Aaaand we're off!
Got the 2011 race season kicked off yesterday and good god was it sloppy. Things appeared to be shaping up nicely in the morning. Rain was holding off, temps were nice for riding, a short half lap preride of the course with the team showed there were a few really boggy spots but the rest of the course was in pretty decent shape considering the previous nights rain. I would have described most of the course as tacky, not really muddy.
God bless grassroots racing
Things were looking up, spirits were high, turnout was good. Everyone was ready to race and excited for the season. The team was looking real sharp and definitely standing out. We had a lot of people coming by the tent and chatting. Speaking of that tent, it is BAD ASS.
There was a lot of tent envy going on
SSers got started after the elites. Can't really remember how many of us there were. 8 were pre-reg'd and there were 8 finishers when I left but I also saw riders I know who didn't pre-reg so there must have been more unless a bunch of riders didn't show due to weather. I almost got the reverse hole shot but I managed to stay in front of one guy heading through the little grass roped off area before heading into the first huge mud bog techy area. Guy in front of me got hung up on literally the first root on the course and tipped into me and I got passed by the one guy behind me. Perfect, DFL...home sweet home. I thought I might be in for a long day off the back riding lone wolf.
Most of the guys I had spotted at the start were fast and I knew at least a handful of them would be gone never to be seen again. There were only a few I thought I might have a chance of racing but I was worried because I remembered two of them from the Big Ring Rumpus last year where they blew me out by probably 20+ mins. Turns out those guys can go real fast on dirt roads, but not so much on wet roots and rocks. I caught them shortly after my bobble and quickly realized I needed to get by them fast. Coming into a turn way too hot and taking a slightly sketchy inside line around a corner took care of both of them.
Caught another rider shortly after also having issues with the terrain. He had some trouble with a techy turn followed by a short, shallow uphill. He lost all his momentum and I did not and gassed right by him on the up, must have been demoralizing enough because he didn't put up a chase and I was out of sight fairly quickly. By this point I was feeling pretty good on the day. I had made some passes early (very rare for me to date) and was riding pretty cleanly.
look how happy I am!
I caught another SSer towards the end of lap 1. I could tell he was strong but he was walking everything even remotely techy. The back half of the course was a bit more wide open and I was yo-yo'ing behind him a bit. Catching on at the rock gardens and falling off a bit on the more open stretches. I decided to just save my energy a bit and keep him in sight and wait for the tech on the beginning of lap 2 to try and get by and gap him. Strategy worked like a charm, we traded spots a bit through the really boggy stuff early and then at my trusty techy turn with the slight uphill after I used the same line to better use my momentum to punch it up the hill. Got a quick gap and kept the pressure on through the next mile or so of techy stuff. I got out of sight and was really getting pumped on my ride. Then the skies opened up.
Tacky conditions went straight to hell. Slop everywhere...brakes? forget 'em. Had to stash the glasses in order to see. Lines needed to get straighter and I dialed things back a bit through rock gardens to avoid a bad crash. I was still keeping things together though, barely. Towards the end of lap 2 a pace line of geared guys caught me while I was slogging up one of the slight uphills on the back half of the course. At the rear of that line was the last SSer I had passed. He must have put in a pretty big effort and taken some risks to get into that line to get back to me. The line wasn't moving fast enough to drop me though and I latched on and decided to just do what I did before. Keep him in sight and wait for the now hilariously techy stuff on the front half of the last lap.
Plan worked again. He just didn't quite have the confidence/hail mary recovery abilities to go the same speed as me through the tougher stuff. I kept the pressure on through the front half of the last lap and really dug deep on the back half to make sure he couldn't catch back on. Luckily a geared Expert caught me on the back half of the last lap and I latched on with him for that little extra bit of motivation to keep the pressure up. We came to the finish shoot together I was on his wheel through the last two turns in the grassy area and then for the first time ever I got to do a sprint to the line. He underestimated my extreme power output and I nipped him at the line. Unfortunately he started at least 1-2 minutes behind me so he still beat me.
Garmin gave me a time of 1h:51m which I think is probably fairly accurate although I am starting to question this things accuracy. Organizers claimed laps were 5 and change my data says 4 and change. I'm kinda surprised how much my lap times slowed but I guess conditions probably factored into that quite a bit. On the results sheet I was in 5th of 8 but now that I think about it I passed 4 people so there must have been at least 9 starters.
I'm really pleased with this outing, I actually felt like I was racing for the entirety of the race. I have been putting in a lot of time trying to get myself into the mix in the SS class and this was a pretty good sign my work is paying off.