Thursday, March 6, 2014

Racing Into Shape - Episode 4 - TBF MTB Madness

Last weekend was the fourth and final TBF race in Granite Bay and wraps up what I usually do each year to jump start my intensity training.  We got a little taste of winter in the week prior and it was nice to see Folsom Lake rising up a bit.  The weather gave us a break for the race and the trails had a day to dry out making the dirt conditions pretty stellar.  There was just a pretty strong wind from the South to contend with and would certainly become a strategic factor on a course where it's normally hard to break away.

I started mid pack just to get used to close quarters and working through traffic.  After a couple corners I was at the front and paced just fast enough to make people work without over doing it.

Once I reached the road before the first climb I looked back to see a group of about six.  Normally, someone is eager to attack here and peg it up the first climb but there were no takers.  Until about fifty yards before the turn into the climb someone tried to go by on my left.  There was room, but not much and he clipped my bar and almost took me down.  Thankfully I pulled out of it!  I certainly wasn't expecting that since there was plenty of room to pass elsewhere and, well... it's Granite Bay not a Pro XCT Short Track.  But racing is racing no matter where you are, so it was a good reminder for me not to get so comfortable.  The guy apologized and yielded the corner to me and we mashed up the climb.

I wasn't feeling very fleet and the lungs felt a little closed off on the top end efforts.  I was hoping there wouldn't be any attackers early and thankfully there weren't.  So we cruised around at a controlled pace that I got to set.

By the end of the first lap we had trimmed down the group to four and I was learning that my chasers, all under twenty years old, didn't seem to be racing each other but were really only racing me.  Especially when we were suffering into the headwind (though I guess it was only me suffering at the front!).  Thankfully they weren't working together or they could have put the hurt on me I'm sure.

Lap two was uneventful and I stayed at the front.  I backed off the effort a bit whenever we turned into the wind to try and save the legs since nobody else was willing to pull.

We were getting into some heavy traffic and thankfully I was feeling a little better by the third lap climb.  I continued to lead and at the top and first corner of the decent I heard the unmistakable sound of a tubeless tire "burp" and resulting crash.  Alec Crofoot who was sitting third had crossed up in the corner and went OTB ending his day.  So then there were three... continuing to work through traffic.  I would push the pace here and there, testing the guys a bit but they hung in there and we were just biding time until the last lap.

Final lap... somebody's got to do something!  And heading up the only major climb on the course I felt Andrew Taylor making a move as the pace increased.  He went by looking strong and I suppressed the "give up" voice in my head and was able to keep contact.  I let a little gap form towards the top to recover figuring I could catch back up on the descent and turns.  I played that strategy and stayed in contact without over doing it for the rest of the lap and was right back on his wheel with a couple miles to go.  We had dropped Tofor Lewis in third with a decent gap and we both knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish.  I stayed right in his draft as we turned into the wind and he slowed the pace, daring me to pass.  It was really hard not to but would have been a poor move in such a strong wind.  Tofor wasn't catching us so I stayed right there in the 2nd spot as we neared the line.  With two corners to go, Andrew picked the pace back up and over the final knoll he went for it a little earlier than I was expecting and got a little gap just before we were blasted with wind.  I started my attack and the gap wasn't closing very quickly and I started to think I wasn't going to get it done.  But then the gap suddenly closed so I gave it one last kick, pulling up beside with closing speed and I lunged for the line...

It was so close and neither of us knew who'd won.  We each wanted to be the winner but were both pretty stoked on how exciting it was.  In the end, the RFID timing system picked up his chip first but just barely!

Congrats to Andrew for throwing down a strong last lap.  I'm pretty happy that after pulling everyone for three laps I was able to stick with him and make it that close of a finish.  I'm pretty sure that was the first time I was in the "attacking" position for a sprint which was cool... I just need to have more confidence!