in my legs I was sound asleep minutes after climbing into my hammock around 10:30 Saturday night. Around 4am I woke up and was quite cold. Supposedly the temperature dropped just below freezing or something like that. Wrapped a towel around my feet and threw my Bike29
jacket over my knees and went back to sleep. Sleep, awake, sleep... that was the cycle until around 7am. My bladder was then telling me I had to get up.
But it is cold out
I got up anyway and saw Mike Stanley from Niner heading over to his truck. He invited me in so that I could warm up. Naturally I obliged. Some time passed and I warmed up a bit and then got dressed for the race.
Kick ass roadster Mike Rave from Darkhorse Cycles is building. I approve of this work.
George@Bike29 and the rest of the Vermont crew arrived just before 8am with a coffee for Mr. Stanley and I as well as my egg and cheese breakfast sandwich. I then hopped on my bike and rode over to the race start
First thought was:
After that thought passed I quickly realized my legs felt pretty good considering the previous day's ride.
From here I filled my waterbottles up at the water jugs because the garden hose at the shop was frozen and rode around saying hello to a bunch of people I knew. Ginger arrived shortly after 8am for she was going to ride Stewart and have fun. I carried all my stuff over to her car and started getting ready.
The plan was two waterbottles for the whole race with two at the start/finish as an emergency. Food would be Hammer Gels. I made sure I drank a complete bottle between 8am and the start at 9 and had two full bottles on the bike when we started.
The prologue took us out up Ridge Road like we started the Darkhorse40 last year
and then turned left onto the tail end of the lap we were to ride. We had to do two laps for a total of around 28 miles. The laps took us in a counter-clockwise loop as if looking at the map. Opposite direction of previous events here. This was awesome as it made for a completely different ride yet it was the same trail network.
We started at a decent pace and I felt bad for everyone in the open pro field behind us as we were kicking up lots of dust on the gravel road. James set about trying to control the pace with Roger Foco attacking here and there on the climb up Ridge Rd. It was Josh Wilcox that took over as we turned off of Ridge Rd and set pace for James. Roger fell back a little bit and Cavanaugh, myself and a small handful of others caught up to Roger. We were the 'chase group' if you will as I believe we started pulling away from the peleton. I passed Cavanaugh and Roger and around the time we came through the start/finish Roger made a move and got around me.
Heading out onto the gravel road in the upper left of the map, Roger was up with Josh and James (and maybe one other) while Cavanaugh was with myself and one or two others. My 61.6" gear made for what felt like a slow cadence so I pulled out of the draft and bridged the gap up to the lead group. I caught up to them by the time we turned into the next singletrack and they started pulling away from me again.
What am I doing up here? Could I sustain this?
I slowed a little and one guy passed me. Cavanaugh then passed both myself and the other guy ahead of me to which I followed his line and tried to stay on his wheel. I was breathing heavy and while I enjoyed this pace my legs were telling me I had to back off. I also felt as if I was riding the singletrack wildly. Wildly as in I was not in control of my pace and how I'd want to pick my own lines. I felt my 2.0 Nanos bouncing off of every rock and heard nothing but rim. The rigid fork was not helping either.
So, backed off pace and found something I could settle into. Cavanaugh and that other gentleman took off and I was comfortable with that as here I am in the top 10 after the effort put in the day prior to ride out to this race. Comfortable with my ride I just kept on pedaling at my pace which allowed for my breathing to come down which made me feel more comfortable riding. I picked better lines and was starting to really like this 61.6" gear as the momentum carried me over lots of stuff I may not have made with my previous gears used at Stewart (58" and 54.8"). My lower back was not liking the 61.6" gear as I was not keeping my back straight while pedaling out of the saddle. I was able to correct this later in the lap and the pain subsided.
'46 Ford (around 1/4 through the lap?
By this point I didn't really see anyone ahead of me on the trail and in most sections didn't hear or see anyone behind me. I kept on riding trying to maintain a steady pace and eventually realized where I was (coming up the orchard which would then mean I am almost on Ridge Rd). Onto Ridge Rd and I could see almost everyone stretched out.
Wow. We're all pretty close.
I felt strong going up Ridge Rd but paid for it once we were on the last section of singletrack for that last section had a lot more climbing than I thought and I could feel my thighs getting twitchy. Definitely rode it slower than on the prologue as I backed the pace off in an effort to not cramp on the first lap. A few people may have passed me or caught up to me.Coming through the start/finish I seemed to feel better and was done with one bottle and two gels.
Most of the slow technical riding with the punchy climbs was at the front of the lap and the beginning of this section for the 2nd lap I felt myself ride it slower than the first lap. I had to as my legs were pretty sore. This sucked because I loved the pace I had on the first lap but knew if I were to survive and try to maintain top 10 I needed to slow down and not cramp.
A few people passed me and I tried to hang onto their wheels but couldn't sustain that pace. Settled back into my pace which was slower than lap 1. I still rode the climbs I rode on the first lap and walked the steeper stuff I walked on the first lap so in my head I felt consistent.
Orchard again and I was stoked for I knew I was close and tried to give it more effort while trying to keep some in reserves for that last kick on the singletrack after Ridge Rd. Finished my last bottle and had another gel.
Ridge Rd I could see two guys closer to me and two to three guys further away.
Lets try to bridge up to the first guy.
When he passed me early on lap 2 he looked like he was struggling and might crack.
I cranked up the effort but couldn't quite catch him on Ridge Rd. Couldn't quite catch him on the singletrack after Ridge Rd either; until we came to that steep climb.... I buried myself even more on that steep climb and caught him at the top but he rolled over the top quicker than I and pulled away from me.
I let go of all my brakes and pointed it down the singletrack in an effort to catch him. This worked as I saw that gap closing down. In fact, Strava tells me I rode that last section just about as quick as I did on the prologue. It definitely didn't feel as easy on the last lap as on the prologue.
The last little descent to flat to short climb in the field I pedaled my ass off and caught him at the top. Unfortunately from there on in was a quick descent to the finish so I finished the race right behind him.
12th place in the open / pro field out of close to 70. 2hrs 6mins of a hard effort.
I am happy with that.
I recorded this year's race:
6 minutes faster than last year. Last year was a very muddy course with this year being very dry. I also rode 100miles out to the race this year.
I am happy with that.
Afterwards I drank another bottle of electrolytes and changed into street clothes. After a few beers, Hawaiian Mike asked me to do an interview with this video group that was out documenting the race. I obliged and answered a few of their questions. Once the final product is released I'll share it with you.
Food and more beer was on store for the remainder of the early afternoon. My legs were tired but not as shot as I thought they would be. They definitely felt much more fatigued than when I did the Ronde ride
out in Boston two weeks ago. The headwind on the way out to NY, the huge effort I put in at SSAP and the high winds predicted for the remainder of Sunday and Monday made me decide to cut my own personal stage race short and catch a ride home with Ginger after the race.
It was a difficult decision as my goal is to ride to the race, race and ride home but after some thinking and the mental blow the headwind riding out to NY gave me I felt I would enjoy my day off from work on Monday better if I slept in, rested and did odds-and-ends around the house rather than suffer pedaling my bike home in high winds with riding through the hilly Western CT.
The feedback I've received about my plans this year has been nothing but positive. I am so thrilled that this notion is touching so many people and hope it inspires you to do what drives you. Thank you for your support and I look forward to the next time our paths cross!
Thanks again to Mike & George at Darkhorse Cycles for their hospitality and another fun race. Thanks to George @ Bike29 for the continued support!