the name of the game was rest. We all sort of lounged around and tried to recover from the short hard efforts in preparation for yet another full frontal assault on our anaerobic systems. I was stoked to have my hammock!
My body was so reluctant to get back into motion. After a 10 minute all out Hill Climb, then the 5 minute sprint for SuperD and the full body shut down that followed, trying to warm up was mentally taxing! We all lined up though and I knew that Brandon would be the guy to follow if I could manage it. Off the start one of the Williams phenoms exploded from the line and gapped the field. Behind him there was some shuffling on the first couple of laps as Ted Willard and Anton Petrov worked the front and then faded a bit. When the initial flurry of attacks was over it looked like Casey was going to take the win as he was mostly out of sight. Brandon and Mike had a gap over me in fourth. I was doing what I could to try to close, but it seemed that they were just out of reach. At about the mid race point Brandon attacked brutally and left Mike alone in third. I held the throttle open and watched as Brandon bridged up to Casey and Mike faded just enough for me to catch him. With four laps to go I was on Mikes wheel and sitting in fourth. I played some strategy as I didn't think I could bridge to Casey and Brandon, I sat on for two laps. With two laps to go I attacked and passed Mike on the descent. I figured if he countered I would have time to re-evaluate. I guess he was pretty blown though as I took third without being challenged.
So not a bad showing on the first day of the stage race. Even though I had "won" everything, the way I see it I was sitting in about second place overall not counting the Elite men. Had we raced the Dirt Crit with them I would have factored them into my overall ranking. My own personal rankings after day 1 put Brandon Gritters in the lead with me in second, Mike in a very close third, and then Ted and Anton behind him.
Much beer and wine consumption. A swim in Big Bear Lake. Consumption of Mann meat. Ice cream indulgence. Scrabble while being viciously and repeatedly #mounted by Bounce. Sweet sleep came much too late and before I knew it I was waking up to the sound of rain pelting our tent...
Sunday XC Race:
I have done well in adverse conditions. The rain was coming down pretty good. I had to dig ditches around our pit area to divert the rivers of water and drain the Gritters Reservoir. It was really tough to motivate myself to get into race mode. I was cold and wet. Reluctantly I finally put on my kit and started to spin around some. I watched Allison's start and then tried to keep moving/warm for the next 40 mins. Finally it was time for us to line up and take off. We had a fairly small group that started in our wave. From the gun Brandon led out with me and Ted in tow. Jason Rusnak had made the trip up to race in the rain and he commented on the first climb that the pace was really quite nice. When we neared the top of the climb Ted had fallen back quite a ways but was the only other rider in sight between Brandon and I. I suggested we wait for him and have the three of us work together. Brandon seemed to agree and let up some. As soon as Ted caught on I took the pace making and the three of us bombed the descent together. The first lap was more like a fun group ride than XC racing with the three Rock N' Road riders smiling in the rain.
Near the end of that lap Brandon took over the front and I asked if we were going to start racing. He replied that he was getting cold so I grabbed his wheel and figured we were going to do some serious battling. The three of us went through the Start/Finish together and as soon as we turned onto the single track climb I was bracing for the attack and, to my complete dismay, Brandon said "Screw this, have fun Ted." and turned around. I wasn't expecting that! Since I really wasn't racing with anyone else I decided to wait for Ted and have some fun. I wasn't going all that hard but it seemed that my pace was too much for Ted to hang on so about halfway through the second lap I decided to turn on the afterburners and see how fast I could finish and get out of the cold and wet.
The rest of the second lap and most of the third was pretty uneventful. I was on the gas. Caught and passed four or five other riders including Anton who had started in the wave ahead of us. On the descent I was pinned and thinking about warming up. I never felt a rock strike or anything, but as I turned the corner at the bottom I felt the rear tire get squishy. SHIT! I tried to milk it but it wasn't holding. Not too far down the road I stopped and hit it with my CO2. I spun the wheel and shook it in the hopes that the Stans would seal it before jumping back on. In the mean time Anton and at least one other rider that I had passed in the last 1.5 laps passed me back. It wasn't long before the tire was flat again, it was leaking down really fast. I didn't have any more air so I just rode her in flat. Near the end of the lap, riding a flat tire, Rusnak passed me. I wound up second in my wave, first for my AG and 8th overall. Not bad considering the circumstances.
Even though the race results show me winning my AG for all the races on the weekend, I figure Mike took the title for the Stage Race. He won the Hill Climb, and beat my XC time handily (we weren't racing heads up, but that sounds like an excuse!). By my figures I put myself in second, but only because Brandon DNF'd. That isn't too bad, but it isn't all that great so I figure I have some work to do before the next race! I hope to put myself in the top 5 at the next one and bring home some money. It was a great weekend and we definitely had a blast! I don't think it would have been nearly as fun without our fellow campers. Thanks to everyone that made my weekend great!
See you at the next race or out there training!