Tuesday, June 07, 2011
It’s pretty tough to beat a couple of days on the mountain bike on one of my favorite trails, with my best friend and close to perfect weather. Julie and I headed up to Mankato on Saturday and did a couple of recon laps of the course. Julie wasn’t all that excited about doing the race as the Elite course had a couple of techy sections that she felt were a little beyond her skill level. I did the first lap with her to show her the way, and then did a second lap to get a couple of sections dialed in. I could tell by the way that my legs felt that I might have the wheels for a good race tomorrow.
Julie opted out of doing the race and put herself into partial soigneur mode. No she didn’t give me a pre or post race rub down, nor did she butter my chamiox. However she did a stellar job with the bottle hand up and heckled me into a good finish.
I got off to a pretty good start and felt good enough on the initial uphill to roll into the singletrack sixth or seventh wheel. I comfortably sat on the wheels ahead of me on the flats and as we hit the first techy section small gaps formed as it was slow going on some of the drop sections. Everybody made it through cleanly and I upped the effort to close the gap ahead of me on the next uphill.
We hit the Quick Release and the guy ahead of me took a bad line on the last drop and t-boned a tree. I skidded to a stop and had to track stand until he was able to right himself and continue on. As we started lap 2, I passed him on the uphill and found myself in 4th place. I could see Jesse Rients and Ben Koenig up the trail and it looked like Jesse had opened up a pretty good gap on Ben. It took the better part of the 2nd and maybe the 3rd lap to close in on Ben. I eventually caught up to him and held onto to his wheel hoping to recover a little. On one of the shorter, loose climbs his back tire broke loose and he had to jump off and run. He was nice enough to give me the preferred line and I passed by as he was running his bike.
Jesse was out of sight, and the leader, Brendan Moore, was most likely all ready in cruise control as he gapped the field almost as soon as the race had started. I yo-yo’d between 10 and 20 seconds behind Jesse throughout laps three and four. I could see him up ahead on some of the climbs, but it never seemed like I was gaining any significant ground on him.
One of the many roller coaster style corners on the course.
As I was heading up the climb on the fifth and final lap, somebody told me that Jesse was just up the trail and that there was a guy right behind me. I took a quick look back and saw that Ben was about 5 or 10 seconds back. I remember thinking to myself at that time that I’d have been totally OK with a 4th place on the day. However as I approached the top of the climb, I started feeling a little better and went after Jesse with a little more vigor, knowing that Ben was right behind me.
About ¾ of the way through the lap, I had found myself about five or so seconds behind Jesse as we were heading up the last climb. He had gotten by a group of Comp riders at the right time and looked like he had an open trail to the top. I caught up to the group at about the worst point in the climb, but still managed to get by. Over the last two laps, the lapped traffic was pretty thick and tough to get by. Some got over quickly, while others didn’t. Everybody is out there racing, so sometimes it’s tough to yield the right of way to the guy trying to pass. I say this a lot, I’m generally pretty good about politely alerting lappers of my presence though I probably sound a little impatient at times. That’s kinda how I roll when I’m cross-eyed and frothing at the mouth, and not always in complete control of how I articulate my words. I love that so many folks come out and race, even if it results in crowded courses. I would rather have a crowded race course and a healthy race culture, than an open course and dwindling participation.
Race winner Brendan Moore dishin' out another beatdown.
I ended up finishing about four seconds behind Jesse, good enough for third. I went into the race unsure of what to expect. I knew that my fitness was good, probably a little above where I was towards the end of last season. So it was pretty reasonable to expect a good result today, maybe a top five if I was feelin’ the love. So needless to say, I was pretty stoked with the finish.
We’re thinking about heading up to the WORS dirt circus in Wausau next weekend, provided we get a little cooperation with the weather. The form seems to be pretty good now, so I’m going to make the most of it at some of the bigger races this month.
Thanks for reading,