(This one is pretty long. More user-friendly race reports can be found here and here.)
Kicked off the season “for real” yesterday with my debut at the Do the Rock mountain bike race. The Rock Cut Trail Crew did a fantastic job putting together an awesome course on some of Rock Cut’s best trails – some challenging opening singletrack led to some wide-open stuff before sending us through the Willow Creek area singletrack (including a very refreshing creek crossing), then on through the “new” singletrack before dropping us down and forcing us to climb back up on some long widetrack and pavement sections. Due to the rain this week, the course was shortened to 10 miles … at first I thought that would make a difference, boy was I wrong! Part of the section they cut is a long, 2-3 percent gradual climb, and I was grateful by about the midpoint of lap two …
I’ve been looking forward to this race for a while now for a couple of reasons. First, Rock Cut is my “home” trails – I have spent more time out there on a ‘cross and mountain bike than on any other trail system here in the Midwest. Based on the map, I could do the race with my eyes closed (which was helpful when I was trying to sleep at 3:45 a.m. the night before the race!). Second, this race tends to fly under the radar a bit, since not too many people have ridden there, so I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout, or too much high-level competition. I just wanted to go and test myself, and get in a good, long MTB ride.
Well … welcome to WORS Marathon #1a! I learned the night before that Jesse and Marko were coming down. I was checking out his blog, and was surprised to see that they even did a course recon last week – actually, his description was a pretty strong endorsement for what I already knew, Rock Cut is a pretty good place to ride!
As I was warming up, I saw Abby Strigel, Brittney, and a host of other WORS women, along with a ton of Wisconsin men, ready to stretch their legs a week before Iola. Hmmm … this was going to be interesting!
There is one trail at Rock Cut that I’ve never been able to clean – four log crossings and a small (usually dry) wash in a row, with the second and third crossings being the largest. I’ve been through there a million times, each time practicing ‘cross instead … so yesterday I knew I’d have to practice before the race. I dragged Kim up there super-early, kitted up, and headed to the logs … and cleaned ‘em, first try! And second, and third, and fourth … I was ready. Maybe today was going to be a good day after all! (Funny roadie moment – I didn’t feel like getting wet before the race, so I walked the wash each time. On the third time through, the Lalonde bros. came flying through as I stood on the side like a dumbass roadie … I can only imagine what was going through their minds after the fiasco at Sheboygan last time we all raced …) (And no, I was NOT the roadie at Sheboygan who got caught in the tree. It was someone else.)
The time approaches, it’s almost 11 o’clock, I make sure to get a front-row start. B-Matter goes rolling past. The Lalondes line up. Gatto is right behind me. Other A-type personalities are circulating. Fifty-odd riders. We’re all standing there staring at each other, swapping stories, and all of a sudden, someone is yelling at us to go?!
And so we went! Downhill, uphill, level, then BLAST off the end of the parking lot into about 200 meters of widetrack with some turns, before slamming on the brakes into the left that takes us to the logs. We go from three wide to tight track in 5 feet, with some idiot in a TREK jersey bombing the inside … only to crash and tie up the trail 50 meters later. Dumbshit!
Amazingly, I found myself jumping off the parking lot with the leaders, and diving into the logs in about 8th place or so. Huh? I’m that close to the front? How the hell? Maybe all that trail riding is starting to pay off?
Passing and getting passed, Gatto goes by in a blaze of green and black, before hitting the long widetrack uphill from Lions Club … only it’s been graded for utilities, and so the soil is just sucking us under. I’m losing contact with the very front, no real idea where I am (10th? 12th? 15th?), and I start to settle in for the very long 3-lap effort … in heat that will hit 87 degrees by the end of the day. A Kettle Moraine rider and I sort of settle in together, I rail the pine trees, he outclimbs me a bit, I’m riding the singletrack better than him? Cool!
Through the river, up the hill, down the sand, slam on the brakes … he misses the left and has to run, I balance and am able to stay on. Down, around, up, up, up, up, and more up … Kim hits me with a perfect feed, and it’s full-on, 44x11 tailwind, into lap 2. (Lap 1: 43 minutes.)
Kettle and I trade place a couple of times, I gap him on the flats and singletrack, he gets me on the climbs. We’re pretty evenly matched, but somewhere mid-lap I lose my steam a bit – it’s hot and getting hotter, and I’m struggling. I wash out my front wheel on the sand and have to run, and now we’re even. We pass a few guys with mechanicals, I think I get caught somewhere in there, and then – thankfully! – Kim is there with the next feed, able to hand up two water bottles so I can dump one over my head. (Lap 2: 44 minutes)
Lap three was better, I recovered some of my momentum, caught up to Kettle guy and hung on as he climbed. I wasn’t going to jump him, as he was clearly out-climbing me, but I was definitely going better as the lap wore on. I cramped on some of the downhills, no standing for me, thank god for suspension. We both clean the sandy turn as we pass lapped riders … and I realized, given the length of the laps, we’re going pretty damn fast out here. Through the new trails, one of the BKB is coming up hard, we get passed by an older guy and BKB goes with him … I dig deep on the climb and hang on … BKB falters, Kettle is gone, and it’s all I can do to try to keep up with the older guy … not going to happen, but when I look back there’s no one! Just pavement to the finish, one more bottle dump, down the hill, and whew! It’s over! 30 miles in 2:15, last lap 48 minutes!
And I was cooked. I sat down on a chair in the shade of a tree, and couldn’t move for a very long time. Eventually, I got cleaned up and we headed to awards, just enjoying more shade as we chatted with all the WORS folks … Iola sounds like it’s going to be fast with some pretty full fields. They announce the Sport results, WORS riders on top in more than one place. Renee wins a raffle prize. Then it’s our turn, the “experts” who did 3 laps.
I knew I wasn’t in the running for the really cool overall trophies, but I was holding out hope for some category hardware. I was doing the mental math, and was certain I was out, given that I believed Brian and Jesse were 30+ this year, and John was for sure. That was, until I found out John was single-speeding it, and Brian and Jesse are only 29 and 28, respectively!
So I still had a chance … Experts 30-39 … I don’t know, big age breakdown … maybe … 3rd place announced … 2nd place announced … and the winner of the Expert 30-39 … Me!! Holy cow! I won!!!
I was laughing as I collected my cool medal, a Campy cog with a wooden insert that had the name of the race and my placing. I told John, “not bad for a reformed roadie” … I really felt like I was racing my mountain bike, not just out there for a hard trail ride. It’s a big step from last year, not that I was anywhere near Brian, Jesse, Marko (top three overall) or John (winner of the SS class), but at least I was in the game a bit, and somewhere near the top of the field. It was a cool feeling, and I’m really looking forward to getting out there this weekend to see what I can do!
Race notes: It's kind of funny when the race announcer doesn’t know the heavy hitters … he announced the placing for Jesse and Marko by calling out the “Ladonna” brothers! … I hope most of my bad luck seems to be out of the way for the moment, yesterday was one of the very few MTB rides I’ve ever done, and maybe the only race, where I didn’t crash! … I’m seriously re-thinking whether to double up this weekend, this trail thing seems to be going well, maybe I should just ride it out and skip Baraboo …
3 hours ago