I picked up Kurt and his girlfriend Mindy to do a bit of ride sharing considering we were a 2.5 hour drive away from the race. We got up there in plenty of time to relax, do a recon lap, and get ready to race. After my recon lap, I knew the race would be fun, but also fast and painful. Just 1 day back from Colorado, I wasn't sure how my legs would react, but I was ready to put them to the test. Passing would be tough for at least a good chunk of this course so the holeshot was again going to probably be a deciding factor.
I knew Keith would be hitting it hard trying to get into the woods first and I should do what I could to hang on his wheel since he's been riding hard this year. We lined up and I was sitting nicely on the front row again. I'm not sure if there's a specific consideration on where you line up, but I haven't had anyone chastise me yet for lining up towards the front. We started out on the gravel road with a shallow climb and about a 1/4 mile to string things out before diving into the woods. Once the starter pistol went off, we were hammering. Sure enough, Keith got his holeshot, sliding sideways onto the camp entrance road and hammering up to the woods. I wasn't too far back sitting about 4th wheel until the last 100 or so yards before we hit the woods. I let up just a little and 3 or 4 people shot past putting me back a bit further than I wanted.
Early in lap 1:
The train got moving pretty quickly with 5 of us bunched up while the first 3 shot off the front. I knew it was going to be a hard chase to run any of those guys down and was chomping at the bit to get some passing done. My legs were all ready running me into the red, but I still felt good since it was lap 1. At the open section I couldn't really get my speed up enough to pass anyone, but knew there was another opening coming soon. We were hauling the mail up the climbs. I remember noticing the dirt seemingly shooting out from under the rear tire of the guy in front of me as he powered the climbs. Even more than that, I was actually holding his wheel up the climbs.
Powering the rock climb on lap 1 or 2:
In the 2nd open section, I put the hammer down as most of the guys sat up just a shade to grab a drink. It was getting toasty back in the woods even though the temps were relatively low. I ended up leading the train at this point and just pushed myself really deep into the red trying to open any type of gap. Most of that lap is a blur as I was pretty well cross-eyed with effort pouring everything I had out. I managed to open a gap on a few of the chasers, but still had some guys pretty hot on my wheel as we hit lap 2.
On lap 2 I knew I had to back down or blow up completely. I finally started downing some liquids and let a couple guys by so as to not hold them back. I think I passed another rider or two at this point as well. Looking at it now, it seems for the most part that after lap 1, you're pretty well set into where you're going to finish out within a spot or two unless something drastic happens. I wonder if this holds true for most people? I spent the rest of lap 2 in recovery mode trying to keep the pace high, but hopefully rest up from the pain of lap 1. By the end of the lap, I'd at least consumed enough liquid and paced it out that I could turn the screws back up on the effort for the final lap.
Flying down the g-out:
Lap 3 I was ready to hit it hard again. I didn't have anyone immediately around me, but could catch glimpses of people both in front and behind. Slowly, I started to real another rider in. I finally caught his wheel and rode it for just a bit as I recovered from the effort. I passed him only to realize it was a 60+ expert racer so no real advancement in my own class. I put the pressure back on the pedals and did my best to use the 3 total laps I had under my belt to work the lines and let loose on the downhills. My Colorado trip was at least repaying me through more aggressive downhilling as I was able to really roll through here.
I focused mostly on keeping my tempo even along with my heart rate on lap 3 since I didn't seem to be in any danger of catching or be caught. I made sure to clean all of the loose sandy corners that were threatening on every lap to catch someone unaware. For the final time I had to ride the rough new section of trail for the finish and then I was done. I finished out 7th in the sport open class. I was pretty happy with the effort and result.
Nearing the end:
Looking back, post race, I think I gave up a position or two by letting too many riders get by as we neared the entrance to the woods. A little more effort getting to the woods probably would have made for a little less effort in the woods. I still need to think more about it being ok to get passed rather than having to do the passing. I'm sure that will come as I can better assess my overall fitness and skill level in comparison to other riders in my class.