First off, BIG thanks to Brittany, Bill and the rest of the gang for an awesome course layout at New Fane yesterday. It was like the best of Rock Cut combined with the worst of Kettle, spicy without being a death march, and absolutely perfect!
Second, HUGE kudos to Kim, who provided the absolute best feeds on the course, and made the race for me!
In the leadup to the 12 Hours of GEARS, I had a couple of decisions to make. Do I do it? (If the weather is OK.) Do I do 3 or 6 hour? (Intensity vs. length.) Will I finally make the jump to the longer-distance stuff I've been talking about for so long?
Some of the questions were answered ... and more were created. Thanks to some very sage advice >from her, I opted for quantity -- going up against the likes of this guy in the 3-hour one week before the marathon may have been a bit too intense for me. I'm a distance sort of guy, really getting my groove on after a couple of hours in the saddle ...
Instead, I line up with a sponsored rider from Van Dessel and a bunch of veteran 6+-hour guys -- and me with no idea what I was getting myself into. We blast from the gun -- our first lap was faster than the first lap of the 3-hour! A couple of us traded the lead for the first three laps, before Lee from Van Dessel blew past me and another guy coming out of the super-slow tree section. The guy I was dogging declared that "I'm riding for second place now" ... which I knew, that early in the race, meant I had to go now or never. And this was only on lap 4!!
A strong vet from Michael's Cycles was coming strong, but Lee and I kept the fire going. Well, Lee led on his singlespeed, as he was much more technically apt than I, and had to keep the pressure on up the climbs because of the one gear. I was feeling good, though, and we were both flying. When someone like Lee, who has done many, many 100+ mile MTB races, says we're going fast, you take him at his word!
Then, disaster struck -- Lee dropped his chain for the second time, coming out of the pines just before the roots. I sat up for a second, asked him if I should wait ... but then I knew Michael's guy was coming hard, so I didn't have any time to waste. Instead, I put my head down and hammered the two hills that followed, big-ringing it and putting as much distance as I could. Mind you, we hadn't even hit the 3-hour mark yet, which Lee had said was the point at which you start to feel "good" ...
So without the benefit of a pacing strategy, and without really knowing what the distance would do to me, I rode on. Lee had said these races are won and lost in the pits, so I decided that as long as my bladder could hold out, I wasn't going to stop. I worked my way into the 3-hour traffic, grabbing a few draftees and pounding out lap after lap with them following as the count went up and the time went down. Kim was awesome, over and over providing me exactly what I needed, when I needed it. I only managed to get a time split once, at about 3 laps to go ... and by then it was all over save the finish.
And ... I won! My mindless pedaling managed to put 1/2 lap into 2nd place and lap the 2nd place duo team, and my first-half lap times would have put me in 2nd place for the 3-hour. My second half would have put me in about 6th, which includes two laps that I rode pretty conservatively, once I knew it was over. I managed to go sub-23 minutes for 14 of the 16 laps -- and completed the 76.8 miles in just on 5 hours, 45 minutes!
Even better, I spent the whole time with a HUGE smile on my face. The intensity of the first laps scared me a bit, but once I settled in and started turning the gears, I was on. At one point I requested duck flambe and french fries as I came through the pits ... no such luck, just water and a Clif Shot, but it would have to do. Seriously, though, the energy at the WEMS races was awesome, and it was so much fun to be out there on such a great course, turning lap after lap and just enjoying it. The intensity of a WORS race is so different, even though they both have great atmospheres, and I really think I've found what I was meant to do on a bike: go long.
So, that is the question that crops up. What's next for me? John Muir is a possibility, and I love the trails at Kettle, but that's also the day of Spring Prairie, which is a race our team is targeting. But it's a tough call -- I'm not good on the SP road course, so would I just be filling space? Time will tell ...
6 hours ago