Monday, August 11, 2008

How not to win a race.

Evanston is the finale for the year, it's a good race, long course and has a fun pizza party to cap it all off. It's a good time going up Friday and staying at the Vizmeg cabin and chatting with the team riders, eating and dreaming of victory on Saturday.

Saturday brings a slow start, since the race doesn't start til 11 a.m., but as the appointed time approaches there's a flurry of activity and we load up and head down the hill to set up our 'pit' and get ready to race. With the finale being a double points race there's a lot of expecations hanging on this one event and a mistake here could disrupt the season long objective of an overall podium place.

Jesse Sorenson wasn't taking any chances and was taking everything but the kitchen sink in the event that any calamity should take place. Winning, or even finishing here, would likely ensure is overall victory in his division.

I was in a similar position, holding 3rd in the points race all season behind Jay and Reed. I figured that's how it would all shake out at the end, as long as we all at least finished. I too was prepared physically and mentally for this race and determined to do well.

The race started as normal with everyone positioning and I while I started fast, couldn't hold onto Reed's wheel or Jay's, Stan's, or Todd's. At least seven guys went out and I tried to stay in contact up Sage Draw. The group was holding together pretty well and when we got to the double track I started to feel better and catching riders. The technical downhill works to my advantage and I was able to get by a few more riders and eventually only had Todd out in front of me. We hit the road and I was slowy closing the gap, the of course, Jay came from behind and passed us both pretty rapidly We were near the top and I got by Todd just in time to chase Jay up the steep climb. I noticed that the wisdom of age helped Jay and I maintain a steady pace while younger riders were burning out and dismounting frequently. I chased Jay over the boardwalk and through the downhill, not until the approach to Deadman's pass did I get by. Finally in first place I hit the backside downhill hard and cruised back up into Sage Draw with some confidence that at worst I'd be in the top 3, I just had to hold off any strong finishers.

I looked back at one point and noticed a revo jersey and thought "it couldn't be", but it was, Jim Harper had come up on me and closed the gap quite nicely. I couldn't hold him off but was determined to make him earn it. I tried to hold his wheel up the double track to Dead Man's, at the sand pit he went right and got bogged down. I was able to slide through and back into the lead, 29ers DO have an advanatge on this stuff I'm convinced. He was right behind me and all I could do was try to hold him off until the downhill. Next I'm down the technical drop on the other side and powering down the road. I caught Justin who had passed me earlier and he followed me down the fast roads back toward Sage Draw and the run in to the finish.

We were flying, hammering as fast as I could to keep a gap on Jim I was feeling pretty confident that I could push hard up Sage Draw one last time and make a race out of it. Then it happened, just before the last climb over to Sage I went from fast to crashed. Oh! I've crashed before, but its usually one of those slow speed, try to avoid an obstacle type deals, where you tip over and fall off. No this was a full on high speed wipeout. I can't even tell you what caused it. One minute I'm in first pace hammering toward the finish line and victory, in a flash I'm airborne, bike gone, the gravity takes effect and I'm tumbling over the rocks and dirt of the road.

Long story short, I fixed the bike, after a few attempts and bumming tubes, air and pump from team riders (thanks Joseph and Paul, I owe you both). Made my way in, finished 12th instead of 1st.Many bruises and scrapes, luckily none on my face. I seperated my shoulder which is both inconvienient and painful. I'm already telling Gail I want to race on Wednesday night. She just looks at me like I landed on my head.

I lost 3rd place in the overall by 3 points. Disappointing, yes, but it could be worse, so I'm just happy to have had a good season with great compeititon and made a few more friends.

Friday, August 01, 2008

On the road in Jackson Hole

Last weekend was Jackson Hole race. I love this race for many reasons. 1. It's out of town and means a road trip. 2 It's in a beautiful place, worth going to even if you aren't riding. 3. The course it technical and suits my riding style.

This year we were fortunte enough to be able to use Jesse's van and take a whole crew to the race. Chris,KC, Brad, Dave, Tim, Scott, and me. We drove up to Jackson Friday night and stayed at Hostel X right at Teton Village. It's cheap, but not cheap and there various reasons for this. It's the most afforadable solution that close to the mountain. We actually had more room in the van I think, but we were each able to find a spot to crash and got some sleep.

Race morning everyone got ready to go and we headed up for a warm up lap. The temps were decent and it was nice to be riding. My division had a decent group of 12 despite the fact that this race, due to proximity to the racer base, is kinda far away. Both Jan and Reed were here so I knew it was going to be challenging race regardless.

The start was another short road to single track at a grade that I can tolerate for spriting, so that's what I did, just like at Snowbird. I went off the front in hopes that I could control the pace on the single track, at least for a little while. I kept the pace as high as I could, while still trying to recover from my sprint. Reed was right behind me and got by in the first passing zone, which was expected. A few more riders got by on the steep climb before heading back into the forest. The key for me is to not panic, but ride within myself and try to keep everyone in sight.

The first lap went well and eventually there we were again, Jay, Reed and me all in a row. Stan was however not far behind in 4th and so there was no room to let off the gas. On the second lap we got together crossing the mountain to the lift and I knew I needed to get by and put a gap on the two leaders or they would likely out climb me on the final grueling rock hill. I went around and up the steep climb behind the lift and tried to maintain an aggressive pace. It seemed to work and I got a little time. I wanted to get to the downhill and not make mistakes so I could gain perhaps a little more. By the time I hit the rocky hill I didn't want to look back but just kept telling myself to attack the hill. I had Erika Powers just in front of me, but didn't have the legs to slip by her on the flat run in to the climb. I stayed right behind her and we both climbed a steady pace in our granny gear and cleaned the climb, riding by those who were walking their bikes up. From here I was pretty confident I'd make it in without trouble. It was a challenging race and I was a little amazed I actually as able to make a pass on Jay and Reed and the hold it. It was a great win.

Evanston is a longer course, and I'm sure the field will be bigger, it will be interesting to see if we can all stay together there as well. Either way it looks like we'll finish the overall in the order we seemed to be racing most of the year; Jay, Reed, Keith. It's been a great season of racing and fun to have such nice guys for competition.

After the race our crew road the course again after some lunch at the Merry Piglets. That hurt! But we were able to do it and got a tour of all the places KC crashed during the race. The next day we road Black Canyon, which was incredible. The Chris/KC/Tim/Brad decided to get lost on the Phillips trail and we finally got home around 10. A long weekend but a great trip with friends. I can't wait til next year.