Dustin White on that number 1 block.
|Hello Ladies and Gents,
Welcome to the first iteration of "I played bike racing this weekend" otherwise known as your new home for frequent rambling about how a weekend with knobby tires can go!
This weekend was the Georgia State Championship (GSC) opener in Macon, GA at the LH Thomson trails. In case you are wondering, that is the Thomson who makes phenomenal, machined componentry. They have a roughly 5.5 mile single track loop behind their factory which is extremely fun! As Nate best put it, this trail is a classic marriage between Boyd Pond and the Canal Single Track...tight...twisty...sandy...rooty and most importantly an epic blast! The only non-single track feature on the course was an open field that was home to the start finish and provided roughly 60 seconds of open terrain per lap.
Saturday afternoon was the bonus time trial event which is open to all participants in the series. They score the race with everyone combined, but you are fighting to beat people within your class (XC1 19-39 for me). The motivation is a handful of bonus point in the overall series which can be vital due to the scoring system. Before the race started I got in a few slow scouting laps just taking a survey of the trail layout and overall conditions. If you ever do take up racing, I highly suggest doing this so that you can get a feel for what to anticipate during the event. Overall the consensus was that the trail was on fire fast!!! It was a little bit loose and sandy, but nothing some sweet Specialized tires and dialed pressure can't handle.
At 3PM I headed to the start area to stage. The time trial format is the same as the Canal Crown, you want to send faster racers off early to limit passing and our gaps were 1 minute between riders. Since I haven't done this series since 2014, when I was in XC2 category, I had no idea who was going to post sick times so I got slotted into 6th spot which seemed relatively safe. My number gets called, I step up to the line, 5 seconds to go and BOOM! its go time! I kept my cool in the race trying to make sure I didn't fade late into the lap and bog down and I truly did not want to crash...duh. By about mile 3 of 4 I caught the gentleman who started ahead of me at a decent time to make a pass...not too much time lost there. The only true drama in the race came about 10 seconds later when I got a stick in my rear derailleur...NO!!! What happened next was pretty impressive, but did cost me some seconds that proved to be vital. After coasting with the stick in my derailleur and realizing it was not going to come out I cyclocross dismounted at speed and ran alongside my bike while pulling the stick out and finally remounted without coming to a true stop. I liken this experience to what a well-choreographed ballet must look like to someone who is way more sophisticated than I!
At the end of the day, my time was good enough to finish 4th overall and 3rd in my class. I was 12 seconds slower than the winner of my class and 1 second behind 2nd place on a 18+ minute lap....bummer....but that is racing. As a reference point, my Garmin mentioned I averaged 13.6 mph which was not bad! This is now a great time to introduce a cycling character I hope to have the honor of referencing again in the future...the man...the myth...the legend...Mose Howard from Florida. All you need to know is that Mose is a great family man in his 40s with a motocross background who can shred a mountain bike! He comes to most of these races from the Tampa, FL area and camps with his family in an RV. There really isn't a better character in the racing circuit than Mose. He wants to see everyone do their best and loves chatting about the fun after the races! This mythical man put the hurt on everyone and won the time trial, beating me by 24 seconds! This is important for the cross country story below.
Sunday was the polar opposite of Saturday...the weather changed from sunny and moderate to raining in the low 40s....what a great day for a bike race! Overnight I contemplated switching to knobbier tires, but I realized not much rain had fallen so the trail couldn't really be muddy and no knob in the world will help you on wet roots...so the Fast Trak and Renegade combo was the definitive choice! I got to the race and met up with Nate and Josh for some warm up and scouting of the course. Our race was 4 laps of an extended course from the day before and it added up to between 21 and 22 miles. Due to the conditions and numbers, the 19-39 and 40-49 XC1 fields were combined so we all lined up ready to race. What happened next is best broken down lap by lap so I hope you enjoy =)
Lap 1...I had the worst start to a bike race that I have had in ages. I missed my pedal epically and Nate almost ran me over! No love lost for that man, I earned every potential bruise from how badly I stunk. I quickly found myself towards the back of the group and had a lot to make up. Josh motivated me with the profound words of "let's go!" We both start sprinting towards the front and I eventually weaseled my way into 5th spot heading into the single track. Ahead of me were 3 guys in my race and the fore mentioned, mythical Mose. Nothing else super extraordinary happened in lap 1 except I overtook the guy right in front of me after he made a mistake and veered off trail....now in 4th spot. We ended the lap coming back into the open field and every person sprinted out of the tight sections making an accordion effect of folks trying to sprint to catch up. We all regrouped and started the next lap.
Lap 2...literally nothing excited happened we just continued in the same fast pace.
Lap 3...the start of lap 3 was extremely eventful! One gentlemen in my race pulled to the side of the open field to grab a water bottle. Another was off in the lead and then there is what Mose did next. Mr. Howard proceeded to unleash the demons and attack all out closing the gap to the leader and then passing him into the single track. That places me in 3rd slot heading into lap 3. Mose continued the heat and the gentleman between he and I slowly let Mose ride away. I can't blame him really because first off Mose is insanely fast and secondly, he wasn't in our race. Regardless, this effort led to Mose being off the front with a gap to myself in 3rd place and my fellow racer in 2nd leading me. The effort of chasing made a gap back to the 4th and 5th place guys who were also in our category. Roughly halfway through the lap, 4th and 5th place caught us so Mose was still off the front and there was a 4 person pack all about to start lap 4 and make moves to see who would win!
Lap 4...Coming into the start of this lap I recall someone saying "here comes the pain train." I took this comment to heart and made the decision to lay down a solid, "oh yeah watch this pain train!" I quickly attacked all out similar to Mose the lap before and took over the lead in my race and overall 2nd place. This attack stuck all the way through the open field and let me lead into the single-track for the last time of the day. I stayed on the throttle as hard as I could taking a few risks but mostly just suffering! Eventually my fellow racers behind began to get gapped off and I had no choice but to stay on the throttle....this was my move for the win and in those moments you have to be fully committed! Roughly halfway into this lap I am panting feverishly but riding super-fast and attacking any segment I think I can gain speed on. In the distance I see flashes of blue and realize I am catching Mose!!! Finally clawing back up to him I think to myself, "phew here is my golden ticket to ride a fast wheel to the finish." In classic Mose Howard fashion, he starts to say "hey man you are flying I don't want to hold you up so come on around." Having let me into the lead, Mose continued to motivate me to push through the remainder of the race fighting off the chasing 3 guys! They never wanted to give up and always seemed to be right behind us by 1-2 turns. This move stuck all the way to the finish line and I rolled in for victory having blown myself to pieces and dragging Mose along with me! We finished 15 seconds ahead of the chasers and man was I glad the day was over =)
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