The start line contained more big names that I recognized compared to last year, so I was prepared for a fast pace from the gun. This wasn't the case. Last year once we hit the dirt in trees leading up to the first big climb, it was on. This year the group stayed together and the pace was composed, with guys calling out rock and water crossings for those behind. It was a relief for me on the SS, until we hit the bottom of the first climb when all the geared guys shifted down to settle into a nice pace. A pace that I felt would be too slow for me and I'd end up burning more energy over the course of the climb. So I just went off the front! I heard someone cheer "SINGLE SPEEEEEED!!!" from the group as I chugged up the hill trying to stay on top of my gear.
I fully expected at least a few people to go with me, someone else had to be itching to go! But nope, I looked back after a bit and didn't see anyone. I must have gained a 20-30 second gap by the first crest. After some more rollers another solo geared rider came to join me. Saying that he just wanted a head start on the downhill because he was a pansy (his words). I didn't care, it was nice to have some gears do the pacing for a bit. We stayed together for a while and then I drank too much fluids when I should have eaten and so I fell off his pace a bit. And decided to cruise the flats on the top for a bit and fall back into the main group since they'd eventually catch me anyway. As the leaders caught up, it was nice to hear some compliments from very experienced racers on my breakaway. Although, it really wasn't strategic at all. I was racing the mountain at that point and doing what I felt I needed to do!
We all hit the first aid station together and went right by, it was only mile 20. The steepest part of the climb followed, and I fell back from the leaders just a bit, but I caught a few back on the descent so I was with three others for the flat pavement transfer that followed. Spinning my legs off, well in excess of 100rpm at 27mph to stay with the group hurts so bad, and it's really hard to reach into your back pocket and get something to eat. But generally it's worth it to stay with a group. We hit the next climb together, but I was really in need of some time to recover at that point.
|Climbing up Crocker Mt Rd.|
They'd end up getting a gap on me, which I didn't make up on the next descent. So I was all alone when I came to a T intersection of a deep gravel road under construction. As I approached I was thinking that I needed to turn left there, remembering from last year, but there was a cone with a course flag in it on the right side. So I started to turn right, looking over my left shoulder down the other direction of the road for more course flags because it felt wrong. A second later, I heard Jon Baker turn right too. I figured he's an experienced racer so if he saw it that way, it must be right. It was not. He went on past me and we climbed all the way up and over the next hill, in horrible deep gravel. I began to notice that I was only seeing his tire tracks in that deep gravel, and it should be fairly easy to see more. We started going down the hill and in a clear view of the road saw nobody ahead. We stopped and agreed that we made a mistake, and started slogging back up the hill. On the way back down, we picked up four more riders who'd made the same mistake, but hadn't gone as far. By the time we got back to the intersection, I'd covered an additional four miles, lost about 25 minutes and wasted a whole lot of energy. Mental energy too. But when the road straightened out, I saw a group of riders that I wanted to catch up to before crossing the big open valley. So I pinned it.
I had almost caught up to that group when we made the turn onto the pavement that crosses the wide open valley and I really wanted to be with a decent sized group. I was spinning so fast, and was almost in reach when they picked up the pace. Ahhhhh!!! C'mon!!! I chased a little more but I could only hold 28mph for so long, and I watched them ride away.
|Crossing the big valley. photo: cx magazine|
So I settled back down to about 19mph and munched on a Clif bar, frustrated and disappointed. But as I made my way across the valley a few of us stragglers grouped together and started picking up the pace again and rotating pulls. That gave me some motivation again and by the time we turned off the pavement I was ready to recover some of my lost time. I blew through the aid station and set out solo. And I was alone for a long time, which isn't great for a single speeder in the flats. But at least it's pretty...
|Open country. photo: cx magazine|
|No-man's land. photo: cx magazine|
|Ripping a descent with AJ Snovel|
The big descent down to the Genesee valley was a blast. I think it had been graded since last year, so it was a little looser dirt but had no washboard bumps. So 40mph was easy to get up to and just let 'er fly! I made my first stop at the aid station at the bottom, which is about mile 65 I think. Filled up bottles, pounded a coke and set off again knowing that the real pain will begin at mile 73 with a 10 mile climb.
I rolled into the base of the big climb with AJ and two others and when it got steep I left them behind to stay on top of my gear. But that didn't last long as cramps and overall fatigue set in, and wouldn't go away for the next hour of climbing. Everything hurt, and some muscles just didn't function. So I walked a fair bit more than last year with my earlier detour leaving me with less energy at this point in the race. But there would be an oasis at the top of the climb...
|The life saving WTB Aid Station with Ben Cruz. photo: WTB|
With my calves fully cramped and my quads firing slowly, I rounded the corner to see the WTB aid station and Ben Cruz running up to me asking me what I wanted. So I said the first thing that came to mind:
Oh yeah, they had that! Bacon wrapped pickles to be precise. I don't like pickles, so I unwrapped the first one and ate just the bacon. But I could taste the pickle juice, and it tasted perfect. So a down the hatch went a couple pickles in bacon blankets, followed soon after by peanut butter filled pretzels. There was tequila too. Which sounded like a GREAT idea, but could also cause me to stay there and hang out with them the rest of the day. So I passed on that, but with a stomach full of salty, fatty goodness I was refreshed and set off on the home stretch.
At about mile 93, in the middle of the woods I came across some CDF crews doing some work in the area. There were about 30 guys sitting by the side of the road taking a break, suit faced and dirty. They saw me coming and started cheering VERY loudly. It was awesome! I heard "POP A WHEELIE!!" from the crowd as I passed by, so I did. When I front wheel came down, a roaring cheer erupted again in the middle of the woods. That may be the best part of my race, and I went into the last six miles laughing and with a smile on my face. Thanks guys!
I rolled into the finish about 45 minutes slower than last year and totally spent. Six hours and forty two minutes was my official time and I had no idea that I had still managed 3rd place, I just really wanted a dip in the lake and a beer. Done.
|A dip in Lake Davis after a long day on the bike.|
|The SS podium.|
Check out CX Magazine's report of this year's race as well: CXM Lost & Found Report