It ended up just being myself, Bully and Carl from the team. Weather kept a few folks away but the turn out was still pretty good. Quite a bit better than what I was expecting. I was hearing talk that the Expert field was 60-70 strong. After getting our miniature race plates (Bully and Carl didn't even need to trim them for aerodynamics) we rolled around a bit to get warm. The start was fairly well organized as was the whole race, not bad for a smaller operation. Seems like Stratham is pretty recreation oriented and there were lots of volunteers/families there to help out.
It was a mass start and we were about 2nd or 3rd row. I'm fairly certain they had some sort of minor celeb or like a beauty queen or something set off the air horn to send us off which was pretty funny. Then I missed the start button on my Garmin and got right to spinning at 140rpm. Some of the heavy hitters (Dylan McNicholas, Crossley, etc.) got the pace ramped up pretty fast and everyone else followed suit. I was getting my doors blown off just trying to hang on hoping that we'd get into steeper terrain or at least singletrack.
Unfortunately there was probably 1.5-2mi of various flat/field riding to get done before that happened. I was getting passed left and right but luckily as soon as you finish up with that stuff the trail turns up and I got right back to stealing spots back. Guys were dumping gears and I was sprinting by. That climb hurt pretty bad because I was already basically red lining just trying to survive. Once we got to the top though we got into the greasy off-camber turny stuff and I really started to make up some ground.
Lots of guys were not following the rules of the race and using their brakes. Somebody should tell them that when you do that you usually fall over in conditions like these. Find those ruts, control those slides and let it rip. I was having a real good time. Lots of really fun sections to the course and a good amount of some really tough steep climbing. This would be a great venue for a summer series race, plenty of parking and facilities and a fun well balanced course.
I ended up having a quick mid race conversation with our Exposure Lights sponsor rep Steve J. I had never actually met him before only exchanged emails and when I rode by he saw my kit and asked who I was. We yo-yo'd a bit until I was just able to get away on the last climb to the fire tower. It's nice to see reps like that getting involved and laying waste to singletrack with everyone else. We are looking forward to working with him more next season.
I ended up getting into a sprint of sorts with two other riders coming into the finish but speeds were getting pretty hilarious and the finishing chute/area wasn't really equipped for 3 people to be coming in full bore. There were lots of kids around so we all sort of neutralized things and rolled in, I was second in the group. I hadn't really had any idea where I was in the field. I wasn't expecting to do all that well racing geared guys but I started hearing guys saying we were just outside of top 10. I was fairly surprised. They didn't really have results up (should hopefully be online tomorrow) but it looks like Bully and Carl got 6th/7th and I got somewhere around 15th (12th Official Results) coming in a few minutes after them.
The organizers had several hoses set up around the venue and everyone was able to immediately hose their bikes off, like it never happened! Then I got a free visor (who wears these things anymore?), water bottle and an enormous free woopie-pie. I'm glad I made the trip. This is a cool event, I hope it gains some traction and eventually becomes a New England regular.