Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Change is Good

If you were to ask me to describe previous races at Red Wing with single words, here's what you'd get:


Typically it feels as if it's 95 degrees and 95% humidity at this race. There seems to always be an ambulance run and there's very little shade if you're spectating. And it's hot. It's always been a challenge for me. This year however, the day brought a kinder, gentler temperature range and made it very tolerable.

This day I dragged Lalla along since he was skipping the stage race in St. Cloud, so I figured I'd have someone to ride with for a bit (Lalla, remember the St. Cloud race a couple years back?!) - even as he was sporting his new road shoes and pedals on the Specialized.

Red Wing got a bit of rain prior to race day and the trail was tacky for the morning racers. However, as my start time got closer the trail seemed to dry up nicely and looked to be offering up some ideal trail conditions.

I told myself that I was going to make a point to be at the line early so I could get a spot closer to the front. If you know me, you know that I typically start near the back, so this was kind of new territory for me. I've tried it a couple times before and quickly blew up to fade through the field like a stone in water.

But this is a new me. This is a new bike. And change is good.


Lalla and I were next to each other as the Experts charged from the line. Immediately there was a crash and a small group of guys went down. Hard. Trace got some good pictures:

Can you spot who's about to go down??

And he's back up!

After I saw the hurt rider get up and continue I applauded and tried to shake off any flashbacks to my crash at the start of the Spring Cup.

The announcer tells us that we'll be doing 3 laps and that there are a coule re-routes to watch for.

15 seconds

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (he literally said it for that long)

I had a great start and made some passes right away to be in the top 12 as we made our way around the field towards the entrance of the singletrack. Once we got to the entrance, I cut inside and made my way around a couple more people as we hit the trail. My rear brake was already going mad (earlier a mechanic from The Route sprayed some cleaner on it and it was queit!).

Once in the single-track the pace was good. We were moving along nicely and I was staying on the wheel of the person in front of me. In several cases I had to slow down and I think my brake was annoying the guy in front of me. Things seemed to be moving nicely. So far starting closer to the front didn't feel so bad.

If you haven't raced at Red Wing, I'll tell you that there's a nice mix of double-track and single-track. in fact, there's quite a bit of the double-track, so if you get stuck behind someone in the woods, you can hold out for the next wider section to step around him. Well, that's where I need some work, because every time I hit the double-track I felt like I just had two flats. I didn't always lose a spot, but a couple times I did. I don't know if it's cuz it's straight and non-technical or what, but I just seem to go slower in double-track. I can't explain it.

After the first lap I was still feeling good and the trail was treating me great. I was able to gap the person behind me and make up time in the single-track. One change I enjoyed was the new entrance to the quarry. It starts the same, but then turns back up the hill before you go under the bridge for more single-track, before dropping you back into the original trail into the quarry. Lots of people and cameras on hand to witness the falls and close calls. Being so low and tree covered, lots of the rocks were slick and I heard lots of people go down. The climb out of the quarry was the same as last year and caused me to walk it the first time.

I tried to keep drinking water and took a couple shots of my CarbBOOM flask in the hopes to keep my position.

As the race went on I was still making some passes and occassionally got passed. But I felt much better than my last attempt at starting up near the front. On the last lap I bobbled the last climb (the long loose-rock Stairway to Heaven) and had to walk. That lost me two spots. As I started to close in on the finish I could hear a rider approaching and tried to floor it so as to avoid a sprint. No good. I saw his wheel on my right side and heard him shift. I shifted once and stood up and we were haulin'. Just as I start to pull ahead I think to myself, "the finish line should be..." and then his wheel is gone, and I'm locking up as I'm overshooting the line and have to turn around to go finish behind him. LOL.

All in all I had a great time. I felt pretty good most of the race and am still amazed at how the Taurine handles single-track. Dropping into the quarry and bouncing off the rocks was a blast - must have been my high tire pressure :D I finished with my best result of the season so far and am both nervous and looking forward to the Powder Monkey next weekend. I love that course and would like to do really well, but that first climb is scaring the crap out of me....but that's another post I guess.

Thanks Trace and Lalla for the water and pictures. Charlotte was cheering for me even!
Thanks to everyone who made the race happen. It was a great day and the course was wonderful.

Even if it needed to be a couple changes working together, I'm learning that change IS good.

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