Day One - Psycowpath #5, NORBA Nebraska State Championship, Indian Cave State Park, Nebraska
If you like to climb hills that reduce you to your granny gear than you will love Indian Cave State Park. Located near the Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska border, Indian Cave State Park is right on the Missouri River. The trail system there receives a lot of horse traffic, which consequently, makes the trails pretty rough. I brought both of my bikes thinking that I might want to bust out the full suspension because last year I remember feeling like I had the back of a 90 year old after the race.
During the pre-ride my legs felt really good. I always make this assessment with a little apprehension, because I never seem to know for sure exactly how my legs are going to respond to the violence that I subject them to in a mountain bike race. Especially a course like Indian Cave. I was also struggling with which bike to use. I rode my hardtail during the pre-ride thinking that would most likely be my choice. On the flats and descents, I was thinking full suspension. In a lot areas, the trails were pretty rough from the horse traffic. The descents were going to be very fast and contained a lot of water bars that would guarantee some air time if you wanted it. However when the terrain turned upward, I had a lot of difficulty getting myself excited about carrying five extra pounds of weight uphill. After the pre-ride I thought about where the race might be won or lost. Typically it is a lot easier to create large gaps when the hills are long and/or steep. It’s usually pretty easy to hang with somebody on the flats and descents. The hardtail became the obvious choice.
As we were lining for the start, I saw a few faces that I didn’t recognize. The usual contenders were there along with Tony Wilhelm, who made the drive from Kansas City. Tony is a cyclo-cross specialist and likes to take off like a bat out of hell at the start of races. The race started and sure enough, Tony was off the front and immediately began to create a gap. We hit a narrow section of the start loop and Greg Shimonek slotted in between Tony and myself. The gap grew larger and I knew that if I was going to try and stick with Tony, I needed to get past Greg before it was too late.
As soon as we exited to short start loop, I passed Greg and caught up to Tony. The first climb was very long and gradual. It can easily be done in the middle ring, however the very end of the climb crescendo’s into a granny gear climb that brings the lactic acid in your legs into a full boil.
I managed to hang onto to Tony until about halfway up the climb. I could feel myself starting to dip into the red zone and thought that it was way too early to be getting myself cross-eyed so I let him go. I got to the top of the climb and Tony already had a small gap on me. I looked behind me and much to my surprise, saw nobody. We had gone out so hard that we managed to drop the entire field within the first two miles! Cool. I decided to try and keep the pressure on and recover at the same time. Irrational thoughts like this are a common symptom with the onset of getting cross-eyed. Thankfully my legs were still feeling somewhat rational and wouldn’t allow me to keep the pressure on.
I settled into a comfortable pace and about halfway through the first lap I could see Darin Schlake coming up from behind. He was closing the gap up on the hills and I managed to keep him at bay on the flats and descents.
Near the end of the first lap, a spectator told me that Tony was about 40 seconds up. Darin was still hovering behind me about 20 seconds back. During one of the climbs on the second lap, I started feeling a lot better. I knocked it down a couple of cogs and started hammering up the hill. I never heard nor did I see Darin again until after the race. About halfway through the second lap, another spectator said the gap to Tony was around 30 seconds. Hearing this did nothing but fuel my fire. I started going even harder up the climbs, knowing the climbs would be my best opportunity to gain ground.
Near the end of the second lap, I could see Tony up the trail as I started up the long climb near the start of the lap. I knocked it down a cog and punched it. As I hit the granny gear part at the end of the climb I had almost completely closed the gap. Tony jumped off his bike cyclo-cross style and ran up the hill. I rode up the hill and by the time I had gotten to the top I had exerted so much energy that I felt dizzy, it was a pretty creepy feeling. As we started going downhill I managed to completely close the gap. At this point I knew the race was mine to loose. I rode Tony’s wheel until we hit the start/finish area. I passed him and he rode my wheel for a couple of miles. I kept the pressure on hoping that I could drop him sooner rather than later.
As we began the first long climb of the third (and last) lap I turned the screws a little more. I could tell without looking behind that he was struggling to hang on. At the top of the climb, I looked back and was very happy to see that I had established a pretty good gap. I buried my head and kept the pressure on. I never looked back again and just maintained my focus. I was hitting my lines on the descents and catching some sweet air off the water bars. On the climbs I focused on pushing as big of a gear as possible while still maintaining my high cadence that I seemed to have become notorious for.
