September 1, 2008

The last race report of 2008…probably

I’m sure everyone has been just, well, riveted by my race reports (“So, I was riding 5 mph up the hill for 45 minutes, but this guy in front of me was riding 5.02mph – it was really exciting…”) Fear not, this will almost certainly be the last race report of 2008, because the Winter Park series concluded on Saturday with the always-fun Tipperary Creek race.

Tipperary is a great course, but there are a few bits I don’t like – specifically, the long flat dirt road sections at the start and finish, and the Flume trail, which is flat or slightly downhill, 8 feet wide, and covered with rocks and roots. Just about the worst possible place to be trying to spin the 34×20, in other words.

The start of the race, as always, was pretty mellow. I think the pro field loses a minute or so to a lot of the expert (and maybe even sport) categories because everyone knows they’re not going to win the race on the initial 3.5 miles of flat dirt road, so we all just sit in and chat until we hit the Tipperary climb. In any case, I ran my trusty 2×2 drivetrain (38/34 in front, 16/20 in the rear) which allowed me to stay with the pack for the flat section, then I got off and swapped to the 34×20 for the remainder of the race. Some folks once tried to give me a hard time about this setup, claiming I wasn’t being a “true” singlespeeder (since I don’t have any facial hair or tattoos, and I don’t like cheap beer, I probably don’t qualify anyway). But I’m not racing the singlespeed race, nor do I care – it’s a setup I enjoy riding, and it lets me hang on for those first 3.5 miles and still race with my friends the rest of the way.

So, as usual, I was dead last onto the climb, and I spent the whole climb chasing and passing people – I think I was up to about 5th at the top, but hadn’t managed to catch Paco, who is usually my rabbit for the starts of races. That was a bad sign – the legs didn’t really have any snap, and I was having a lot of trouble just keeping my head up to look ahead on the trail. I rode terribly on the descent and Mike West (who I had dropped by about 30 seconds on the climb) caught me and passed me easily towards the bottom. Then Flume started, and I started going backwards – Nick caught me and blew by me with about a 5mph closing speed on his 3″ travel 29er, and I think about 7 or 8 others passed me too.

That set the tone for the rest of the race. I would catch and pass Nick and several other people on every smoothish climb, then get absolutely crushed on the flat bits and descents as I desperately tried to keep my head (and motivation) up. I finally caught Nick for the final time about 2 miles from the finish, and he gamely put me on his wheel and pulled my sorry ass past one last rider before the finish line (thanks Nick!) as I was aiming for the series podium and every point was important. Alas, it wasn’t enough – I finished 11th (of 42 finishers) and was 4th overall for the series, just 4 points off the podium. C’est la vie. Next year, next year. I was happy to take 2.5 minutes off my time from last year, at least.

The ladies had a better race and did quite well – Sarah raged the first half in front of some of the pros before blowing up (she raced on only a couple hours of sleep and forgot her camelback) but still took 7 minutes off her time from last year to finish 3rd in expert and win the overall for the series. Eszter also rode well and finished 2nd in the pro race, and snuck onto the podium in 3rd for the series.

In any case, a great season, even if I did miss my goal of making the final podium. I think if I’d managed to race the 2nd race (I was ill) I would have done it. Not getting hammered the night before the SuperD would have helped as well, of course. But I have no regrets – I went for it, and I had some great races as well as some very poor ones.