Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Every dogeater has his day

U.S. Postal delivers

I still can't believe it. After two seasons of mostly mid-pack (sometimes worse) race finishes, a win. I must say, it feels good. Less the winning, but more the fact that the competition was good and me and my teammates had to suffer greatly to pull it off. But misery loves company, and last weekend there was plenty of company and plenty of misery on the trails of Lodi Farms.

It was Saturday afternoon when Markie and Rickyd showed up at my place for the caravan down to Fredericksburg. The original plan was for Rickyd and myself to do the race as a duo, but Ricky, at a race the week before, managed to wear a hole through his left palm the size of a nickle. So, not feeling quite up to the rigors of racing for 12 hours as a duo, we went looking for a scapegoat, err, I mean teammate. That would be Markie.

We got to Lodi Farms around 4 in the afternoon and set up camp near Tris and Mike. Foley, Lee, Stoner, Butch, DT, and Spearman set up nearby and the atmosphere gets cozy in a hurry. I brought a stove to boil water for oatmeal, DT and Spearman grill steaks. At 6pm we head for the registration table and sign up: US Postal, Sport Class. That gets a chuckle from a few people. With 6 hours till the start, Markie and I head out for a pre-ride and make it back to camp in about an hour. The course is 8.3 miles, almost a mile longer than last year and it's run in the opposite direction. Short climbs (some steep), long open sections, and lots of tight, rooty hairpin turns. A perfect course for a 29er singlespeed. I had raced this last year as a duo with SteigH and we placed 2nd. This year, with Ricky's hand problem, my 2 week long "taper" period, and the fact that Markie had not raced in 8 years, I had no idea how we would do. Markie is a bit worried that my moderate pre-ride pace is too close to his race pace. Nonsense. After the chaotic Le Mans start at midnight with 200+ riders running through the campsite, Markie is off like a beast.

As the first hour comes to an end, the first riders cross the finish line. Fatmarc pulls in among the top 5 looking like he's not even trying. Rockdogger, looking just slightly dogged, is right behind him. At 12:58am, Markie finishes his lap in the top 20. That sets up Rickyd nicely for his lap. He's close to the front and away from most of the traffic. Ricky finishes his first lap at 1:50am. That's probably the fastest lap of the race so far. Now it's my turn. I ride hard, at full effort. I should have taken it easy. I'm hitting the turns too fast and sliding out. The hour of rain before the start and the 400 or so riders before me have made the numerous roots on the course slick like butter. Despite the 5 or 6 falls and crashes, I finish my lap at 2:46am. At that point, I lose track of the lap times and concentrate more on riding and picking good lines through the roots.

My second lap goes better. I'm not crashing as much, but my superwide bars and bar ends, which are so nice on the rooty climbs, are hitting trees left and right, bouncing me around like a pinball. Wood chips are flying in the darkness, and I'm struggling to keep upright. Crossing the stream at the end of the lap as the first sun rays emerge feels like a baptism. I'm feeling reborn as I pull into the finish area and send Markie off on his third lap.

After a quick rest, I stop by the starter's tent to check on our standing. We're a full lap ahead of the Sport Class, PhilW tells me, and in first place in the Expert Class. The recent discussions of sandbagging on the MORE board come flooding into my mind. Oh no, we're never gonna hear the end of it. I tell Markie that were too far ahead so take it easy. I'm glad he didn't listen to me. Turns out that PhilW made a mistake and we were only ~20 minutes ahead of second place.

Markie comes back pretty scratched up. He'd taken a bad fall on this lap and his prospects for a good 4th lap are questionable. Meanwhile, Rickyd and I are feeling the cummulative effects of all the climbing and roots. I'm physically tired, but mentally, I'm on fire, psyching myself up for the battle with the team in second place. It's Evan, Blake, and Bruce, and they're no slackers. In fact, I'm amazed that we managed to stay ahead of them.

By the time I head out for my 4th and last lap every ounce of tiredness has left me. The plan is to leave nothing behind and ride like the dickens. Either Rickyd or Markie would be there at the finish to do the anchor lap. In full daylight, the course is drying out and getting fast. If I had been keeping track of time I think this would have been my fastest lap. I arrive at the finish line and find that Markie will be our anchor man. Ricky had totally spent himself on his fourth lap and could barely walk. That's about how I felt at the end of my 4th lap. Also present are Gina, Cousin Ro and the kids. They came through with the post-race food and support.

I'm chatting with Evan in the start area as he waits for his teammate to cross the line. He knows they're only 15 minutes behind. That's just one bad crash or flat tire from victory. He smells blood in the water. As his teammate rides into the starting area he rounds up Charlie the trail dog and takes off like a rocket. I'm nervous. The minutes tick by and there's nothing to do but wait. I can picture all sorts of things happening to Markie: a flat tire, a crash, getting attacked by Charlie the trail dog, stopping to chat with a cute girl or stopping to pose for the numerous photographers that have appeared on the race course. Dammit Markie, put your vanity in check for once and just ride! Ricky is nervous as well. He heads out onto the course to look for Markie to tell him to hurry up. 12:14 and our prayers are answered. Markie comes flying to the finish line like a demon on what was probably his fastest lap. It's over. I take a bite out of my Spam sushi roll and relax.

We ran a good race. All of us were riding at our limits and I had never rode so hard in my life. Lot's of my friends were on the podium: In the singlespeed class, ErinG and StuartR's 2-person team (competing against 3-person teams!) takes the win, Stoner and Butch take 3rd. In the 3-man sport class, Evan, Blake, and Bruce take 2nd. For solo men's ShivaSteve takes the 7th spot podium running a fixed gear. The solo women's win belongs to BeckyB, 3rd belongs to KateF who rode singlespeed. The duo class was dominated by Fatmarc and LWebb who did as many laps as our 3-person team did (and came in 2 minutes ahead of us!). Bitchin' Bike Lane Babes (all female racing against coed) take 2nd in the open category. The karma award goes to Foley and Lee for taking their teammate Matt to the hospital after a bad crash and missing most of the race.

Pics of the event are here, here, and here.


Blogger camps said...

Nice work,
now, good thing you don't have to choose any classes at the CM, SM, or Big Bear

8:49 PM


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