Liam, Ian and I went out on some preride laps. I love mountain bike races - the officials said we could get on the course as long as we didnt get in anyones way. The course was a carbon copy of the one that Ive raced on since I started this silly body-destroying experiment back in 2008-9. I was excited.
So excited, in fact, that I forgot that mountainbike staging is still the Wild West and lined up in the second row, all the way inside.
The start was not particularly fast (unless your name is Seamus Powell), but through a series of poor follow choices and irresponsibly executed passing opportunities I ended up somewhere between "near the back" and "Kevin Sweeney". A sideways-bike incident involving a very excited Ian Herchenroder let Donahue, Sampson, Foley and about 5 others out on a long leash. The pace was high at this point, but not unmanageable.
That would happen soon enough.
When we got out of the first singletrack section, I attacked the hell out of a guy who was INEXPLICABLY EATING five minutes into the race. Passing aggressively (sorry, dude in the green kit) through the first off camber rock section got me clear of another guy and taking the least-advisable way up the steep section gave me some room to lay down a "serious effort".
Which for me equals overcooking the hell out of a turn, bouncing off a tree and yelping like a scalded cowboy.
I caught the next small group and managed to resist the urge to kill everyone in it by divebombing the loose descent. I passed two of them on the doubletrack and another (Hamlin, I think) on the pavement, but was thusly stuffed on the rideup by a guy in orange shorts. If you look closely at the video you can see how much racing cyclocross as an elite has taught me about dismounting on the appropriate side.
You can also see Seamus Powell putting about 2 minutes a lap into me.
I got clear of the last few guys on the first hellish, interminable climb. I was
And, beyond all (or at least my) expectations, we did.
Kevin and I worked well together; about halfway into the second lap we hitched on to the back of Tom Sampsons Hurt Wagon. Kevin almost immediately got to the front and pushed the pace (thanks, dude) and it was BIKE RACING for another half lap. No one seemed to put any digs in, but the pace was kept high and small mistakes (sometimes Al Donahue trips over all those watts he puts down) meant long minutes of painful chasing.
I took a bottle through the feed, and neglected to grab any food.
This will be important later.
A few minutes in to the 3rd lap Kevin decided to go to plaid, accelerating off the front like a madman. Sampson, who is clearly a golem made from cheetah parts, stuck to his wheel MOUTH CLOSED and seated. I sagely played the role of good (and slowly dying) teammate and let the gap open up. Al had made a technical mistake behind and drifted a few seconds back.
I went up the first climb alone.
Less than a minute later, Al had made up all the ground he lost. I waved him through, thinking I would ride his sweet wattage-teat back up to Kevin and Tom.
What happened next is best described by this image:
I dont even think I lasted 5 minutes.
Somewhere in this suffering-induced haze, the other guy passed me too. I kept trying to get back on, but instead of going faster I was just going faster into things. My hands were tingly. My vision was shutting down. I was losing it.
Because like a doofus, I forgot to eat.
I tore into a pack of Shot Bloks like it was the Mac-n-Cheese trough at the Old Country Buffet. I took the whole long climb in my littlest gear, trying desperately to recover. Foley passed me with another guy in tow, and I just couldnt respond.
After the first section I started to come back around , meaning I stopped thinking the pace of lapped riders was "just fine" and began to seriously think of riding myself back into the race. Halfway through the lap, I was standing on the climb, thankfully not just pushing chain anymore. Sadly, it was a bit too little too late.
I had a glimmer of hope when I got to the bottom of the last climb - there was a dude in a black kit at the top who seemed even more stalled-out than me - and I proceeded to burn what dozen or so watts I had left chasing him down.
He wasnt in my race.
8th place out of 24(?), not bad. In all honesty, even without getting hamstrung by my own stupidity the best I could have reasonably managed was 6th.
MEDIA!! (via Thom and CyclingDirt.org