28 August 2006

Comin' down the mountain ...

So this is pretty much how I spent the entire weekend – a BIG smile on my face and a bit of mud on my legs:


The atmosphere at the event was so cool, so much fun, I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to race! A BIG BIG THANK YOU to Kim, Shannon, Jim, Dave, and everyone else who offered help and had words of advice and encouragement as I started out on this new adventure!

We did end up camping, as the weather cleared just enough to be damp but not problematic. It was pretty cool to hang out in the “campground” all weekend, spending time with our new neighbors, including Nate from Iowa and his dog Dreamer. Oh, and Kim definitely has something going on – some guys I know are chick magnets, Kim is a kid magnet!

The Super D/time trial was on Saturday, and was a perfect way for me to get my feet wet – literally! I took a header into the first creek crossing, but still managed a respectable finish. I caught my minute man at about 5 minutes, giving me a HUGE burst of confidence – of course, the crash came soon after that! Funnily enough, the TT results were a bit messy, some things just are the same no matter what type of bike you ride …

Elites and Pro/Semi-Pro raced three events for the stage race, so we hung out Saturday afternoon to watch the short track. It was CRAZY! Basically a 20-minute ‘cross race without barriers, STXC was pure suffering – here’s Jim on his Sobe bottle, trying to move up the outside:
And another view, you can just feel the pain …
Sunday dawned damp and cloudy, but got better as the day progressed. I took an easy spin with Kim early (she was doing a brick workout), and the legs felt pretty good. The butterflies were in full force, though, and it was all I could do to relax and read before getting ready – thankfully Tammy has loaned me an awesome book that I can’t seem to put down!

Finally it was time to go, and Jim and I did a quick spin to warm up. I rode around the start/finish for a while too, spending way too much time talking and not enough getting ready! It was just another indication of how different and fun things were – I didn’t feel the crazy, stick-up-my-butt attitude that’s so prevalent at road races …

Finally we lined up, and after hearing from Lou (as confirmed by Jim) that mountain starts are like ‘cross starts only even more insane, I used my best Superweek mojo to find a place in the second row, just behind the call-ups. As we stood there waiting, staring up this long, harsh, rutted, soggy, sloppy, ugly climb, I couldn’t help but think of Off-Road to Athens, and the mountain coming down on top of them …

We got the 2-minute warning, and the next 60 seconds were SO LONG! We stood there waiting, I got my watch going, and then, finally, we got the 1-minute call. Then 30 seconds. 20. 15. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. the announcer fell silent … and GOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Holy cow! We blasted out of the gate, full-on sprinting up the hill in the effort to be the first to the singletrack. The left side had a drier line, and those of us on the right pushed through soggy ruts to try to gain position. The right side basically swarmed over, and by midway I had my heart in my throat, my legs were burning, and I was SUFFERING! And we'd only been racing for 3 minutes!

I made it into the woods in about 5th place, just tagged onto the back of the leaders. I figured out I could climb fairly well, both on widetrack and in the narrow stuff, but as soon as we went downhill, I struggled compared to everyone else. The ground was pure peanut butter – and I’m allergic to peanut butter! The lack of sun meant that all the rocks and roots were slick, so I dabbed more than I should have and biffed somewhere on the first lap.

I also had to let small groups go by me, which put me back into the 20s by the end of the lap. I was still climbing OK, though, and put in hard efforts everywhere I could …


You can see the blood on my right knee here – I think it scared some guys into letting me pass!

And here’s Kim, moments after asking me if I needed a feed … it was all I could do to croak “nooooo” as my tongue was stuck to the top cap on my stem …

The second and third laps were much better, and although I dabbed quite a bit I finally got into a great rhythm on the last lap, cleaning stuff that had hung me up earlier. It was so much fun bombing down hills that I used to ski as a kid -- but this time on a bike! What an absolute rush! (Ha, ha, get it? Seriously, though -- that bike is awesome, I didn't want to stop riding!)

Here’s me at the finish -- Kim got an awesome shot!Results: So ultimately I was there to race, and how about this? I qualified for NORBA Nationals next year! Because this was an American Mountain Bike Challenge race, the top finishers in each age group earn a ride to the National Championships. Now if I can only do that in the next few months for ‘cross …

In the end, I was 8th in the Super D (I’m not too sure about that, but that’s what will get sent to NORBA), 5th in my age group and 12th overall in the cross-country, and 4th in the omnium. Even better, the results are already posted at Wors.org! That’s efficient!

While you’re there, check out the results for Kim Eppen – she dislocated her thumb at the end of the second lap, popped it back into place on the trail, and still finished second! Now THAT’s racing!

Birthday wishes: Happy b-day to Erik Tonkin, West Coast ‘crosser and member of the U.S. Worlds team. He and his wife pack a serious one-two punch when it comes to ‘cross!

ONLY 111 DAYS TO NATZ!!!

6 comments:

Shannon said...

Those pictures turned out very well!! I'm glad we were able to get at least one that showed the steepness of the hill. Also, you may want to check up on the WORS omnium postings, as they seem to have deleted your name from the list...

Chris said...

I saw that earlier today. It's not a mistake -- it's actually the 2005 results. I put something up on the WORS board, hopefully they'll correct it soon! Thanks again for everything this weekend!

Anonymous said...

Nice race dude . Good luck in cross this year. Rip it up.

MadCross said...

I'm glad you had a good time! I expect you'll be a regular on the mtn bike circuit now.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to hear you refer to the stick up your butt attitude of road racers. I started mounting bike racing at WORS for 8 years and now primarily road race. I can remember people saying they thought road racers were arrogant and cold back when I started Mtn Racing. I really have not experienced that.

Chris said...

To which I refer you to:

http://truesport.com/Bike/2006/articles/chronicles/chronicles05.html

or

http://truesport.com/Bike/2006/articles/druber/druber13.html

and

http://truesport.com/Bike/2006/articles/druber/druber12.html