Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Coopers Rock XC and WVMBA Final

The Coopers Rock XC was the final race in a long WVMBA season. At the beginning of the year when I lined up for the start of the Big Bear Classic, I never would have imagined that I would do so many races in the coming months, and that I would be ranked 4th in the SS class going into the championship.

From Drop Box
After asserting that single speeders were the domestitques of the expert class, Benji and Johnathan Martin went out in the front of the pack. The first climb on the road was very, very long. I stayed on Mr. Martin's wheel, and the Dread Pirate Roberts hung right beside me. It was novel to have a little pack of single speeds leading the race.

Near the top of the hill the rest of the field swallowed us up. I was more than happy to just hang in the middle of the pack and wait until we hit the single track. When we had almost crested the hill, Mike "vagina's are cool" Cordaro blasted off to the front of the pack and beyond. No one chased, but when the road turned downhill, he was immediately overtaken.

After almost 15 minutes of road riding, we made a sharp left into some wide double track, and started to actually race. The trail was all downhill and bone dry. Tan dust floated off the path with every passing tire. I was still on Martin's wheel, and convinced myself that this was the perfect place to be so early in the race. We looped around and recrossed the road before continuing on the trail.

We were still heading downhill when I started feeling bumps hitting my rim. 'Oh for godsake. This better not be happening.' But it was. When I went around a corner and my back tire squirmed, I knew I was going to have to stop. I hopped off the bike and started trying to tear my saddle bag open. Rider after rider blew by me as I screwed on the Co2 and put a shot of it in the faltering tire. Air hissed out of a little hole, but I was able to get the Stan's to seal it.

Before the flat, I was riding in a comfortable spot, in a safe place. Now I had to absolutely hammer to make up time. Within five minutes I had caught up to Johnathan, Don, and Chris McGill going up a chunky climb. We crossed a little stream, and I felt the back go soft again.

I stopped and put more Co2 in the tire, and discovered that I had left the valve open last time. I cursed myself and shouldered my bike to run up the chunks. There was no way I was going to let a 4th or 5th overall slip away because my tire wouldn't hold air (or because i was to dumb to screw a presta valve shut.)

The course turned down a road then back on to the single track. I caught up to Mike "vagina's are cool" Cordaro, and glimpsed Benji ahead in the distance. The path was super smooth and fast at this point in the race. Mike went for it and pedaled away. I worked my way up to Benji and went by him on a little climb. We stormed down a smooth hill. When I got to the bottom I was greeted with a sharp, flat turn on pea gravel. I crashed (gracefully). Benji did not, and he passed me.

I caught back up to him, and we rode together for a while. After a few miles, we reentered the woods and hit the first of the technical trails. I hung on his wheel until we hit a steep climb, and then I rode/ran by. Again I caught Mike, and again he stepped on the gas and pulled away from me.

The course wound through a grove of low hanging rhododendrons. I have no idea how the taller guys got through there. I was ducking, and I still almost took my head off. I rode between two cliffs that were slowly narrowing down. At the end of the cliffs there was a rocky set of steps to climb up.

Benji was right behind me when the trail took a downward turn. "I'm gonna go ahead of ya now montana" he said. "Go for it" I replied and let him by. I assume that we were on rock city(and I assumed wrong. apparently the part before this was rock city. this was the suburbs), because the rocks were everywhere. The trail took the shape of a U with the middle dipped down and the sides higher. The big embedded rocks were blanketed by a layer of baseball sized chunks. Benji was soon out of sight. I haven't a clue how he bombs down a trail that fast, but I'm envious.

I flew off one ledge and landed on the sharp upper edge of the U and heard a loud metallic snapping noise. I was hoping to hell that I didn't just snap a spoke, but when I looked at my back wheel it was still true, so I rode on. The trail became steeper and rockier (if thats possible) and I slowed down a little. I knew that the long climb up Ridge Trail was approaching, so I figured it was worth it to go a few mph slower down the hill, and make it in one piece.

Ridge Tr. (maybe the suburb of rock city was actually ridge trail. who knows) was the one section of the course I had pre-ridden, so I knew what to expect when I got there. It was a super ledgy and steep uphill rock garden. I jumped off my bike, shouldered it, and started running. Before long I passed Mike "vagina's are cool," and in a few hundred more feet I caught Benji. At the top I jumped back on and rode away back down the hill. I turned onto the steepest climb of the day, and started grinding up. In the distance, I glimpsed the Dread Pirate Roberts walking up the hill. "You can get him!" the guy behind me shouted. I laughed and said "Well I can try."

I was closing in on him, but he reached the top first and jumped back on his bike. I kept up the chase through the rhododendrons and parallel cliffs. Before we hit Rock City (not the real rock city) again, I stopped one more time to put air in my tire. Then I descended. I was hot on the Dread Pirate's trail, and no one caught me on the downhill this time.

At the bottom I got off to run up Ridge Trail again. I was passing sport guys at this point and I frantically asked everyone I passed "How long ago did the guy in the cannondale jersey go by?" Answers ranged from 2 minutes ago to 200 hundred meters ago (Now that I think about it, that's really about the same distance. But 200m seemed a lot shorter at the time.)

I still hadn't caught another glimpse of the Dread Pirate when I turned up the last climb. The finish was just ahead, but I had to climb the whole way back up the ridge first. It hurt. Like hell. The trail was chunky and steep, and I was tired.
Witness the pain:
From Drop Box

I crossed the line in second place. I was stoked. But when single speeder after single speeder rolled in, and there was no Chris McGill, I became more excited. I might have beaten him by enough places to move up in the overall.

From Drop Box
Hurray for my most awkward podium picture ever! (And I have no idea why Betsy's face is taking up more than half of this photo. Or why she has whiskey growing out of the top left of her head. Guess I need to hire a new photographer.)

They tallied up the overall series points, and lo! With my performance that day, I finished 3rd overall. I'm pretty damn happy with that.

From Drop Box
(Just to clarify, from left to right: Benji in 2nd blending in and not being very podiumy, me in 3rd, the Dread Pirate Roberts atop the mighty cooler in 1st, and Chris McGill in 4th)

Don had a solid race and sured up a 5th place overall in the pro/expert class:
From Drop Box

And Christina Buerkle (far left in black, not Gunnar) pulled down a 2nd for the day and 3rd overall for the expert women:
From Drop Box
The WVMBA has been a blast this year. I think I started my racing career off right. I can't wait to start next season with a little bit of experience.

But now its Month of Mud time.

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