It was a perfect day to race, the weather was in the 70's and the sun was shining. Fig Nooner met me at my house at 7:15am for the ride up to Waverly, IA. I drove, Sean slept. (If you're looking for a road trip companion Sean is great, you won't even know he's there). As a matter of fact, Sean slept the entire way home too!
We got to Waverly in great time which prompted me to do a pre-lap on the 10 mile course. We got to the course just in time to see Jeff Kerkove who rode up from Cedar Falls. Jeff is training for the 24 Hours of Iowa next week and is the odds on favorite to take it again this year.
Cam and I set up to do the warm up lap at very slow speeds, due to the length of this course it took over an hour to complete the lap. Before I got up to Waverly, I told myself I wouldn't ride the whole lap in an attempt to save energy for the race, but that theory went out the door when I realized that I didn't know any short cuts back and would probably get lost and miss the start.
Anyway, we got back to the start line with about 20 minutes to spare. Just enough time to take care of some pre-race rituals, (thanks for your contributions Paul and Jeremy).
Camp Igwanis is a great course with lots of tight twisty single track, a few short climbs and lots of horse dung. I've never ridden a course that had horse dung the size of log jumps in the middle of the trail, but today it was an obstacle that you had to ride around, over or through.
This was not an IMBCS race so a couple of the big hitters didn't show up for the race, but in our class my usual top competitors were there. Tracy Thompson, Paul Veneable, Andy Leuke and Chris Reed. Regardless of the course these guys are always tough riders, each with their own strengths and capabilities. I knew Tracy would come out strong with Paul attacking at every opportunity. I had just ridden for an hour prior to the start so my strategy was to stay on Tracy's wheel and help reel in Paul when needed. The start of the race was awesome. After pledging allegence to our flag, (this race was put on by the Boyscouts and this is mandatory before any event. I love this idea and feel we should always do this). Tracy let out his inaugural deep throated belch and the race was off. Donny Quixote, (single speed), got the hole shot, just has he did last race, with Tracy and I directly behind him and Paul behind me. Somehow Paully jumped in front of me going into the single track. As we were heading to the first creek crossing, Tracy, Paul and I passed Donny. It was obvious Paul made the wrong tire selection cause he was all over the course. As we hit the creek we all jumped on the bridge ran across and up the hill. By this time we had put a little gap on the field, being a teacher Tracy wanted a role call of who was still with us, (Me, You and Paully), I said to him. The three of us rode together through the first loop and down to the second creek crossing. I was feeling stronger and stronger as we got deeper into the ride. My heart rate was right where I needed it to be and I was riding the course very efficiently. Today could be a great result I told myself, just keep patient and ride smart. Through the second loop, Paul kept having trouble staying on the course but would catch up each time he stalled. As we approached the second creek crossing, Paul and Tracy jumped off their bikes, I decided to ride over the bridge and onto the planks. We all regrouped at the top of the hill and continued our ride. Paul jumped in front of Tracy and began his attack. We weren't 200 yards past the creek when all of a sudden, "POP", my tire blew! Realizing what had happened I screamed in frustration. I quickly dismounted my bike and pulled my spare tube, levers and CO2 out. This was the first flat I've had in a race since the Heartland Series in 2002. I pulled the tube out and pushed the replacement in the tire, beaded the tire back in place and pulled the CO2 from jersey. I threaded the CO2 and screwed it into the presta valve. It has been so long since I used one of these I forgot that you have to thread it then back it off to get the air out. I stood there amazed that I had the wrong valve or the CO2 was bad. 30 seconds went by and so did more and more riders. I was getting frustrated. I decided to pull the CO2 off the valve and use another one when all of the sudden the tire inflated...sweet!! I'm back in business. I had lost about 10 to 11 places. I had a lot of work to do.
As I jumped back on my bike I had to re-strategize. My back tire had about 30 psi in it and was very soft. I could feel it bottom out when I hit the roots, but had to make the most of it while I had air. Each biker that I'd ride up to is another goal, and everytime I pass one I have to ride faster to get to the other, keeping my back tire from slamming into anything causing a pinch flat...It was working. As I rode up to the riders they would let me by and I was off. (By the way, thanks to Thad, Krenz, Brian, Sean, Dennis, Brian Benson, Ken Sherman and many others for letting me by and encouraging me to keep going hard. That was really cool of you guys).
The first lap was in the books and lap two was still in front of me. I had passed 5 guys already with a full lap to go. Maybe I could catch Andy and Chris, we'll see. As I came to the creek crossing again, Brian, Dave Krenz and I slammed across it. I warned them not to hit the first plank, it was pretty flexy. I had to laugh at Krenz though...as we were heading down the bumpy single track and his bike was crying in pain. It was making noises that I've never heard a bike make before. I could here it weeping and praying that Dave would go easy on it on lap two and three.
