Photos courtesy of Tyrine
I didn’t make the decision on Ida Grove or Wausau until Thursday night and Wausau won. My form has been really good the past couple of years…the best that its’ ever been in my 11 years of mountain bike racing. Because I am the ringleader for the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series (IMBCS), I do feel a sense of obligation and desire to be at every IMBCS race. However, I also feel a very strong need to hit some big regional races to put myself to the test to see how I stack up against the best that the Midwest has to offer. Sea Biscuit has been involved with the IMBCS for as long as I have, so he went to Ida Grove as the IMBCS rep while Julie and I made the 7 hour trek to Wausau.
We drove up on Saturday with the intent of doing a recon lap or two of the course, however the weather had other ideas. I left Des Moines at 6 in the am and it was raining…it rained the entire way up to Wausau. The course at Nine Mile Forest can typically handle a lot of rain and for the most part, the course actually gets better when it rains before a race. We arrived in Wausau that afternoon and not only was it raining, the temperature was a balmy 43º! We checked into the hotel and then went over to the course to register and ponder the idea of riding.
We arrived at Nine Mile at about the same time as Tyrine, so we caught up on life and had a nice group discussion as to whether we felt like suiting up for a recon ride in the icy rain. Race headquarters was located in a nice shelter and tucked away in one of the corners was a fireplace. I took a look at Julie and instantly knew that her course recon was going to consist of reading the WORS racer handbook in front of the fireplace. The Superfly half of Tyrine and I decided to buck up and get a lap in. So I put almost all of the warm clothing that I had on and headed out for a lap. Once I got rolling, it really wasn’t all that bad, the course was in great shape and I had little to no mud on my bike when I finished the lap.
At some point through the night, the rain had stopped and morning broke with cloudy skies and mostly dry pavement outside. I took a look out the window and smiled knowing that course conditions were going to be great considering the swirling toilet bowl like showers that the state of Wisconsin had received the day before. We arrived at the course with a couple of hours to spare before Julies race in the Category 2 (Sport) class. No less then 30+ women lined up for the sport race. Julie had expressed a lot of enthusiasm for racing in Wisconsin and Minnesota because of the number of women that toe the line….music to my ears!
I didn’t get to see any of her race because my race followed hers and I needed to my act together and get a good warm up in. She ended up finishing 13th overall and 6th in her age group. They had to do the same lap that the Elite class did and there were some pretty technical sections, including the notorious Ho Chi Minh trail which is littered with a lot of sharp, tricky, meat grinding rocks just waiting to devour unsuspecting mountain bikers. I was told by several peeps that no less than 27 cats in the Elite field had flatted at some point from the jagged stones of the Ho Chi Minh at last years race. If that weren’t enough, almost all of the singletrack contained plenty of wet, snotty roots that are more than happy to re-route you into the neighboring weeds or the tree from which the root feeds. Julie only had to dismount a couple of times on the Ho Chi Minh, which made me quite proud considering that she’s still a rookie of sorts.
The calm before the storm. I’m in there next to Eppen, I told him that I was going to crush him. He laughed at me. I was wrong.
The WORS series is big enough that Pro’s are categorized separately from the Category 1 age groupers. So all Pro’s and series points leaders get call ups, which for me is much needed considering how lousy my starts are in big races. I got a 2nd row call up in the 50+ Elite field, Don said ‘Gooooooooooooo’ and we were off. It took me a few tries, but I finally got clipped in and found myself mid pack once again. Thankfully the course threaded it’s way through a lot of wide open cross country ski trail before dumping us into the first section of singletrack. I was able to work my way through the field until I latched onto a group of seven. By that time, the lead group was long gone and so were my chances of catching up. It was all that I could do to hang onto the group that I was with, especially when the trail turned upwards. My legs felt like a couple of wet noodles and I knew that today was going to be one of those days where I was going to be suffering like a wounded animal…and suffer I did!
Paul Ellis leading the train of pain.
Threadin’ our way through the awesome pines of the northwoods.
Nine Mile singletrack...just add water.
The group of seven consisted of myself, Ted Hanes, Paul Ellis, MacIej Nowak, an out of shape, recovering from knee tendonitis Mike Phillips and a couple of others. Paul and Ted did the lion’s share of the work during the first three laps and I pretty much killed myself to hold 2nd or 3rd wheel in the group throughout. During one of the more tricky, rooted sections of lap three, Ted hit the deck while leading and Paul and I were able to get through the wreckage without too much trouble. My first thought was to hit the gas and separate Paul and myself from the rest of the group. Paul seemed to have the same idea and on one of the hills, was able to separate himself from the group. I was sitting 2nd wheel when he got away and as soon as the trail flattened out a little, I dumped it down a few cogs and managed to reel him back in. I looked back and saw nobody.
One of the few times that you will ever see me in front of Mikey. He yelled at me for going to slow in the singletrack. I should have thrown my water bottle at him.
As Paul and I exited a section of singletrack, I told him that we had a good gap and to punch it. We maintained the gap for about a half of a lap before Ted and MacIej had bridged back up to us. Throughout lap 3, I heard a few spectators indicate that we were in positions 8, 9, 10 and 11. So the thought of salvaging a top ten, always a goal in a WORS race, was looking pretty good.
Throughout the 4th and final lap, the four of us stayed together and I started showing myself at the front of our group with a few half-hearted attempts at creating some separation. My attempts were unsuccessful and thought of having to sprint it out at the finish was quickly becoming a reality. We hit the final stretch with Paul in the lead. I was glued to his wheel and Ted was on my wheel. I heard Paul ratchet it down a few gears and the sprint was on. Ted went around me and I gave it all that I had. Ted ended up taking the sprint for 8th, Paul was less than a second back in 9th and I salvaged 10th. MacIej must have sat up because he was a further 10 seconds back.
The race at the front was a pretty good one as Brian Matter took another win from the brothers Lalonde, followed by Marko and Jesse in 2nd and 3rd. Brian Eppen brought home 4th and Bender rounded out the top five. The story of the day for the state of Iowa… Kim Eppen crushed the women’s field to the tune of just over 9 minutes and the icing on the cake was Robin Williams finishing just ahead of pro Kyia Anderson for an Iowa 1-2 sweep.
The brothers Lalonde tag teaming Brain Matter… only it didn’t work out this time around as Brian took the W.
The Adventure 212 duo of Chris Peariso and Mike Bender giving each other a beat down.
If Robin were to tuck her pig tails inside of her jersey, the reduction in drag would have been worth at least 5 minutes.
The Eppenator-ette deconstructing the women’s field.
Looking back on the weekend, I am pretty happy to have managed a top ten on a day when I wasn’t feelin’ the love. All that you can do when that happens is put your head down and persist with the effort. Next week I begin my taper into my first of two peak periods of the season, so the flat leg syndrome should gradually be replaced with the fresh leg syndrome.
Next up is the 4th installment of the Nebraska Psycowpath series up in the middle of nowhere Lake Maskenthine. I don’t really enjoy the 3 hour drive to get there, but they have a pretty fun course and I love racing on a different course every weekend, so it’s well worth the drive for me.
Thanks for reading,