Hey, remember me... yup, still around. In the grand scheme of my chaotic life, it's been pretty quiet lately. What better way to cure that than to fire up the bike races again? This past Sunday was the Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails and it was my first opportunity to represent the Seven Development Squad (have I mentioned how awesome that is? ok, just checking). Due to some family conflicts I knew I'd be arriving late and riding straight to the car afterwards, but it was still worth it to make the 90 minute drive and see how the training is really going. I dragged my buddy Paul down with me and we screeched the truckster into the parking lot with about 80 minutes to sign in, get dressed, and warm up. We got good news just before getting there that another MRC friend had won the 50+ beginner race so maybe that was a good omen for the day.
I had just enough time for most of a warmup lap which is always a good thing for me to avoid riding the first lap of a race like a drunken monkey. Except for a little (avoidable) sand pit at the start, a nice tricky little downhill early in the lap, and a couple rooty sections, the course was very cross-like with lots of very fast sections and lots of super fun twisties through the trees. The hole shot was important though because of the sand, a tight turn at the top of the hill, and a little double log hop early on that would clearly be a mess in a big pack. Did I mention that I didn't quite ride the whole lap... that would be important later.
I was ready just in time, got myself right on the line, whistle, clip in... let's boogie! Hit just the line I wanted to around the sand and up the hill and I was slotted right in 5th wheel of a nice line. One guy blew from the start, but a couple guys came around and it was just general high speed lung busting chaos for a while. I was riding pretty well overall and didn't really have any moments where I felt like everyone else was thinking "Who invited the sketchy guy?" Very early on I found myself right in the neighborhood of an NEBC guy who ended up being my main battle for the day.
So about not riding the whole lap during warmup... at the start someone had said something about whether the mud pit was rideable. Hmmm, I didn't see a mud pit. The good news is that I generally loves me some mud so that was just some good fun when I got there near the tail end of the loop. Now if someone had just said something about the awful steep hill at the end of the loop... it was your standard chin-on-the-stem little kicker, but when you weight 195 those things hurt. Fortunately it hurt lots of others too so I made a couple passes the first time up. Ok, lap 1 done, 2 to go.
Lap 2 fortunately got a little more sane and me and NEBC guy were just trucking around carrying as much speed as possible. About half way through the lap the trail popped out to a little clearing and I figured this was a good time for a drink. It was a fine time for a drink, but it turned out to be not such a good time to put my bottle away. When I reached down I got off-balance just a touch and then dug my front wheel into a little patch of sand... AND DOWN GOES FRASIER! I was perfectly fine, but I had heard a weird wrenching metal sound from my bike. I of course hopped on without checking and figured why not just do inventory while I keep racing. Things seemed mostly ok except my stem was now pointed about 15 degrees left and something in the front end was rattling. That's perfectly safe to race on right? Yah, I thought so too.
Lap 2 finally closed out and I effectively had no concept of where me and NEBC guy were in our field, but there was a group of 5 or so of us together (I was pretty positive the other 3 were from the field ahead of us). My crooked front end had me a little concerned about the steep downhill, but I survived that and a little ways after there was a section of roots that I carried really good speed over. I noticed that I had suddenly dropped my friends so that seemed like as good a time to go as any. Again, a fine plan to go go go... not such a fine plan to go so hard that you hook your bars on a tree. By the time I was going again, sure enough, you know who was charging back up to me. I forget where, but he caught back on and now it was time to wait for one of the late hills to try and make a charge. Who'd have thought that was his plan too? We hit this one gravel covered hill and now he had a gap. Argh... too. tired. to. chase. Some slower guys we were catching were so very kind to slow him down on some single-track so I could catch up... thanks guys. Hanging on for dear life and now it was left to the last steep hill. Well, someone forgot to tell my legs that we weren't done yet and I just flat out stalled about 5 feet from the top. I made sure to finish strong anyways, but that was that.
I had to rush back to the truck and hit the road which was fine because I was nearly certain I was off the podium. Later posting of the results showed I was 7th, about 3:30 back from first. I was definitely hoping for better, but I had really nothing left at the end. I could have beaten my main competitor, but looking at times I need a minute thirty to get up to 5th and I'm not sure where that would have come from. Way more good than bad overall so I'll take it. Next race Saturday. Oh, and congrats if you actually made it through this :)