Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Return To Oz

The plan for the weekend was to head over to Lewis & Clark for the IMBCS / Psycowpath race. Shim called me Thursday night and told me they had just gotten hammered by a bunch of rain. He said the race was very doubtful as the forecast for Friday was something like a 90% chance of rain.
A good friend of mine had moved to Madison, WI a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about when I might have a chance to pay her a visit. So we were talking Thursday night and I mentioned to her that my race was most likely going to be postponed. She suggested that I come up that weekend. I told her I’d think it over and let her know on Friday.
I kinda remember there being a WORS race that weekend, up in Wausau, one of my favorite race venues up there. Friday morning came, I’m sitting at work, throwin’ down some coffee. The status of the Lewis & Clark race was still up in the air. I was talking to tPod and he said that he thought I should go to WI. Screw it, I’m goin’. I took off from work early, threw all of my race stuff into the car and hit the road for the 4 ½ hour drive to Mad City.
WORS races happen rain or shine. From 1999 to 2002, I did every WORS race. None of them were ever postponed or cancelled. Every other weekend, I’d throw all of my gear into the car, meet a bunch of buddies from Milwaukee at the race venue on Friday and we’d camp all weekend and do the race on Sunday. Lot’s of really good memories…
The Elite class at WORS races is always stacked with pro’s and semi-pro’s from all over the Midwest. Hands down, the best competition that you’re going to find in the Midwest.
This particular race had a new format for WORS, they call it a marathon. 40ish miles for the elite and comp class, mass start (sort of), lot’s of double track with some sweet singletrack sprinkled throughout the lap. It rained for most of the two hour drive from Madison to Wausau. We got to Wausau and the course was still pretty dry but the rain was coming, it was just a matter of when. As is typical with any WORS race, there were hundreds of peeps riding around the venue on mountain bikes. The vibe was all about mountain bike racing, just like I remembered.
I wanted to get to the course two hours early to give myself enough time to get registered and maybe do a recon lap. We got there with about 75 minutes to spare. So I hustled over to registration, got signed up, used the can, then went back to the car to get myself into race mode. While getting ready I ran into a few of my old camping buddies that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, Gregasaurus, Tyrant, great to see those guys again.
I got a halfway decent warm up in and rode over to the start area amongst the 700+ other racers. They had the usual call ups for the top 20 cats in the series points, I rolled up behind the top 20 and had a pretty decent start position among the 60+ starters in the elite field. We had the usual 10 second countdown and then it was ‘Goooooooo!’. I had a pretty good start and within the first mile I was sitting in a comfortable 4th place with Doug Swanson leading the train. For the first three or four miles I was hovering in the top ten in a pace line of about 20 or 30 and we were flyin’ down this forest road. It was at this time that the cat in front of me, Marko Lalonde took a swig of his water bottle. Next thing I know, his arse is about a foot above his saddle, both feet are out of his pedals and he’s doin’ the splits over the top of his bike. I quickly realized that the shite was about to hit the fan. While he was in the process of crashing, I grabbed a handful of brake, front and back, probably locked both wheels up, and ran into him. I somehow managed to land on my feet with my bike layin’ on the ground. I braced myself for the inevitable multi-bike pileup and got drilled by the next guy in line. I came out of it still on my feet, but my bike was at the bottom of a pile of bikes. When I finally got back on my bike I was in last place... game over. I started up again and managed to pick off quite a few others throughout. I pretty much rode the entire race with the first place woman, Sara Kylander-Johnson, a pro from Duluth. We swapped pulls throughout and worked together pretty well. It kinda turned my not so fun situation into a fun one.
About midway through the first lap it started to rain and it didn’t stop until after I crossed the finish line. My legs seemed to feel really good, but I had a hard time getting any kind of speed going, felt like I was going really slow and I wasn’t making up ground on the rest of the elite field as I had expected. Throughout the race the course conditions worsened but it was all 100% rideable throughout the race. It was actually pretty easy compared to some of the mud races in Iowa, the mud wasn't as peanut buttery. Towards the end of the race, I could hear my back brake starting to rub, figured it was probably caked with mud so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
So in the end I finished something like 37th out 60+ starters. Very disappointing. I was really hoping to match or better my best WORS finish of 10th overall. It was still a lot of fun and it was good to get back and experience the WORS madness.
It was about a week after the race when I finally got around to cleaning up my bike. I rolled it out to the driveway and noticed that the rear wheel was doing more sliding than rolling. I hosed my bike down and put it on the workstand. I tried to rotate the back wheel and it took some effort to get thing to roll. So I took the wheel off and took a closer look at my brake rotor and noticed that it was bent, happened during the multi-bike pileup. So I pretty much rode the entire race with a severe rub in my rear brake… great. Explains why I was riding like a pig (no offense Brent) when my legs appeared to feel good.
Being the competitor that I am, I feel a strong need to redeem myself. After looking at the local mtb race calendar, there are a couple of open weekends that happen to coincide with a couple of WORS races. So the plan is to do the race in Franklin, near Milwaukee, on August 5 and the series finale in Sheboygan on October 7.

Thanks for reading,


No comments: