Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to lose a bike race in 30 seconds: the Pinnacle Debacle

Coming off a massive amount of training for the Dirty Kanza 200, and a little more than a week of rest, I thought I could just jump into a mountain bike race and get a result. Of course I could count the number of times I had ridden my mountain bike this year on one hand before the Pinnacle. But I had all this fitness, and I was light, and fit, and skinny, right? Plus I've had good races at the Pinnacle, well one good race, when I was a novice mtb racer.

I filled up my car with mountain bike gear for the first time 2013 with great hopes of arriving early enough to ride a full lap. Yet I neglected to account for enough set up time. I did manage to ride a half lap. I got warmed up just enough, and saw both the beginning & end of the full lap. I did a couple of quick jump efforts after my pre-ride to finish my warm up.

A bunch of friends & Plymouth area riders showed up to race. I was great to see the Boobars, The Foulkes, the Lehmanns, and a full compliment of Sampsons. Andy Harvey also brought his four freshman mtb club members to get their first weekend race starts. I didn't feel any more pressure to perform, but I also did not want to under perform.

I slot into the narrow front row, managed to take the hole shot rather easily, and punch through the first section of woods to fire road. I backed off the pace and let a Biker's Edge racer come around. My thought was to ride wheels through the first lap & perhaps even the second lap to get a sense of the course. I felt comfortable following the Biker's Edge racer for a mile. Then he stumbled & a Bikeman racer came around. He was riding smooth of the single track, but slowing down on the open up hills. We traded pulls for a while until he stumbled. I was at the front for the second half of the lap. I pressed the speed a little bit with out going all out. But I was in front, so I was not able to see how the guys behind me were riding.

I bombed down the old ski hill that is "the pinnalce" and made the sweeping right had turn to start lap two. I saw that my gap was a few seconds, but a gap none the less. I pressed the front a little harder, but made a couple of dabs in the single track allowing the group behind me to close. In the middle of the lap a racer who I had not seen before gracefully edged around me into the tightest section of single track. He did not look like he was racing at all, just riding with flow & finesse. I tried to keep him close figuring I could close on him in the long down hill section. But he was riding so smooth that I had to work hard to pull him back on the hills. But I continued to work my plan. I went down the long technical descent as fast I could. Just before exiting the single track to head toward the top of "the pinnacle" I heard some argie bargie behind me. I recognized the voice, it was my nemesis Rich Blair. He is an ex-downhill racer, so I knew better than to let him pass easily, or hold his wheel once he did. Sure enough, he eventually squirted around & flew down the slope. He was in sight though as I crossed the start/finish. I surely would be able to pass him on the first hill.

And that's where I made my mistake. Rather than watch the bridge entrance across the big creek, I was looking up the track at Rich. So I missed the bridge. I went over the bars into the creek as my saddle slammed into my lower back. When I crawled out of the creek, the three guys I had been leading zipped up the trail ahead of me. When I got back on the bike (after resetting the dropped chain) I had no power on my right side. I had bruised my back & hip enough to block the muscles. So all I could do was spin, and hope to lose no more position.

The third lap was long, and painful, and frustrating. But I ground my way through it. I was surprised, even pleased, to finish 5th. I was disappointed that I had not held it together to race for the win. But all it takes is one big mistake.

I was happy to see Seth Warner win his first xc race (chip off the old block) and the other Plymouth/Rhino boys come in 3rd & 4th. Andy was his age group, Tom Sampson won the Elite race. So for club as a whole, it was a very good day. And to be honest, any day racing bikes is better than a day in a cubicle.