Monday, September 15, 2008

sswc08 - day three (race day)

Awoke to the campground filling up with a couple hundred singlespeed racers. Fired up the stove for some oatmeal and hung out chatting with a few people here and there.

10am we’re starting to gather for what will be the 2008 SingleSpeed World Championship mountain bike race. A few individuals that didn’t have an ‘entry’ arrived. Curtis had a little game for them: go run out and back around the horse corral. First one back gets an entry. That was enjoyable to watch. Upon return Curtis let everyone into the race. We then had to go stash our bikes on the other side of the field for what would be a ‘le-mans’ style start.

At some point the race actually started. The start was loosely arranged and went off well after 10am. I, personally, had a mediocre start. We had to run maybe a mile around a horse corral and through a field to our bikes. I opted to follow the Swobo guys and run against the majority of the traffic (500peeps) to spice it up a bit. After all, the name of the weekend was chaos and fun. If you didn't finish the race in 1st place no one cares.

I Spy Team Dicky. You can't miss that green fork.

(photos above borrowed from Steve Makin)

Got to my bike and was in the congo line trying to get into the singletrack. The first lap (out of 3) consisted of a nice long climb (in the sun) up an ATV-wide gravel path. You were packed in like sardines so if the guy infront of you fucks up you're screwed. I immediately noticed I had a much easier gear than everyone around me for I was able to pedal comfortably and everyone else was struggling. Off the gravel road onto a very steep rocky climb. Everyone was walking so this was my opportunity to run past people. Hard right onto some awesome, fast, singletrack. That took us up to the top of the climb and then we descended a fast switchback descent. I immediately noticed the guys infront of me couldn't descent worth a shit so I had to take the hairier and more challenging routes through the rocks and around the switchbacks to pass them.

Coming out onto the bottom of the gravel road and onto a singletrack climb (this marked the beginning of every other lap, the gravel road climb was only done on the first lap).

Up the singletrack climb and I was feeling really good. Rode just about all of it and passed a few people when I could. Caught up to a lot of my east coast peeps and passed them (have typically been behind them in races this season). Then we did some more climbing and looped around the backside of the park (around Lake Marie). Enter the rocky switchbacks.... I had a blast and was passing even more people here since I'm so used to riding rocks here on the east coast. Spectators galore looking for blood and cheering you on if you cleared it all. They'd suggest lines that were most likely the harder ones. I took all the hard lines and showed-off a bit. Noticed the rear wheel was hitting the rim on a few rocks. Gonna regret letting some air out for climbing traction...

Through two big sweeping turns and onto a little ATV gravel road back to the field we started at. Through the field, through the start/finish, lots of people watching. I felt great and kept passing everyone. Might as well ride well when I'm feeling good. Starting lap 2 and back onto that singletrack climb we did on lap 1 (after the prologue loop to weed everyone out). Motored up that climb yet again. I get to the top which was crossroads and my friend who was watching told me my buddy Dicky was just up ahead. I caught him a few turns up the trail and we finished lap two together hauling ass passing people like it was our job.

(photo: Andrew Brooks)

Finished all my food and my waterbottles by the end of lap two. Lap three is going to hurt! I also pulled away from Dicky and climbed a bit slower up that first singletrack climb. I felt the muscle fatigue and twitches coming so backed off the intensity a bit. Made it up the climb but Dicky wound up passing me at some point. I had him in my sights and was only a few seconds off of his wheel. The back half of the course, with all the rocks, is where things fell apart on lap 3. I burped my rear wheel on a rock (popped the bead and lost some air). Had to pull over and pump up my tire with my CO2. All my east coast peeps passed me. Damn. I had a good gap on them too.

Back on the bike and some more climbing to the rocky descents. Muscles are in a lot of pain right now so climbing is slow-going. I'm holding my own but not catching up the guys that passed me on my first flat. Dicky was long gone. Fuck. I successfully make it through the rocky descents and had my groove back going into those last two big sweeping turns. A huge sweeping left to a huge sweeping right to the ATV trail to the field to the finish. I had that left turn laid completely out pushing the bike through the turn and was at the mercy of the corners of my tires holding traction. Once you successfully negotiate a turn like this you've reached pure bliss. It is so much fun. Well, I was down so low that my sidewall caught a rock and the rock ripped a good hole in my tire. Instant deflate. It was so much of a shock that I almost high-sided the bike. Had to put the inside foot down and kind of slide the bike out to stop.

Fuck. No more C02 but I do have a tube with me. A nice rider gave me her pump and I went to work. First order of business was to remove the tubeless valve core. Fuck. I gorilla'd this thing on and couldn't get it off. I was probably also sitting in Poison Oak (all over the course). A spectator and I worked to get the valve core off but it wasn't going to work unless I had a Leatherman Tool. After many minutes of fucking around and watching many, many racers pass me I gave in. Fuck it. I can run through this singletrack and then I can ride the gravel climb and ride the field. I'm doing it. Tire still on the front wheel to protect the rim (but completely flat) I set off to get to the finish. It was a short 2-3 miles away if that.

Rode up the gravel climb. Passed a person or two. Drew lots of attention from the spectators seeing that I'm riding with a flat front tire and the front wheel is SO loud on the gravel. Came down the slight descent and started feeling good. Guess I had a handle on how the bike behaved (I was also leaning way back to off-load the front wheel). Wound up riding off course because I couldn't make the turn. Back on the bike, across a road and into a field. Sweeping right to sweeping left. I made it through the right but picked up speed and my front wheel washed out in the left. I went tumbling and rolling on the dead grass for 20-30ft. Got some nice road rash all up and down my left arm.

Here's the short descent I was wheelie-dropping the water bars with a flat front tire. I think this is Travis Brown

Back on the bike. Down a little gravel road, up a little incline to a big left turn. Look over my shoulder and people are gaining. After this left turn was the start/finish so I buried myself and sprinted to the finish (with a flat front tire). Beat that group of riders that were gaining on me.

Thanks to my flat tires I finished around 150th (3-3.5hrs). Dicky finished 68th so that is where I anticipate I should have been. Right where I wanted to be too, top 100 and top 75. Oh well, some days you're on and other days things fuck up. I haven't had any tire problems at all this year until this race. Figures too since I felt awesome and better than I have all summer. My wheel is perfectly fine. I had one little dent that I pulled out and was able to seal some new tubeless tires on it Tuesday night. Spins true and rode well last night. Thumbs Up

Lots of costumes. Lots of heckling by the spectators. Lots of cheering by the spectators. It was the spectators that helped give us that little push to muscle through things. I haven't been to a race that had that many spectators before. Not even the national NORBA races (attendance is very low). As Dicky said 'I'm conserving energy when no one could see me and riding my ass off when the spectators were there.' Curtis Inglis put on a great event. Thank You!


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