Trophy courtesy of Squirrel:
Jamie ready to run:
This kid ran in clipless MTB shoes the whole time (ouch!):
The whistle sounded and Jamie got a good start on his run with the lead group. I went down and watched them come through the first section of Hillside before heading back to the exchange area to get warmed up. Jamie came in 2nd or 3rd from the run with John Conlan's smokin' fast high schooler was in 1st and Neal's and Jed's runners came in right about the same time. I shot out of there as hard as I could go, but Neal got a better launch and beat me out of transition so I was sitting 3rd or 4th at the start of the bike leg. Its far enough back, I can't remember my exact spot, but I think Neal got out in front of John early and I tailed up to him pretty quickly on the climb into Hillside. I got past him after I spun out on the first attempt due to the wet conditions. We'd had a 1/4" of rain the night before leaving the trails tacky to wet and slippery in spots with the leave cover on. I'd pre-ridden a good portion of it so I knew where some of the slickest spots were and the lines to get through them. Now it was a game of going as hard as I could without falling or blowing up. At least now I was only running a 1 hour or less race so I could pretty much run wide open the whole race without holding back.
I tailed Neal through all of Hillside, but was just maintaining the gap without really shutting it down. Jed had passed me about mid lap and had also gone flying by Neal putting us down to 2nd and 3rd. Barring any accidents Jed would repeat as winner this year by a pretty big margin. As soon as we crossed over to Rollercoaster though I saw him off the side of the trail having gone down on a slick log crossing. I found out later he'd also had his brake or shift lever come loose and was having a hard time with it which contributed to his spill, but he soldiered back to the staging area, tightened things back down and rode it out finishing strong in 3rd place. I was sitting 2nd with most of my first lap complete and at least one major contender still behind me in the form of Cam. Jamie eked out a couple second gap over his team mate Kristy last year on the final downhill to take the 2nd spot and he's a much stronger rider than me so I knew it would be a dogfight to stay ahead again this year. I ripped through the creek crossing in Rollercoaster which is arguably the most technical portion of the trail and never looked back.
Entering the double crossing:
Dropping into the second half of the crossing:
Getting ready for the pain of climbing to the meadow:
Now it was time to hit the steepest grunt of the race and from my pre-ride I knew it was too slick for me to ride the whole thing. I hit it and then hopped off cyclocross style and ran up it keeping my heart pounding in my throat as I got back on and finished the climb to the top of the meadow. Now a ripping descent into the finish area and off for lap 2.
As I got to the end of the finish area I was surprised to see Jed standing there next to his bike. His terrible luck flatting tires this season had bit him yet again and he was out of the race. Now I was sitting 1st place in the race for the second time in as many years. I got some good cheers and atta boys as I raced through Hillside in the lead and headed off for a 2nd trip through Rollercoaster. Soon enough I could feel and hear someone coming behind me. Cam had indeed powered his way back to me, but where we were at there weren't any clean lines to pass and I didn't intend to make it too easy for him. He tailed me down to the creek crossing and as we raced through it for the second time, it turned into a good photo session.
Taking the good line through:
Probably the only shot you'll ever see of me leading Cam (thanks Jamie!)
Cam didn't get the good line (he says I took it away hehe):
Quick and calm recovery though (damn):
At the time, I didn't realize he'd gone down behind me. I just stayed on the gas through the climb out of the crossing and knew he wasn't pressing me yet for the pass. I finally hit the run up and he was back on my wheel and did an amazing job riding the slick leaves and mud that I wasn't able to, so I did the proper thing and stepped out of the way for him to leave me in the dust. Sure enough, by the time I came through for lap 3, I couldn't see him anymore. I thought maybe we still had a chance to reel them back in if I could keep the gap somewhat close since last year he had passed me much earlier on lap 2. I tore off on lap 3 and was passing traffic a fair amount on this lap, but never had any real slow downs due to it. I cleaned all but the run up again and tagged off for Jamie to chase down Kristy if possible. I think they had roughly 1:30 lead on us at the transition which would be a tough gap to close down.
Jamie ran a hard race, but with his training off in comparison to last year, he didn't have the finishing kick on the hills to chase down Kristy again. Jamie ran hard, but we finished in a hard fought 2nd overall again this year.
Kristy can leap creeks with a single bound:
All told, there was 28 seconds between our team and Cam/Kristy this year. With last year's results thrown in, there are roughly 24 seconds that have separated our teams the past two years. Now that's some fun rivalry! This was probably my best race all year in regards to how I felt, how I rode, and finishing place. A stellar pair of runs from Jamie definitely helped set the stage for the finish so hats off to him for his outstanding abilities as a runner. Cam dominated me on the bike putting in somewhere around 4-5 minutes on me over the course of 3 laps. One of these days I'll get a little faster and maybe see if I can give him a better run. I can't wait to do it again next year!
Photos borrowed from Steve, Squirrel, Courtney, and Mike S.