In road cycling they call the time trial the race of truth. There’s no hiding in the peloton and no drafting. The rider with the highest level of fitness and the best aerodynamics is most likely going to be the one the wins the race. In mountain bike racing I like to think of racing in the mud as the race of truth. Mountain bike racing is a little less about fitness and more about efficient bike handling. Racing in the mud is all about efficient bike handling and in most cases, the best bike handlers are the top finishers.
Training for the week leading up to this weekends race was pretty minimal because it was an active recovery week. My body was pretty beat up from the marathon race last weekend for first half of the week. Sunday was an easy mountain bike ride with me mum, See-door, Webb Page, tPod and his nephew Chris (right name?). tPod claims that his nephew is going to be the second coming Paulo Bettini. If his nephew is as smart as I think he is, I think he’ll be the next Ned Overend. We rode for about two hours over at the SC. Me mum said it was one of the best mother’s day gifts that I could have given to her. Made my day to hear her say that. Took Monday completely off the bike and went to the gym to throw some weights around. The upper body was still feeling the effects from the woopin’ on Saturday. Showed up for the TNWC, my legs were still pretty cooked from Saturday so I took it pretty easy and did a recovery ride with my MSM mates for about two hours. Wednesday I hit the SC for a lap of base effort, legs felt a lot better. Thursday, tPod and I rode around town for about 90 minutes, did a few short, fairly hard efforts to get the blood flowin’ in the legs. We ended up down at Water Works park to watch the All Nine Yards criterium series race and do some BS’n with the roadies. Bassonova was there and I think he had a pretty good race in the ‘A’ race, not sure what the finishing order was. I think Bassonova is slowly transitioning into a roadie, he’s going down the same dark path to the dark side that Chia Chad took. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…. Hmmm, OK, um Friday… did an easy 90 minute recovery ride with the Jedi Master.
Saturday morning, two boiled eggs, a few cups of joe and back on the road. The weather forecast called for about a 30% chance of rain showers over in the Omahole area. Before I left I took a look at the radar and there were light showers drifting south along the Missouri river. I talked to Shim on Friday night and he said the course was bone dry, like concrete. So the course could definitely use a little moisture.
I decided this time around that I would step out of my box a little and share a ride with the Jedi Master. Most of you already know this, for those that don’t, Jedi is my coaching project. I suppose that kind of makes me the master of the Jedi Master, eh? So I guess that makes me Yoda or something? Sooo, I stopped by the Rebel Base, loaded up Jedi’s bike and gear and we were off.
About halfway to Council Bluffs, it started to sprinkle a little but I wasn’t too worried about it. Shortly after that Shim called me and told me the streets in Omahole were wet and that it was misting out. We got to Council Bluffs and it started to rain a little, but it wasn’t raining at the race course. Weird weather. So we got ourselves registered, did a little BS’n with some of the bro’s then got suited up and went out for some recon. I did the recon lap on the Orbea. The night before I put the Nanoraptor tires on the Orbea because it is pretty much the best tire for Midwest hardpack. The bike, the tires and my legs felt great during the recon. About midway through the lap it started to rain lightly. As the ride went on the rain gradually picked up. By the time we finished it had evolved into a steady light rain. It continued like that for about an hour… Crap. So the race director and the series director decided to ask the racers what we thought they should do. It was finally decided that the race would go on, but that the expert race would be shortened by one lap.
So now it was decision time for me. From my experience, the Nanoraptor is a lousy tire in the mud. I had my hardtail with me and I had the Michelin XCR A.T. tires on it. The tread pattern consists of widely spaced lugs that look like they would shed mud well. It was too close to race time to swap rubber. So I went back to the car, loaded up the Orbea and busted out the hardtail. I really hated to do this because my preference would have been to ride the Orbea, but tire selection is a pretty critical item for me, especially when it’s muddy. Too bad it wasn’t an Orbea hardtail!
So the race started in light rain and my plan was to follow the local knowledge into the singeltrack and ride some wheels that knew the lines until we got to about a ½ lap to go. I figured this would be my best tactic because the course is pretty technical and local knowledge has a huge advantage. I also knew that my mud skills weren’t my strong suit so I didn’t want to blow my wad trying to lead the way in not so familiar territory. We hit the singeltrack and I was sitting fourth wheel behind Kent McNeill, some cat I’d never seen before and Shim. As expected, most of the trail was like riding on grease. The logs were all wet and it was like they had a thick layer of snot on them. The hard pack trails had a layer of dust that turned to slime and made the descents pretty treacherous. We hit the first descent and we were pretty much sliding all the way down. The cat with no name ended up going down about halfway down the descent in front of me. I managed to slide by him without going down myself. It slowed me down enough that Kent and Shim were able to get a pretty descent gap on me. I wasn’t too worried about it, I was feelin’ pretty good and I knew that at the bottom of the descent, there was a flat, fast section of trail that was probably about two miles long. They weren’t that far ahead of me and I figured that I could close the gap up by droppin’ the hammer on the flat.
