Today I went back to where my short racing career began, Addison Oaks County Park, for the Addison Oaks Fall Classic. The trail at Addison Oaks has an excellent flow, with no big climbs, and not many spots where you need to scrub your speed. Pretty much the kind of trail that invites you to go at full throttle.
I had debated racing in Expert 30-39, but the other day I found out that Expert/Elite singlespeed would be doing the same number of laps as Expert (not the same number of laps as the Sport guys like in most races). I made a morning decision to race Ex/El Singlespeed (12:30pm as opposed to a 10am start time), and headed up to the venue.
After my warm-up, I made my way over to the start line. There was a good size field today, about 10~12 Expert/Elite guys and a similar number for the Sport/Beginner guys. My teammate Todd was lined up with me, as was Cary Marsh.
On the go, I got a decent start, and settled in about 4th or 5th wheel, just behind Todd. I held on strong until 3/4 of a mile in, when I crashed after striking a pedal. Just as I was getting ready to go again, Craig pointed out that my bottle of HEED was lying on the side of the trail. A near disaster averted, I picked up my bottle and got going again.
Most of lap one was spent in catch-up mode, eventually catching Craig and Todd. Coming through between laps, I reached down to take a swig of HEED. %#@W, the bottle was gone again. Must've rattled out on one of the downhills. Luckily I carry my water in a Camelpack, so I wasn't completely screwed, but 28 miles (21 more) at race-pace with no fuel source could be bad.
The 2nd lap started, I caught back up with Cary, and passed him. He latched on, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't shake him. This would go on for 2 full laps and the beginning of the 4th lap. Early in the 4th lap, I could feel myself pulling on Cary again (like at Stony 2 weeks ago). He would be a little slower catching back up to me. A couple miles into the lap, and I heard a crashing noise. Believing Cary went down, I hammered away. I knew I needed to pull ahead so he couldn't draft me on the 2-track mid-lap.
For the rest of my last lap I played it conservatively, trying not to crash. I caught another rider in my class, passed him, and after a bit of a fight on his part pulled away.
Just over 2 hours after the start, I rode across the finish line broken, battered, and whupped. A short while later the results were posted, and I saw that I finished in 3rd place!
After a less than stellar crack at the expert class at the Custer Time Trial a couple of weeks ago, finishing in the bottom of the heap both in my age group and singlespeed, I was due some redemption. And I would find it on my home trail of Stony Creek. The overnight and early morning hours brought a fair amount of rain, but as I was making the drive, blue sky was starting to appear. I pulled into the parking lot, unloaded my bike, watched some muddy riders come through, and registered for the Expert/Elite singlespeed class.
A few minutes were spent hanging out with team members and other riding buddies, and with about 45 minutes to go I started my warm-up. Good and warmed up, I made my way over to the starting line and got staged.
Tailwind (the promoter) has both Expert/Elite and Sport/Beginner singlespeeds start at once, with the Expert/Elite guys staging at the front. I looked around to find about 18 other riders in both singlespeed classes combined.
TWEEEEEET!!!! We were off!!! I had a good start, and found myself in 5th or 6th off the line heading towards the opening climb. Cary Marsh and Joe (Sport/Beginner) were hot on my tail. We climbed, crested the top, and hit the main section of singletrack. I passed Ed Serrat in fairly short order, with Cary and Joe both passing him shortly after.
The first stretch of singletrack went uneventfully, with me taking things conservatively due to the wet conditions. We hit a fast downhill, and then had a mile of 2-track to put the hammer down. Here I put my 65 gear inches to use, but Cary was there to answer spinning away. We headed into the Pines, a flat stretch of singletrack that flows nicely, and except for a stretch in the middle, is blazing fast. Speeds, especially in that middle section, were kept in check due to the slickness. A sport guy who had been in front of us crashed here, and we all went around. After the Pines, we had about a third of a mile of flat 2-track, and then a couple 2-track rollers before hitting the rest of the main singletrack. After we finished the singletrack, there was another ~1 3/4 miles of gently rolling 2-track with one good hill. I tried again to no avail to gap Cary here again.
Through the start/finish area into the opening climb, with Cary and Joe hot on my tail. Joe took the lead of our little group mid-lap, and I jumped on his wheel to catch a bit of a draft. We also caught and passed a rider from Wolverine Cycling Club. Towards the end of lap 2, I re-took the lead of our group, and as we approached the start/finish area, I could feel myself starting to pull away.
On the opening hill of the last lap, I dropped Cary and Joe. Now flying solo, I held a strong pace. In fact I wouldn't see anyone else from my class until the end. I crossed the line after 1 hour 35 minutes and change. Joe Lee from Fraser Bikes told me that he thought I was in 3rd or 4th. I didn't believe him, but after the results were posted, I saw that I did finish in 3rd! Some great redemption for the Custer TT, and proof that I am capable of running with some big dogs.