Monday, May 18, 2009

Tour de Lake race report

I have to start this report by saying that the drive to Spencer is a bitch. 119 through West Virginia is honestly the worst road I've ever been on. It is full of steep hills, steeper drop offs, and 180 degree switch backs. In a little car it might have been fun, but driving on those roads for two hours in a lifted cherokee was hard work. But really, I felt bad for the cows. Every 'field' we passed was just a cleared mountain side. Cow tipping would probably be deadly in WV. I wonder how often bovine boulders come rolling down the slopes.

Anyhoo, it took us (the lady bear and I) 3.5 hours to get to the race, and nearly hit three or four small tree climbing rodents on the way. We arrived at 11:15 (race was scheduled to start at noon) and I ran up to the registration table to pay my fees. Fortunately, there were enough t-shirts left for me to chose between an XL, an XL, or a 2XL. I picked the XL.
I rushed back down to the Grumbler to get my shit together. I was going crazy trying to finish my pre-race defication, check my tire pressure, zip tie on my race number (now officially 172 since I am now an officially official WVMBA member), finish my second pre-race defication, and eat (not during the pre-race defication. that would be unsightly.) At 10 minutes to race time the promoter came strolling through the parking lot and announced that we would be starting at 12:30. I breathed a sigh of relief, and ran to the bathroom again.
The race started up a heinously steep paved/pothole/gravel climb to the parking lot. From there it took off into the woods. The mud on this side of WV was totally different than the greasy diarrhea-esc stuff at Mountwood. It was a red clay, that while managing to be slick, was also sticky enough to clog tires. Weird. On the first set of switch backs, riders were losing traction and coming off their bikes in droves. I was able to track stand behind a few of the jam ups, but I ended up getting off and pushing much of that climb. The next section of single track was even more slippery, and I was really wishing that I had run a lower gear (and wishing that I owned a lower gear to run.) 32X18 is perfect for PA, but in WV I think I would be better off with a 32X20 or 19.

The trail continued up and I passed a few people to get to the front of a little train. As soon as roots and rocks started showing up on the single track, it became painfully obvious that I had made a big mistake. Before the race I pumped my tires up a few PSI to 15 front and 18 rear in an effort to avoid rim strikes. While that seems like a pretty low pressure, I'm a small guy, and I'm riding pretty high volume tires. It was bad. I had plenty of traction on the climbs, but I could not keep my front end down in the turns. My bike was bouncing all over the place. To make matters worse, I started stressing out about the to-high pressure, and got tense.

I really stated to worry when immediately in front of me Benji Klimas hit something and endoed right into a log. He went the whole way over. I thought to myself "Damn. That sucks. It's been a while since I've done that."

About 5 minutes later, I came around a sharp rooted turn, and slid right off the roots and into the side of the hill. My little train of about five riders chugged on by. I got back on the bike a little shakily and took off in an effort to catch up. The trail looked like it should have some traction by this time, but it was still treacherous.

I almost caught the riders that passed me, and ended up with a few more guys on my back wheel. I was still tense, and trying to keep my bike on the trail over the uneven surface. Then without warning, I went down.

I hit a steep off camber section of roots and slid right off and into a tree. The rider immediately behind me ran into me and we both kept sliding. A few guys worked their way around the crash. "You alright man?" I asked the guy. Then I looked at his back wheel. "Oh shit dude. That looks bad." It was folded in half. "Oh, it'll be ok. Just gotta bend it back." I said ok, even though I had no idea how he was going to ride the rest of the race on a tacoed wheel, and took off. Ten feet later I noticed that I was turning even though I had my bars pointed straight ahead. I looked down and saw that my stem had been twisted about 45 degrees by the crash. Crapscalions. I got off the bike and took out my multi tool to straighten it out. I really should have just lowered my tire pressure right there, but of course, I didn't.

I started riding again and by now I was starting to get really stiff. I looked down at my leg and noticed it was bleeding. Before long I passed another guy riding rigid, and he started giving me coaching advice. "Just loosen up! Take those obstacles more smoothly. That's the way!" That really helped me, because I started to realize how unrelaxed I was. So thanks for the advice man.

Before long, at about 45 minutes in, I passed another SS and actually started riding a decent race. I was really making great time on the climbs and smoother sections. The trail finally opened up into a little fire road section, and I hammered up it. The course turned back into the woods and up a steep muddy run up. I caught two guys on the run up, and went past. After a long descent, the course went back across the dam and by the finish line. I started the second lap.
Before the race start, the promoters emphasised that there was a critical intersection where the course split into a first lap and second lap. I went through an intersection, and immediately assumed that I had made the wrong turn. There was no one around me. "Shit." I thought. (why do I always think of fecal matter when something goes wrong?) I kept riding for a few minutes, then stopped and got off my bike. I looked around, couldn't decide what to do then got back on. 500 feet later I got off again. I waited until the SS that I had passed a while ago caught up. "Are we gonin the right way?" I shouted. "Yeah." he replied. "You sure?" "Yeah. Turns up here." "Well dammit. Why the hell did I stop" "Dunno." he replied, "but I'll take it." He rode past.

Sure enough, the intersection was little more than 200 feet ahead. We turned right and went up a steep climb. "Damn I am such a dumbass." I shouted as I blew by the guy.

The second lap had even more climbing than the first, and the little cut in my leg was throbbing when I pedaled hard. There were so many unridable sections that at times it felt like a running race. But that worked to my benefit because I just finished track season, and I'm a pretty fast runner. I made up a lot of lost time on those hike a bike sections.

A good portion of the lap was 'fire road.' I would describe the ever climbing overgrown trail as double track, but it was smooth and I was shooting up it at almost 15mph, so I can't complain. Before long, I caught and passed Don from probikes and Steve from trek on a steep run up. (gotta love those run ups.) The course continued in an upward, muddy, running direction and I put some time in ahead of them.

Soon the trail turned back down, and I started to wonder when Don and Steve would catch back up to me. It took longer than I thought, and with about two miles to go, Steve went by. Don stayed behind me, and we were neck and neck when we came down the hill to the finish. We sprinted across the top of the dam, uttering animal noises as we struggled to pedal faster. I think he edged me out by a tire length. I'll blame it on my lack of gears (even though that wasn't the reason.) It was a good effort, kudos to him.

I finished 5th SS

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