Getting across the creek and hammering through the flats, I was feeling great. I hadn't switched water bottles at the lap break but had 3/4 of a bottle left. I knew I better start drinking more fluids and slam a Hammer Gel. I was feeling good but worried about cramping towards the end of the race. Getting into the cow patty field I couldn't see anyone, this made me attack the field and the pine forest area. I figured most riders were recovering in the field and on the downhills. This would be a prime area to make up time. Coming up through the cabin area I caught Dennis Grelk again on his "mutant ninja single speed hybrid contraption". I don't know what you call this thing but it is cool....and heavy. This bike looks like a monster truck with pedals.
Anyway, through the cabin area I noticed another rider just up ahead but couldn't see who it was. They had on a Rassy's jersey. I quietly rode up the gravel rode and could see pink socks...to my surprise it was Andy Leuke. Andy won this race last time and is an incredibly strong rider who possess many skills. One of those skills is gapping the competition. I didn't want Andy to know it was me until I was on his wheel. As we entered the roller coaster section I knew I could catch his wheel here and turned on the gas. At the bottom we were together and Andy figured out it was me. He asked me if I needed to pass but I opted to stay with him to see what he was riding like. Andy turned up the intensity and he and I rode hard through the next 5 miles together. I couldn't pass him if I tried. He was pulling me right up the the next person and past. Finally we were in the last section of trail. This section was newly built before the May race and pretty much sucked at that point. From May until now this part of the course settled in well and became a lot more fun to ride. Andy pulled us all the way up to the fourth and fifth postion. Steve Bullerman, (4th), and Chris Reed, (5th), were riding together up ahead. As we caught them Chris seemd to slow down, not letting us pass him, and Steve sped up. I told Andy to get around him but it was tight and Chris was not giving an inch. Chris is a strong, young rider, but his technical skills leave a lot to be desired. He was having problems negotiating the turns and roots, plus I'm sure he was battling some fatigue at this piont. Finally Chris pulled to the left and Andy and I busted past him. Now we have to catch Steve. He was 15 seconds up on us. We had about another 1.5 miles to go when Andy washed out on a sweeping right hand turn. He was inches from getting run over by me when I slammed on the XT's and pushed my foot to the ground. Andy was doing a type of break dance, with his bike tangled up on top of him, to try to get out of my way. As soon as my leg hit the ground instantly my quad cramped hard. I knew I had to push through this and catch Bullerman. I politely asked Andy if he was allright? He said yes, now go, go go....I was off again and mentally trying to battle this damn cramp.
I could see Bullerman up ahead but he was riding strong. As we crossed the fire road with only 1/4 mile to go I realized I was not going to catch him. Now I had to just ride the finish out and take whatever place I was in. As I rode up the final gravel rode before turning right back into the single track for the last 200 yards, I heard, "POP" and "ssssssssssss". Unbelievable, another flat! I had to ride this baby to the finish regardless. I knew Andy wasn't too far behind me. Finally....I made it to the finish. To my surprise I had caught 8 racers and finished 5th overall.
At the front of the pack was Tracy in first, Paully in second, and Donny in third. If I had to give a most improved rider award today, it would go to Donny Quixote. Donny has improved leaps and bounds this year with his mountain bike skills. Donny is a strong rider to begin with but lacked in the technical handling department...that is no more my friends. Donny finished third in sport overall with a rigid, heavy single speed. That tells me he is fast!. I also want to make sure I thank Andy for pulling me through the second half of lap two. Dude, you rode strong and fast. I appreciated and enjoyed riding with you in this race. I'm hoping I can return the favor sometime in the future. I don't think I would've ridden as fast by myself. Again, thanks for the strong effort.
Congrats to Tracy again and Paul for getting second. I only wish I had kept with the pack today because I really felt strong. I'm not saying I would've won but my chances were pretty good today.
Also, congrats to Cam Kirkpatrick for kicking tail in the Expert race and revenging last weeks Sugarbottom performance. Cam put a beating on the field and smoked one of the guys that who beat him last week. I knew he would do well today, all he kept saying for an hour on the pre-lap was, "Petey, I feel strong today. My legs are feeling great and I feel great". Also, congrats to Sean Noonan for a strong 4th place finish. Sean hates technical courses with no climbs, today he did well on a course that he didn't like. Congrats to Sally Logan for hammering the course today. She gave it her all and finished a very tough course. It wasn't long ago Sally had a bulging disc that was operated on. She rode well today.
Also, I have to give a shout out to another rider...Master Lou. Lou competed in Saturday's State Crit Championship series in Pella, IA. Lou not only showed guys he's a strong rider, but he also put on a martial arts clinic while on his bike on a mouthy rider. My friend, I know your an easy guy to get along with so it must have taken some serious taunting to get you riled up. I'm hoping you taught Mr. Mouth that this is a gentleman's sport.
Thank you to Paul Meyermann for putting on another great race at Camp Ingawanis. You and your people are first class and we all want you to know how thankful we are to be able to race at your venue.
Next week is the 24 hours of Iowa followed by the Sycamore Time Trial. I'm taking next week off but am looking forward to the Time Trial race that Maharry puts on. This will be a ton of fun. Good luck to everyone riding next week, I wish I could be there with you but I have a wedding to attend in Sioux Falls, SD.