Tuesday, May 13, 2008

MNSCS#1 is in the bag

The past race weekend held lots of "Firsts" for me: Not only was it the first race of the series, but it was the first race on my new bike; I managed my first crash of the year; it was Tracy's first Mother's Day; and Charlotte's first mountain bike race.
The day turned out to be better than predicted. It was sunny and windy, with no rain in sight. The forecast had showed rain, so this was a real treat. We arrived early so I could look for Brad, our Citizen racer. I didn't find him, so we watched the kids race, talked to the volunteers who made the race happen and took some pictures. We set up camp near the water tower and took Charlotte in the Burley out on the course where we could cheer and get an idea of how the course looked. Initial reports claimed that the trail was in pretty good shape albeit for a reroute and a large mud pit. Everywhere else seemed to be dry.
Sometime during the Citizen race I found Neil and his friend Joshua, who were getting ready for the action. Neil's mother happened to attend the race and I was on the lookout for a mom with a cowbell. We met up and spent part of the Sport race chatting, taking pictures and of coure, ringing the cowbell. Neil managed to miss his wave at the start and was forced push his way through the 2nd wave to get to the course and played catch-up. The sport riders where looking pretty good as they made their way to the finish, with only a couple racers who obviously hit the mud pit face first.
My race was coming up, so I had a sandwich and a hotdog and started riding around. I found Dan and we chatted at the back of the pack while waiting for the start. The Comp group looked decently sized and had plenty of new faces. As the Experts took off, it was clear that their group was big as they rolled through the Start/Finish area like a passenger train. Soon we got word that we had 10 seconds to go.
The pack is off and immediately things are goofy. People are going all over the place and I manage to touch the wheel of the guy in front of me as he cut left, up the sloping hill. I knew Dan was on my left, so I didn't want to go left too much and force him into the tall grass. I tried to maintain my composure, but he kept going left and I hit his wheel again. And again. Now it's just too much and I'm unclipped and falling to the right, down the hill. I do about 3 hops on my right leg to try to stay upright, but gravity and momentum take over and I'm tumbling. I wish it was on tape, as it felt like a text book tuck-n-roll with a nice pop-up afterwards. I remember going down and expecting a knobby tire right in my back. As I'm upside down I did see a bike coming at me, but luckily the rider managed to avoid my tumbling ass and I popped up okay. As I grabbed my bike and laughed, I heard shouts from the crowd as they made fun of me....well deserved....
I tried not to get too excited and over-exert myself to catch back up, as I didn't lose a TON of time, but I didn't lollygag either. By the time we started to hit the single-track, I made sure I passed several more people as we literally waited in line to get rolling. I managed to sneak up the inside of several riders before launching the single-track.
The Tuarine is an absolute dream to ride. It handles amazingly quick and doesn't falter when I give it input to accelerate. In the past I've dreaded passing at this race due to the massive slow-down once I've left the trail. Not this year. The Taurine seemed to glide over the grass and allowed me to power through the rough stuff and make passes seem easy. This was good, as I passed several people by the time we reached the first wet spot. Several riders chose the middle line, I saw an opening on the left and made a pass on about 3 riders. Sweet. Through the sweeping corners of the pine trees I was feeling fast. Momentum was great and I was closing gaps. Climbing was also awesome and again I was passing riders. One thing I liked was that once I made a pass I was able to keep the power down and create a gap. Pretty soon I noticed Dan a litte ways ahead of me and it seemed I might have regained my position in the group. I tried to keep the pace, but knew that Dan was a master of reserves and power in the end. I felt good into the 2nd lap and could still see Dan ahead of me. By the 3rd lap, I was starting feel tired in the legs and the wind was starting to bug me in the open. I tried to fight through it mentally and give just a little bit more on each pedal stroke. When I came to the mudpit on the 3rd lap I wheelied over it and when I landed on the other side my calves cramped up. I kept pedalling and eventually it lessened, but it was still a little tender. The last climb up to the pavement has never been my friend and this 3rd time flet like it took forever. I entered the pavement to cheers and tried to look good. As I started the last lap I told myself I was going to leave it all out on the course. I tried to bridge up to a rider ahead of me before entering the single-track. I did. I told myself I would pass him after the first climb and before the first wet spot. I did. But boy was I getting tired. I tried to relax just a bit through the twisty stuff. I got passed on a long sweeper as I took the outside line thinking being on the dirt would maintain my speed more. Well, maybe not. I tried to stick with the guy who passed and I actually closed in on him in the short twisty trail around the pond. Cool. If I can hang with him to the mudpit, maybe I can make a pass before the last climb to the pavement. Turns out I made a pass and I was doing the last climb in front of him. However, once we hit the pavement, he rocketed past me and I stood up to hang on. Not quite enough to hang with him, as I was 6 seconds back as we crossed the line.
The race was over and I felt spent. The new bike was great and performed beyond my expectations. I grabbed some water and had to head out as we had plans to be in MapleGrove right away.
Turns out I scored my first Top 10 of the season - age group. I nabbed 49th out of 77 (PDF link). Not too bad for the first race - one that I usually don't enjoy due to the non-technical nature. I didn't really expect much due to my non-performance at this event in the past. I'm mostly looking forward to taking the Taurine out on some technical stuff - like The Powder Monkey, or Red Wing - to see how it really handles.
Thanks to everyone who made the race happen, to everyone who cheered for me, to all the mother's out on their day, and to the person who reminded me not to crash as I completed my prologue lap. Good times indeed!

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