Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nebraska State Championships

I can’t believe the final race of this years Psycowpath series has already come and gone. The summer has flown by like it always does, time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas… think about it… that was funny.
The Psycowpath season finale, like last year, doubles as a series race and the stand alone USA Cycling State Mountain Biking Championships for the state of Nebraska. And, like last year, it was held at Swanson Park in Omaha. The week leading up to the race was saturated with rain, making a postponement seem inevitable. Friday rolled around and the announcement was made, game on! It was also announced that the start was going to be delayed by three hours. As most of you know, I’m kinda freaky about my pre-race rituals, especially when it comes to food intake. So this time, I made some scrambled eggs and some buckwheat flap jacks in the morning and chased it all down with a pot of coffee. On the way to Omahole, about three hours before the start of the race, I crammed my usual box of Mueslix down my pie hole.
I got a phone call from a buddy of mine the day before the race, telling me that they were planning to run the course backwards. Interesting choice considering that all of the lines on the course flow in the ‘correct’ direction. So I arrived at the course, signed up, suited up and hit the course for a couple of recon laps. Usually one lap will do the trick, but because it was like a new course, I decided to do two laps to get a couple of the trickier parts dialed in. The course conditions were pretty close to perfect, damp, tacky, smokin’ fast in the corners… yep, it’s gonna be a good day I remember telling myself. I was a little concerned however during the recon, when I’d kick the effort up, my legs felt kinda flat, no high end. I still felt pretty good about my chances because I’ve been riding really well the last few weeks.
The race started, I went to clip in and my foot slid off the pedal. I tried again, slipped again, tried again, slipped again, by this time I’m sittin’ mid pack…crap. Thankfully the start area was wide open and when I finally got both feet secured I was able to work my way up to third wheel, behind Kent McNeil, 1st and MG, 2nd. McNeil began to pull away almost immediately. MG was doing a great job hangin’ onto his wheel for a while and I stuck to MG’s wheel like flies on stink. After a short while I was able to get by MG, Aaron Grady was glued to my wheel and was able to get by MG also. I’m sure Grady’s plan was to stick to my wheel and at some point later in the race, turn the screws and stuff my carcass into the hurt locker. He’s been real good at doin’ that to me this season. He needed to finish two places ahead of me to take the series title away from me.

Kent McNeil, off the front like a rocket

MG suffering from the ire of McNeil

By the time we had gotten around MG, McNeil had a 15 second lead on us. Initially, I tried to close the gap, but then I realized that if we did catch him, Grady could potentially win the race. If McNeil were to hang on for 2nd and me 3rd, Grady would win the series. So I kept myself ahead of Grady and maintained a pace that kept us about 30 seconds behind McNeil. At the end of the third lap Grady was still on my wheel. As we entered the woods for lap 4, he had completely disappeared. I had no idea what had happened to him. I could sense throughout the third lap, that he might have been yo-yoin’ on and off my wheel. So I initially figured that he had popped.
As soon as I realized that Grady was gone, I punched it in an attempt to reel in McNeil. I caught up to him about midway through lap 4 and rode his wheel until the end of the lap. Riding Kent’s wheel at Swanson is about as much fun as you can have on a mountain bike, the dude is smokin’ fast through all of the technical stuff, kinda like riding on a roller coaster. We hit the start / finish area and began lap 5, I passed Kent as we were rounding a corner and I upped the ante. Shortly after we hit the woods again, I could tell that I was beginning to open a gap on him. I kept the pressure on and the gap kept increasing. By this time we were hitting a lot of lapped traffic. As a result, there were a lot of peeps behind me and I sometimes couldn’t tell if it was a cat that I had just passed or if it was Kent or Aaron catching back up to me. So with the constant threat of somebody catching back up, I kept the pressure on.

Grady firmly attached to my wheel

Grady and I railin' a corner

I started lap 6, still had the same paranoia goin’ on, so I continued to keep the pace high. About midway through the last lap, I began to realize that I had a pretty sizable lead and could relax a little. I ended up winning the race with a time of 2:06:05, Kent held on for 2nd with a time of 2:08:55 and is the USA Cycling Nebraska state champion for the 2nd year in a row. MG held onto 3rd with a time of 2:14:56, Monte Brewt brought home 4th with a time of 2:15:00 and Aaron recovered from a flat tire to bring home 5th with a time of 2:15:08. Great job to everyone that finished!

Chasin' down McNeil shortly after loosing Grady

Entering the woods with the throttle wide open on the last lap.

The final Psycowpath podium of the season, the payoff after a lot of hard work.

As with all Psycowpath races, everything was great, the course, the organization and the peeps. I do think that running the course backwards took a pretty serious toll on some, I saw a bunch of cats limping around after the race with their shoulders in a sling, bandages around knees and a lot of dirty skid marks on lycra and skin. Despite the casualties, it still looked like everybody had a great time!
So, for the 2nd year in a row, I won the Nebraska State Championship race on a course that used to tear me up one side and down the other. I’ve gotten to know the course pretty well now after having raced there for the past few years and it has become one of my favorite places to race. I also managed to repeat as the Psycowpath series champion, which means no race entry fees for next season… saweet!
A huge congrats goes out to Kent McNeil for repeating as the USA Cycling Nebraska State Champion. If Kent had been able to compete in as many of the races as I did, he would have made things a lot more difficult for me in my quest to repeat as the series champion. Kent is easily the fastest mtb’r in Nebraska and in most cases, faster than I am.
Aaron Grady proved to be the revelation of the season. If continues to race, he will be the man to beat in the future. MG (Matt Gersib) also had a great season, he used to destroy me in mountain bike races a few years ago.

Next up is the 24 Hours of Iowa at Seven Oaks. 24 hours of mountain biking goodness on some of the sweetest tread in the Midwest! This years Rassy ‘A’ team will consist of myself, Padawan Jed Gammell, Andy Lueck and mountain biker turned tri-geek Ben Garrett.

Thanks for reading,


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