I crossed the finish line in 1st with about 40 seconds to spare on Tony. Darin Schlake came across the line in third, about five minutes back as the repeat Nebraska State Champion. Two wins in a row in the Nebraska Psycowpath Series. If somebody would have told me a couple of years ago that I would win a couple of these, I would have looked at that person and asked what they had been smokin’. I’m in the drivers seat for the series overall now. If I win the last race then I win the expert open title for the series. Cool. I’m not sure how things will shake out if I don’t win and I’m not going to worry too much about it. I’ll be gunning for nothing less than my third Psycowpath win a row. The last race is October 29 at Platte River State Park. I’ve never really had a good race there, I hope to change that.
Day Two - IMBCS #8, Kendall Young Park, Webster City, IA
I woke up this morning and laid in bed for about 30 minutes, wondering how my legs were going to feel once I finally got the energy to drag my sorry carcass out of bed. I managed to struggle out of bed and much to my surprise, the legs felt OK. I went downstairs, got my stuff together and loaded the car up. I stopped by Starbucks for a cup of Joe, filled another cup with Mueslix and hit the road for Webster City.
The course at Kendall Young Park in Webster City is a mixed bag. It has a lot of everything, except the epic climb. Damn!!! I suited up and went out for my pre-ride. The course basically consists of two halves, an open park area in which the course winds throughout an open grassy area. The other half consists of some of the sweetest singletrack I’ve ever rolled my tires on in Iowa. I rode the singletrack half first and did two complete circuits of the singletrack section to get some good lines dialed in. I rode the grassy field only once to try and minimize the accumulation of sand in my drive train.
The race started in the grassy park area and my only real concern with the start being in this area was Grand Master Lou. I knew that he could fly in this area due to it’s non-technical nature and I wanted to make sure that I was the first person into the singletrack. Grand Master Lou is a roadie and can actually handle a bike pretty damn good for a roadie. However whenever he enters wooded singletrack, he can’t seem to curb his insatiable desire to spar with the trees. Grand Master Lou, the trees will always win….
Thad issued the go command and we were off. I led the way and rode through the smaller sandy sections, being careful to hit as little sand as possible. I dismounted and ran through the longer sandy section. This would prove to be a good choice as the sand, combined with the water crossing, would stake it’s claim on several drive trains. I looked back and saw that Grand Master Lou was leading the remainder of the field. This inspired me to push the pace a little harder to secure my gap going into the singletrack..
My wish was granted, I entered the singletrack first and actually had a pretty good gap. My legs were actually feeling OK and felt pretty confident that I could maintain my current pace throughout the race. I rode through the tight sections with smooth lines and chose to run over the biggest log crossing cyclo-cross style rather than try to ride over it. Having the skills to ride over big logs is cool, however I will always opt for the fastest way over obstacles rather than the coolest.
The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful and my gap steadily increased throughout the race. I did have a lot of chain suck going on and it always seemed to occur while I was going uphill. I would have to back peddle just enough to break my chain loose and simultaneously lose my climbing impetus. Thankfully the uphill sections were short. The laps were also short and I consequently had to deal with a lot of lapped traffic. As usual, the lapped riders were very accommodating when I passed and it was greatly appreciated. Iowa racers kick ass, many thanks!
I ended up winning the race by about 5 minutes and nailed down my first double win weekend ever. Cool! I was really surprised at how good my legs felt after the abuse that I subjected them to yesterday. I know that it had a lot to do with what I ate throughout the weekend. I don’t remember exactly what I did eat, but I can tell you that it didn’t include beer, pizza, hamburgers or French fries. I plan to consume a lot of those items shortly after October 29. Anybody care to join me during my one or two day binge?
A couple of random thoughts. Squirrel is the man when it comes to handling a bike. Anybody that thinks they can take him down in Denman’s is kidding themselves. The only way that anybody will ever take him down is if he crashes…. Several times. Thanks for kicking my ass in Denman’s dude, I’m a better bike handler because of it. I’m looking forward to having greasey tacos and a beer with you. Jeremy Venable still looks like Davy Crockett. Tracy Thompson asked me for my autograph at the Webster City race and I said no. So instead he had to settle for fondling my sweaty, skanky saddle. That’s gross dude. I have a question for all of the sport guys that raced at Webster. Did Q*bert beat you because of his fitness? Or was it because he got the holeshot at the start and nobody wanted to risk tainting themselves by getting to close to his highly visible butt crack? That is also very gross. Lastly, I’d like to offer a big thank you to Thad, Nick the Wooley mammoth and the rest of the Team 14 crew for putting on the race. It was first class as always. This may not make sense, but I hate the sand and water but that is also one of the things that I love about mountain biking. Great job with the course.
Next up on the dirt is the IMBCS finale, a stage race at Seven Oaks. Anybody that has ever raced a mountain bike better be there. It will be another first class event run by a bunch of first class people, contested by a bunch of first class racers. Hope to see you there. I plan to fill the gaps between now and Seven Oaks with a few cross races.
Thanks for reading,