Dustin White, 2nd Place, 14.98 mph average speed! Epic!
|Welcome to the grand, round 3 recap of "I played bike racing this weekend!" This past weekend was the 2nd round of the SERC series at the Tsali recreational area near Bryson City, NC! Mountain biking for a few years now, I have heard many a story about Tsali...most of the stories incorporating notes about ridiculously fast trails and epic racing conditions. Personal experience did not stray far from those accounts!
My race was 2 – 13 mile laps around an outer trail that hugged Fontana Lake's shores. We started up a gravel road climb for about 4 minutes before the first single track. After a brief descent and some flat twists, we climbed the longest of the single track climbs...This bad boy got steep and loose at the top, but man what a great view! After a longer descent, you snake through more of a flow section before coming to a second climb that runs into a steeeeeeeep and loose punch followed by a quick rocky down hill and another steeeeeeeep punch to the top. After those 2 climbs, it was mostly all downhill or flat flow all the way to a lower gradient climb to the finish. Throw in a few rocks, ledges, roots, and creek crossings....and that's about Tsali.
Off the starting grid this week I finally had a great start!!! Out of 15 guys, I was off the line in 2nd heading to the first turn up the gravel climb. Madness was going on behind me as I heard guys leaning on each other and a few people tagging my rear tire with their fronts...break out the armor baby, it's time to race! During the gravel section we were definitely going above threshold power, but it really was not excruciatingly terrible because thankfully we were still fresh. By the time we made it to the single track I jostled some positions with guys and went into the woods 3rd. Looking over my shoulder I think our group thinned out to about 5 or 6.
Into the woods, one guy started to open a gap off the front and the gentleman ahead of me could not close in on the pace. I had to stay patient for the climb to begin so that I could come around. Once my opportunity came, the dig deep mode kicked in and I clawed up to the leader. We crested the first big climb together and had a little gap to the chasers. This gentleman was a smooth wheel to follow so I happily held his wheel for the remainder of that lap! In hindsight, that is a great trail to draft somebody. Leading takes a good amount more effort from wind and strain, but I digress. Roughly 75% of the way through lap 1, we were caught by a young gentleman, Harrison 16, who got 2nd in Florida. I sat back and thought to myself man this kid is legit, well done! By the end of lap 1, we had a group of pursuers catching us. Not looking back, because you never look back, I was delighted to find out the chase group was the 40-49 age group who started behind us. This group included Mose Howard, my dear friend Chris Lessing, and a burly bearded man....they also happened to drag up a lot of guys from my race with them....none the less, we hit the gravel climb for round 2 and then grenades started going off!!! Attack after attack came as we snaked up the road and when it got steep at the top, Mose Howard stood up with a thunderous roar of Thor and pedaled like an animal! Thinking this a good opportunity to distance guys in my race, I went with him.
As we entered the single track, we had a group of 5 that included the 3 guys from the 40-49 field and the star studded 16 year old Harrison. I went in 4th behind the middle aged monsters, and Harrison was on my wheel.
We made it 50% through the lap all together until the set of steeeeeeeeeeeeep punches. Things got interesting there as people were spreading out, but we never changed order. I made a mistake in this moment that I will have to share via face to face discussions =) can't give up my tactical short comings to the internet HA! Cresting the climbs, Mose and the middle age monsters bombed the descent and I was just content letting them have their party. For the next 6-7 miles I had Harrison on my wheel like a magnet and I rode extremely hard trying to get a gap, but that young man would not be shaken! Coming into the final climb, he made a cheeky move around my left off the trail to get in front. In hindsight, here is another moment of mistake, but I am learning with every race! I had to swallow defeat in the final 2 minutes of the day trying my hardest to jump back up to Harrison, but that fellow bested me like a champion! Rolling down to the finish line, I heard the crowd applauding his first XC1 win and the praise was very well deserved! At the end of it all I rolled across for a satisfactory 2nd place and I was also very proud of the time gap we developed back to the chase group and as I found out this morning, an average speed of 14.98 mph!!! What?!!?!?!
It was a hard day ladies and gents, but a beautiful experience with friends! I have SERC round 3 / GSC round 2 coming up this weekend in Conyers and I am hungry....very hungry =)
|Click here for the Ride with Dustin page complete with race schedule and post-race reports.|