"Bike Week" at Vail Lake is a new event here in So. Cal. that has combined the close of the MTB season with early CX racing. The first weekend (Oct 1-2) was comprised of a marathon distance (~48 miles) race followed by a SuperD on Saturday, then an XC race on Sunday. The second weekend (Oct 7-9) includes CX and MTB clinics and rides for women, a Euro style Enduro/SuperD, and a full day of Cyclocross racing on Sunday.
Though the Marathon and SuperD races would have been lots of fun our hunger for racing has been more than satiated of late so Allison and I opted to only participate in the XC race this past weekend. I was very nervous about the outcome of Sunday's race as I am not anywhere near as well prepared to race as I was earlier this year. I am rolling about 5lbs heavy and have not been getting the same quality work in on the bike as I was previously.
Saturday Allison and I got some stuff done around the house and then rode a lap of the XC course when it opened for practice (after Marathon, before SuperD). It was a good thing we checked out the course as it was slightly different than what we expected. We set up the EZ-Up and then went home to prep bikes and try to stay cool. Not an easy task when the temps are over 100F!
Sunday morning we were up and at the venue early. Allison and I chipped in and helped support the CAT2 racers and cheered a few friends on to victory. I noted early on that Eric Bostrom was present and knew that meant my race was going to be a tough one. E-Boz is looking super fit as usual and with my "off season" lack of focus and extra weight I feared the race would be very one sided with me off the back. I was stoked to get to warm up with Eric and he is as friendly as he is talented. Before long it was time to line up.
On the line I joked typically, trying to convince the other 10 or so racers to do a neutral start lap and start racing on Lap 2. When the horn sounded it was clear that nobody was biting and the group sped across the grass toward the first climb. I was sitting third wheel and attempting to conserve a bit. I knew that we would all be paying for our Lap 1 efforts on Lap 3 in the oppressive heat! It was nice to know ahead of time that EB was the man I needed to mark but when he took the lead and started accelerating I was definitely on the rivet! About halfway through the lap I was totally cross eyed and made a mistake on the entrance to a single track. Unfortunately I let that mistake cascade into two more which were all compounded by the fact that my chain kept falling off the big ring! I was imploding and my bike wasn't working right!!!
By the time I managed to get myself back into some semblance of race mode E-Boz had opened up at least a 30 second gap and I had dropped back to third. It would have been very easy to give up at this point and I had plenty of negative self-talk going on but re-focused and reminded myself that we still had over two laps to go! Soon I caught Allison (she had started 4 minutes in front of me) and she shouted some greatly appreciated words of encouragement. I knew that she was having a great race though when a while later, heading out on Lap 2, she was not far behind and shouting up at me to keep my head in the game. I was elated that she was going fast, but it worried me that I wasn't going faster. Looking ahead though Eric's pace seemed to be starting to falter and I felt that I was closing the gap.
Not long after that Eric made a wrong turn and went off course. Not wanting to capitalize on one silly mistake I sat up to let him catch back up. When we hit the next steep section he had closed to within a few seconds so I dialed back up to race pace. I noticed by the top that the gap had widened and realized that Eric was now paying for the brutal first lap pace that he set so I focused on staying smooth and fast and not making any more mistakes. Talking to him post race it seems he had over paced in the heat and was cramping.
For the next lap and a half I just did my best to ride a solid race. Several times on the last lap I was forced to drop my pace well below that which I felt was acceptable but I was on the verge of cramping and someone had set the heat outside to full stupid (over 100F). I was very grateful for the ice in a sock hand-up that I got on the way out on that final lap, it would have been way worse without it!
In the end I pulled off another W and we celebrated afterwards with some good beer and fun times!
Nice to end the MTB season on a high note and hopefully I can carry momentum into the 2012 season. The 35-39 field next year will be super stacked as the two fastest and most talented 30-34 riders in the U.S. (1 &2 at both XC and Marathon Nats) are moving up an Age Group!!!!
Wish me luck! See you at the Cross races...