Well, we are about halfway through the season and it has been a great season for me thus far. I’m probably the most fit that I have ever been and my bike handling has improved immensely. And just when I thought that things couldn’t go any better for me a couple more milestones had occurred recently. About a week after I got back from Colorado, I received my upgrade from expert to semi-pro. When I started mountain biking back in 1999, I never imagined that I would reach the level that I have. This is a pretty huge deal for me, partly because I am at the ripe old age of 39. I’ve always thought that it would be really cool to be referred to as a ‘pro’, even if it is preceded by the word ‘semi’.
So my first race as a semi-pro would appropriately enough be a Nebraska series race. I say appropriate because the competition over there is what I would consider to be at the semi-pro level. I arrived at the race venue, Ponca State Park in the northeast corner of Nebraska, at about the same time as WWJ and Nooner. We got ourselves registered and headed out for a pre-ride lap on the course. Ponca is one of my favorite venues. The trails there are first rate, a lot of smooth, tight, fast singletrack with a lot of climbing. It is definitely one of those types of courses that suits my riding style really well.
After our pre-ride we noodled around some more, took care of the usual pre-race ‘business’ and lined up for the start. The race started on a black top road for about ¼ of a mile and then dumped us into some singletrack. I was sitting third wheel when we hit the dirt, behind Darin Schlake and Jesse Peterson. About midway through the first lap I could tell that I was going to have a great day. I felt like I was floating effortlessly up the climbs and I was riding very smooth lines with minimal braking. Darin began to gap Jesse and I about five minutes into the first lap. I eventually passed Jesse for 2nd place about midway through the first lap going up a pretty steep climb. I had no idea what was going on behind me, I couldn’t hear anybody behind me, so the three of us must have established a pretty good gap early on.
Throughout the first two laps (of four total), I could see Darin ahead of me but I had difficulty reeling him in. I would close the gap a little on the climbs and he would open it back up on the technical descents. I finally closed the gap about midway through the third lap and we rode together for about ten minutes, until we hit a pretty tough climb. He let me by and I pretty much checked out from there. I took off up the climb and it wasn’t long before I could no longer hear or see him.
I ended up winning the race by about two minutes, which was another major milestone for me. It had been a goal of mine for a long time, to win a Psycowpath race. It wasn’t too long ago that the top finishers were laying the wood to me by five or more minutes. This is definitely the biggest win that I have ever had and it was incredibly satisfying! The win launched me from fourth overall in the points to second. I feel like I have a pretty good shot at the overall and I definitely plan to shoot for it. Nebraskacycling.org did a pretty nice little write up on the race. Check it out if your interested.
Next up is the next IMBCS race at Sugarbottom. Cully Todd usually puts everybody in the hurt bag there, but I’m flying right now so it should be interesting.