Photos by Abe Landes.
Zach, the promoter, has grown a huge Amish beard over the long pleasant winter. He's wearing a camo jacket, running shorts, crocks, and a fedora with a feather. He cracks a whip. The women take off. The single speeders shuffle forward.
"Alright guys, we're going to wait five minutes or so," he says. I'm standing next to the Pflug. He hands me his bike and runs behind a tree. I consider letting all the air out of his tires.
The Pflug takes his bike back. Zach cracks the whip. I clip in and sprint. Up the first long gravel-road climb. It's wetter and slower than yesterday. I get on the Pflug's wheel and we break away from the rest of the pack.
We roll across the top, then down gravel on the other side. On the first section of single track, Pflug dismounts and starts to run. I stay with him. I know he's going to keep going hard until he drops me, but maybe he'll back off a little if I make it clear that I plan on sticking behind him. On some level, I also know that my logic makes no sense.
Back on our bikes, we start passing. First some of the women, then the old guys class, then the back of the open men's field. I make every pass with Pflug. I don't want to let him get away because I'm stuck behind somebody.
Into the mud bog section. First lap, and it's bad through here. The puddles are hub-deep and getting deeper. I ride when the Pflug rides, and run when he runs.
(the devil incarnate)
"Hey man, I need to pass on the left," I yell to a rider up ahead. When I get closer, I see the dude has long blond hair and is wearing a skirt. Not a guy. That's embarrassing. I should stop calling everybody man.
I hit the road at the bottom and look back. The Pflug pops out of the woods 15 seconds later. That's not enough.
I fight to keep moving on the power-sucking gravel. Pflug is way stronger than me on road sections like this, so there's no point in trying to drop him. Half a mile later, he comes whizzing past, attached to a geared rider. Typical. I sprint to get in position to draft those two. You're not rid of me yet Pfucking Pflug.
Through the start finish without stopping. One lap down in about 40 minutes. This is going to be a six lap race for sure.
We start the climb again. Near the top I attack. I can't hold this pace for four more hours, so I need to see if I can get away from him. If he counters, I'll just have to let him go.
He counters. Hard. I back off. Now you're rid of me Pfucking Pflug.
Just grind out the miles now. I might have a chance if he has a mechanical, otherwise I'm gonna have to ride for second. He's too strong, and I haven't put in the miles yet this year.
I ride three more laps at a steady pace. Every time I go around the circuit the mud is deeper and wetter. Surprisingly, it's easier to ride through. By the third lap I'm able to ride through the bog section. But it gets harder and harder to turn the pedals on the soft gravel.
On a flat section I pull my bibs down and start peeing off the bike.
As I round a corner, an attractive female photographer steps out of the woods. This is more embarrassing than calling that other girl a guy. But there's nothing I can do. I continue peeing in her direction as I ride by.
I'm walking up the steep hiking section half way through lap four. I look behind me. Shit. Don Powers. How the hell did he so far up here? I start to run.
"Dahn Pahrs ride fast! Dahn Pahrs!" His shouts echo through the woods. Fuck. He can't catch me. I can't let that happen. I'll have to ride home with Cinder Bloch if he does. It'll be unbearable. Hours of gleeful shouting and weeks of demeaning Facebook posts. Don't even think it. Being caught is not an option.
Damn that guy. I was having such a nice relaxing race in the horrible mud, and he had to ruin it. I jump on my bike at the top of the ridge and blast through the puddles again. Half of my fork is submerged when I ride through.
On every clear section, I look behind me. No Dahn Pahrs. Up a draggy gravel climb.
My legs start to twitch. I pound them with a fist. No you fuckers. You're not allowed to cramp now.
Through the start finish and up the climb for the last time. I look back at the top. Dahn Pahrs is down at the bottom. Dammit. I can't let off.
When my legs start to twitch I get off and run. When my calves start to twitch I get back on and try to ride. So close now. If I can get to the downhill without seeing him, I should be set. My arms start to lock up going down the hill. I look back. No Dahn Pahrs. Thank god. I coast into the finish. Six laps and 40ish miles down.
Dahn rolls across the finish about three minutes later. I throw my bike in the creek and sit down in the icy water. The mud washes away.
2nd single speed, and 6th overall (5th if you count the staggered start.) Zach put on a great race this year. Even with the terrible mud, which I completely blame Tlaloc for, it was a fun race. And the prizes were great. Nugget Nectar, peanuts, and practical trophies. I plan to use the ax and burn the wood.
(I don't like that Dahn Pahrs is still taller than me. I need a bigger 2nd place log.)