So I got to the bottom without too much trouble, dumped the clutch and punched it. About a mile later I had closed the gap to Kent and Shim. In the process somebody had latched onto my wheel, wasn’t sure who it was. I was too busy tryin’ to keep it rubber side down to look back. So it was the four of us that had established a big enough gap that we couldn’t see or hear anybody behind us. We hit another descent that was pretty greasy and full of snot laden roots. Shim was ahead of me and we were flyin’. I could tell about halfway down that Shim was starting to loose control of his rig, and sure enough he went down. I was too close to avoid him without going down myself, so I laid it down to avoid a pile up. The cat behind me managed to get around us and I was surprised to see that it was WWJ’s teammate, Sam Johnson. Shim and I both got back up pretty quickly and caught back up to Sam. Kent rolled down the descent with no problem and had a pretty good gap on us. At some point Shim passed Sam and he seemed like he was runnin’ out of gas. I asked him how he was doin’ and he didn’t reply so I figured he was in the hurt box. I told him to pick it up otherwise Kent was going to run away from us. We continued in this order until we hit Mt. Neverest, the last climb of the lap. In years past I’ve always had to drop it into the granny gear to get up this bad boy. It’s like riding up a wall and it will push you into a state of delirium by the time you reach the top. We started the climb, I dropped it into my granny gear and started to motor up the hill. I was following Sam and Shim pretty closely and I could see Kent about 25 yards ahead of us. My legs felt good and I was spinning pretty easily so I dropped it down a couple of cogs and passed Sam and Shim. By the time I got to the top I had caught up to Kent. Sam got by Shim also and was a little ways back. When I passed Shim I could tell that he was craving beer and brats because his tongue was hangin’ out again… or maybe it was because he was in that place we call the purgatory of pain?
We started lap two with Kent leading the way, followed by myself with Sam in third. I think Shim popped on the hill because that was the last that we would see of him. The trail conditions were much better this time around and the speeds picked up considerably. Kent and Sam were riding really well through the tight, technical sections. Kent could gap me on the technical stuff and Sam didn’t appear to have any trouble hanging onto my wheel. I could close the gap back up pretty easily on the flats and the climbs. The three of us rode together throughout the second lap without too much trouble. We hit Neverest, I went to dump my chain into the granny and it wouldn’t drop. Crap. I thought I was screwed. So I positioned my shifter back into the middle ring index and managed to make it to the top without putting myself into too much pain. It actually felt surprisingly good and it gave me somewhat of an indication of how the race was probably going to be won.
We passed the start / finish line in the same order, Kent, myself and Sam. I don’t think that any of us knew who was going to win the race at this point. I felt really good on the climbs so I decided to stick with my original plan of trying an attack with about a half a lap to go. We got to the point where we had about a half of a lap to go and at the base of a small climb I was glued to Kent’s wheel. I dropped it down a couple of cogs and punched it. I passed Kent, looked back shortly thereafter and saw that I had established a small gap. So I kept the hammer down and my gap increased. About that time, the lapped traffic from the sport race was getting pretty thick. Between the traffic and the technical sections, Kent was able to catch back up to me. Sam was still off the back so we kept the pressure on. Towards the end of the lap we started getting into the final series of climbs. I put a little more pressure on the pedals and noticed a small gap opening up between myself and Kent. I pushed a little harder and the gap grew so I punched it once again. I got to the bottom of Neverest and couldn’t see Kent behind me. I didn’t even try to dump it into the granny gear. I kept it in the middle ring and drilled it all the way up the hill. There were all kinds of tifosi on the hill screamin’ at the top of their lungs, including the Amish women (from last weekend) and Bassonova. He made me feel like I was winning the stage of the Le Tour goin’ up l’Alpe du Huez. He was running along side of me screaming at me with a look of complete hysteria on his face. It was pretty sweet and it brought a smile to my face despite the fact that I was suffering like an animal. Thanks buddy!
I ended up winning the race in about 1:15. Kent came in second about 15 or 20 seconds back followed by Sam I Am. Shim came in fourth and WWJ rounded out the top five. Not sure what the time gaps were for places three through five. I gotta give a big atta boy to Sam I Am, the dude was riding really well, especially through all of the slimy, technical sections. He was stuck to my wheel like a fly on a pile of horse poo. He’s a pretty small cat, kind of like WWJ so I was surprised that he popped on the climb when I issued my first uphill attack. Gotta keep my good eye on this guy, I think he’s gonna get faster as the season progresses.
I also need to give a shout out to my brotha from anotha motha Squirrel for winning the sport race on a singlespeed. The man is in his element in the mud. He probably would have won the expert race too if they hadn’t started five minutes behind us. Nice job bro. Looks like you, Dennis and the bro’s from across the river had a good time over the weekend. Some day I’ll realize that a few beers won’t kill me after a race and I’ll join ya.
I think the Jedi Master finished around 10th. He had an issue with his saddle, I guess it rotated back and tried to shoe horn itself up his o-ring. I could see that being somewhat of a distraction… Bassonova has apparently inherited WWJ’s mechanical woes from last season, I’m sure that WWJ was more than happy to hand that off to you. Keep your head up buddy, it can only get better. I’m not sure how the rest of the Iowan’s finished, still waiting on the results.
So my surprising start to the season continues, four wins and two seconds. I have a pretty firm grip on the lead for the Iowa and Psycowpath series overalls and all is good. Looks like I won’t be racing on the dirt for a few weeks, that kinda sucks. I think my next one is the second Psycowpath marathon race over at Ponca State Park. Next weekend is the Snake Alley death march, I hate that race but I kind of like it. It’s a fun atmosphere but I always have a crappy race there. I guess it’s partly because I tend to be a little tentative when I’m in a large pack of roadies on concrete. The last thing that I want to do is get caught up in a wreck on concrete and potentially screw the rest of my season on the dirt. It’s not worth it. So, depending on how I feel, I may just hang back where the pack isn’t so thick and focus on getting myself a nice, high intensity workout in.
A bunch of us are bringing our mountain bikes to Burlington next weekend. Tater Tot, Amanda, Frankenbike and others are going to take us over to Danes Woods for some dirty goodness after the Snake. So if you’re goin’ to the Snake this weekend, bring your dirt rig.
Thanks for reading,