First off, the first race of this 6-race series is always the most competitive – because it’s a hillclimb (a 5 mile, 2000 foot hillclimb). While you’d think that most folks would skip something so painful and boring, you’d be wrong, at least in Colorado – and there are quite a few roadies who show up for this race (it’s totally non-technical and many people ride ‘cross bikes) who won’t do another mountain bike race all year. So I rolled up to the line with 32 other pros – a huge field by Winter Park standards. There were some fast guys represented, and my goal was to finish in the top ten, or barring that, the top half of the field.
From the gun (or the guy saying “go”, to be more accurate) the pace was fairly moderate, and after about 2 minutes, Colby Pierce (wicked fast road pro) and I attacked. The lower slopes of the climb are pretty steep, so my 34×20 gear was working well and I felt pretty good. And we were putting a pretty big gap into the chasers – I couldn’t even see them on many of the straight sections anymore. After about 20 minutes, though, my lack of any racing this year caught up with me, when my legs decided to drop the anchor and I blew up like the freakin’ fourth of July. Colby gapped me on a flatter section (on his way to setting a new course record by a couple of seconds) where I was a little spun out and that was it – I was in survival mode for the final 15 minutes of the climb. 4 guys managed to get by me, and while I hung on to within about 30 seconds of second place, I had nothing left at the top to try to sprint for a podium spot, so I ended up 6th in 35:18. Super pleased with that, though I felt like I could have A) trained a little bit (this was the first even vaguely hard effort I’ve done this year) and B) taken the Weirwolf 2.5″ front/Ignitor 2.1″ rear tires off and swapped them for something faster rolling and lighter. Would tires have made enough difference for me to stay with Colby? No freakin’ way, but I might have had a shot at 2nd instead of 6th if I’d had a pound less rubber to drag up the hill.
Notably, Anne Trombley set a new course record for the women as well, breaking 40 minutes, which is freakin’ awesome. She beat plenty of male pros. Good job, Anne!
Interestingly, the bike setups were: Colby: geared 69er (with a skinny ‘cross tire on the front and a rigid carbon fork), Zach: 29er 1×9, a couple of cyclocross bikes, Kenny on a 1×9 26″ setup, and then me. So the big wheels are making some inroads in the pro field, I guess. But the legs still mattered the most – I think Colby would have won on a freakin’ BMX – he was only about 30 seconds off the course record.
It’s also worth noting that while I thought I was quite the stud, 45 year old Charlie Hayes actually BEAT my time by 4 seconds, racing in the SS category. If Charlie had raced pro, he’d probably have done even better with some better competition, I think. What a stud!
I nearly collapsed at the top and then rode down a bit to finish up with Sarah and cool down my legs. She had a great race as well, taking a full 4 minutes off her old best time (she rode a 47:37, smoking fast!) and finishing 5th or 6th in a stacked women’s expert field of about 25 or 30 riders.
Taryn had a great ride on her Waltworks to finish 1st in the women’s beginner race, and Brian was 6th in expert 30-34. Yuki, who generally does better on flat courses, took a minute off his time from last year and finished 22nd in pro. Oh, and “Sandbagger” Nick Traggis won the expert 25-29 race on his Waltworks ‘cross bike by like 2 or 3 minutes. Race with the pros next time, dude!
The race was HUGE – almost 600 total riders. Kudos to Winter Park for putting on a great event, as always – if you live in the front range, you owe it to yourself to come do some of these races. Check out the Winter Park Series here.
It was great doing a race again and seeing all the old familiar faces – said hello to Unger, Barnsie, Aaron P, Tom K, Ian, and many more. Made some new friends, too – all the 29er folks seem to bond on sight, for whatever reason. Works for me!