Today was the annual Stan Crane Memorial mountain bike race in Corner Canyon. It's the one mountain bike race a year I have no excuse not to do. It's on a Monday, so no conflicts with road races. And it's in my backyard--or may as well be--I rode my bike from home to the start. On dirt.
Given that it's a local race, lots of local guys show up. The fields are the biggest of the year, so "winning" is in how you define it. In my case, I won this race in the Sport class last year, so I figured it was time to move up and race Expert, especially since that way I could compete against more of my friends. Specifically, I had my eye on Adam and Aaron, who would both be racing in my category, as well as Daren and Bob, who would be starting a minute back in the Expert 40+ (Brad was also in this field, but he's beat up on me so many times I've given up), and Rick and Nick, who would both be racing singlespeeds, starting 90 seconds back. Hanging with Adam and Aaron would be a "win," while beating the other guys was a matter of pride given that I had a head start.
I failed miserably.
I started the fire road climb ahead of Adam and Aaron, but I had pushed it way too hard getting to that point and was anaerobic before I started going up. They both passed me with no answer on my part. Bob passed soon thereafter.
Rick was the next to pass me on the second climb. Then on the descent, one of the guys from Kuhl asked if he could pass, which I moved over to allow, and he promptly crashed right in front of me. My choices were to hit him or hit his bike. I hit his bike and broke his brake lever, perhaps among other things, in the process. That was an expensive pass for him. Sorry. Nick came around while I was getting untangled.
Daren caught me right before we finished the lap. I let him by and then followed his wheel until we got on the fire road again. And again, I just couldn't climb. Rick was still in sight at this point, and I tried to bridge to both of them but got no response from my legs.
On lap three, I thought I was DFL in my category but kept going because 1) I hoped I might pass someone and avoid the broom wagon, and 2) I was finally starting to feel good. I was in a rhythm and got around a few people on the fire road. I kept up a good pace on the second climb. Then on the last little up on Silica Pit, I had chain suck trying to get in my small ring. I got my chain out of my frame and tried to pedal and it sucked again. I tried to clear it twice more and finally just pushed my bike up the climb and shifted back into my middle ring at the top.
Had we been racing two more laps, I might have done OK. Or I might have blown up even more spectacularly on lap 4 and/or 5. It could be that the good legs I had on lap three were just a function of smelling the barn and knowing the suffering was almost over. Either way, I was happy to see teammate Pete M. take the win, with Drew in second and Justin in fourth. Oh, and I wasn't DFL, either, but 19th out of 26 finishers isn't anything worth mentioning, except a few of you would probably look it up, so I saved you the trouble.
I've mentioned before that the thing I like about road racing is that with tactics and drafting, it's more than just a straight contest to see who's strongest, since if it is, I probably won't win. Well that's what a mountain bike race is, and those guys who show up every weekend and just go full gas for two hours have my respect. That's a hard way to race.
I guess the one thing from the day I can be proud of is that on one of the several occasions when I got passed, the guy coming around said "you're the SkiBikeJunkie guy, right?"
"Yeah" (bracing myself wondering who I pissed off and how).
"I love your blog."
To whoever you are (I couldn't exactly see clearly at the time, plus you were going too fast for me to get a good look), thank you. You made my day.