Monday, July 09, 2007

darkhorse gallop

Rewind to early June.... After the Mohican I laid low from the race scene and focused on mileage. A mix between road and offroad. Each ride was a minimum of 3hours long as I played around with eating and drinking habits. Did quite a bit of interior painting on the house and even did some work to my car to make it faster.

Fast forward to the first weekend in July..... Saturday was spent digging holes and planting trees and all sorts of plants for a friend of mine. In the sun and heat. The Highlands to Hudson series made its 4th stop in the Stewart Forest of southeast NY state and I was happy to be a part of it (albeit missing a beach day though).

It was hot, upper 90s hot. The expert singlespeed field was also a decent size (14 strong) and stacked. Mike from NJ, Sean from Bethel Cycle, Ed Burgess etc.. Didn't see Ray (a good thing) and TimmyD & Dicky are still racing the 7day race from Vancouver to Whistler (complete with their pink IndustryNine wheelsets). The course was a fast 5.5mile loop and we exercised this loop 4 times. Last year each lap ended with a climb up this gravel access road with all the spectators cheering you on.. Whilst driving to the race I was anxiously awaiting this climb. Since the course is so fast this climb will help split up the group. Mmm... fun.

Upon arriving I got to see a bit of the Sport class race. Something seemed amiss here. Why were they riding down the gravel road climb? After asking a few people I quickly found out this year's race was on the same course as last year but opposite direction. Interesting. Either way, it looked like a good time.

As I was getting ready I saw Harlan and Topher. Sweet. Guess Harlan came back from Colorado and Topher was going to grace the SingleSpeed group with his appearance. He was also rocking a new Lynskey Ti singlespeed with bead blasted graphics. Super cool.

The course was fast and the race was short relative to what I'm used to (22miles). Hoping I hydrated enough leading up the race I figured 1 bottle per lap, a total of 4 gels (3 during, 1 before) and one banana (before). I also showed up with my new Maxxis Crossmark 29 tires (perfect choice for a fast course).

We went after the pros. The pros had a guest racer. None other than Luna Chix' Georgia Gould. Guess she was in the area getting ready for Mount Snow. The organizers let her race with the Pro Men group. The Orbea Oiz she was riding was pretty cool. Carbon Fiber chainstays and a rear suspension design that mimics the Cannondale Scapel (my first full suspension). Looking at Orbea's site they've got 29rs! sweet.

The first half of each lap had one hike-a-bike and three other short, steep climbs that I was able to ride up (34x20). After that we went through a few sweet technical downhills, across a road and then in and out of a field and power lines. The climbs and descents were very short (maybe 100ft of vert?). It was also cool in the trees on the first half. The second half felt like a sauna it was so hot.

The beginning of the race I was pedaling my ass off to stay up front. We immediately got into a long line sitting on each other's wheel. I was probably 6th going into this first short little incline. Taking the outside line I moved up a spot and tried to hang into Topher and Sean's wheels. They eventually pulled away with one other rider and I was left in a group of about 4 or 5. I was riding like a moron. Pedaling way to fast, breathing really hard and negotiating the turns very poorly.

Going into lap 2 I was out on my own with probably just a couple seconds of a gap. I found myself and was riding much smarter. Mike caught me and passed me like I was standing still. I tried to stay on his wheel but couldn't. Going into those short climbs in the first half both Ed Burgess and another rider caught up to me. Taking the lead down the descents and into the second half of the course I realized I could pull away from them. I also noticed someone dropped out which I think put me in 4th or 5th place.

By the time I got to the climbs (I hate to even call them climbs, lets use the word 'incline') on lap 3 I noticed Ed and that other rider caught back up to me. Hmm. Lets see if I can pull away from them again. By now I had my lines and could negotiate the course fluently. Sure enough. By the time I got up to the start/finish going into lap 4 Ed and company were no where to be found.

Going into the final lap I was feeling pretty good. No cramping and still had quite a bit of strength in my legs. I pulled over and tossed my empty bottle (oh, I also lost one bottle on the first lap) and picked up two new ones from my stash on the side of the course (one good thing of multi-lap races). Yuck. Hot Accelerade. I kept drinking one bottle anyway for fear of my legs cramping thanks to the heat.

Here come the inclines again and all I saw was that other rider but no Ed. The last incline I've been riding up and everyone else has been running so I figured this is where I'll pull away. Nope. He was right on my wheel up over the top. Shit. What am I going to do? Last time I was in a position like this (pulling someone around a course) I wound up doing all the work and blowing up near the end of the lap. A quick decision was needed. I got it, no brakes and a whole lot of guts on the descent (faster than previously) and I was able to open up a small gap. Entered the second half of the lap (aka: the Sauna) and I pushed it harder than the previous laps. This also resulted in losing a 2nd bottle. No sweat, I still had another one on the bike and the race was almost over.

Muscled right up this short rocky section near the end (Topher cheering me on) and I'm now at the finish! Sweet. 5th place singlespeed! All that effort on the last lap netted a short 3 or 4 second gap to the guy behind me. Just enough to claim 5th. Turns out Mike caught Topher and Sean and put the hammer down to claim first. Sean got a flat and Topher closed the gap on him to take 2nd with Sean 3rd. Dave took 4th not too far behind Sean (didn't realize he was there).

As soon as the race was over I tried to drink more water but couldn't really get anything down. Think that was because my gallons of water were hot from sitting in my car (note: bring cooler next time). I eventually cooled off a bit and hung around for the awards. Everyone was asking about my Ergons. Turns out they are a hit and Quality keeps selling out of them. My new t-shirt I received the day before was also a hit (Lizzie's 35th). Thanks Rudzik!

Awards ceremony came and I actually won something for 5th place. Money! Got my entrance fee back and some money in my pocket for gas to get home. Sweet! I'm stoked. Guess a month off from racing hasn't hurt anything.

While I'm digging holes for trees and racing my bike in the heat my dog decided he was to hang out at the kennel and get a good grooming to free all that winter undercoat. What a life.

This coming weekend is race #2 in the Michaux Mega series. A 100k (62miles) race through the rocky, and wonderful, Michaux State Forest in PA. I'm going to try some tires with more volume to help with riding rigid but the sidewalls seem to have so many pinholes that Stan's isn't sealing them. Hmm....


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