Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We saw the family truckster on the way up...we knew it was going to be a good weekend after that.
BS'n with Doug and Eric O.
The start of the 70+ strong elite field. Brendan's thinkin', "is that all you guys got for me?"
Afton…one of my favorite race courses. You’re either going up or down at Afton, and when you’re going down, it’s usually fast and can be pretty technical at times, so there’s not much opportunity for recovery. No less than 73 elite men toed the line at the start. I had, by my standards, a great start sitting 4th wheel after the initial climb and ended up 5th wheel going into the woods. It was at about that time that I realized I was going to have an average day. During the first few miles, whenever the trail opened up I got passed by one or two others. This continued for a short while until I finally recovered a little and was able to settle into a somewhat comfortable rhythm. At that point I was riding somewhere at the bottom end of the top ten.
During the 2nd and 3rd laps, I could see Eric Oftedahl and Garrett Kuzzy duking it out behind me on some of the portions of the course that doubled back on itself. I think at this point I was sitting around 8th or 9th maybe. So my goal at the time was to keep both of them behind me. As we progressed through laps 2 and 3, I was beginning to suffer on a couple of the steeper climbs, especially Shady Lane. In the past it had always been pretty easy to middle ring the climb, but for whatever reason, it was a struggle this time around. I persisted with the middle ring, turning a slower than normal cadence. In hindsight, probably not the best thing as pushing a lower cadence tends to sap the strength out of my legs.
During lap 3, I began to succumb to my suffering, Eric and Garrett were closing in on me. Garrett eventually caught up to me and settled in on my wheel. At the time, I had no idea who he was, I had never seen nor heard of him. So I had no knowledge of any potential weaknesses to exploit. As we rode along, Eric looked like he was beginning to fade, and Garrett was showing no signs of tiring. About halfway through lap 3, Garrett went around me and left me for the buzzards. I had no response for him and all that I could do was watch him ride away from me like I was standing still.
For the rest of lap 3, I was pretty much in survival mode. The heat was starting to get to me a little and my legs felt like crap when the trail turned skyward. At the beginning of lap 4, I noticed some heavy clouds starting to roll in and the temperature had dropped about 10° over the course of about 5 minutes. I felt this sudden burst of energy, it felt like all of the fatigue in my legs had been flushed…sweet! I increased the effort with the hope of catching and passing somebody, which I did. Unfortunately it was Sam O, standing on the side of the trail fixing a flat. It’s too bad as he was having a pretty stellar race. I think that he was sitting in a pretty solid 2nd place at the time that he flatted. I felt pretty bad for him, but that’s an unfortunate part of racing sometimes. His flat provided even more motivation for me, I didn’t want to get caught and re-passed by him.
Cresting one of the many climbs on the course with an angry pair of legs.
During the latter part of lap 4, the lapped traffic from the Comp race was getting pretty thick and it was staring to sprinkle a little. I ended up in 7th overall, about 90 seconds behind Garrett and about 40 seconds ahead of Sam O. After realizing the quality of the field, I was pretty content with the result. There were a lot of fast guys, Brendan as always, Doug, Jesse, McBurney had a great race. Tad Elliott, I think he is a U23 national cross and mountain bike champion. I talked to Eric O after the race and he told me that Garrett was on the 2008 Olympic Nordic Ski team. So yeah, there were a lot of big engines in the field.
Julie cresting one of the many climbs on the course…she had very angry legs too. She really did have a good time, she just didn’t know it at the time.
Julie’s race….another story. This was her first big race as a Cat 1 and I can only imagine the intimidation as she lined up with the other elite women, which included national caliber pro Jenna Rinehart. Afton is one of the most difficult race courses in the Midwest. The severity of the climbs and the sometimes technical nature of the trails can be challenging for just about all of us. The Minnesota series implemented a new rule this year, that all lapped riders would be pulled from the race. During the latter part of her race, she got lapped by Jenna and as Jenna passed, Julie told Jenna that she had never been happier about being lapped. Jenna had a big enough lead that she slowed and introduced herself to Julie and chatted it up for a few seconds. It’s things like that and racing mostly in the local scene, that makes Jenna a great ambassador for the women’s side of mountain bike racing in the Midwest. Jenna has the potential to make a career out of mountain bike racing, but instead chooses to keep it local and primarily race the Minnesota series. Good stuff.
Thanks for reading,