Well. I still love the course (and it was in great shape this year) but this course doesn't love me. Unfortunately I doubt any XC course at race pace is going to do me any favors from here on out. My wrists and hands are utterly worthless this morning to the point of this blog post even being a bit difficult to pull off. But enough about my impending arthritic doom there was indeed a bit of bike racing.
I woke up to pouring rain at home and had a solid WHY THE HELL DO I DO THIS AGAIN?? moments but at this point I am very good at powering past those. Weather improved as I drove south and by race time things were just fine and the sun even came out mid first lap. But the damage was done and we were looking at a nice and greasy course which at TVR is a bit less than ideal. To be honest though I thought the course held up great.
Got lined up with about 10-11 SSer's. We got going just after the Elites and I got shuffled to the back pretty fast. I was running a lighter 32:20 for a few reasons, one my early season fitness is well below average (or maybe not more on that later) and this course is a bit climby and very technical so there really aren't any spots to really spin out and let it rip. One of the few spots to do that a bit is the start so I got a bit blown out the back. BUT as some of the guys wheeled away I noticed that 2-3 of the guys cadence was REALLY low. They had geared pretty massively and one of them had a Road Club jersey on. A roadie way over geared at TVR? Ouch.
I swept the big gear club up right after the stream crossing when things really start tilting up so I knew I wasn't last at least. Unfortunately for me thats when my Summer of Discontent started. I hadn't ridden in technical terrain like this since my issues progressed to where they are now and there is just something about race pace when you aren't exactly dictating your own pace that changes the way you ride and the lines you can consistently take. I found out pretty early that I was going to have a really rough day.
I was taking a beating through certain sections and coming close to crashing often just because the pain would build up as I would bounce off stuff and eventually I'd have to dab and just take a break to let it subside. I was quickly swept up by the entirety of the Expert field and found myself where I so often was used to being years ago...Expert/SS DFL. Except not quite. Somehow no one in the big gear club had caught back up yet even with all my bumbling. I actually felt pretty strong in the few sections that allowed a bit of non technical riding.
I knew going in to this that this was a bit of an experiment and a test to see if I could truly modify my expectations a bit and just ride around and try to have fun. I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I can do that. I was getting incredibly frustrated not being able to ride things that I know I can shred. As a whole this course suits me pretty well and I've had some 'milestone' moments earlier in my 'career' on this course. If I'm on a race course I'm not sure I can turn off that drive to want to be going harder, its just too ingrained at this point.
I battled on and in the final cross fall line section coming into the start finish area things get a bit less tech and a bit faster. Its by no means buff but terrain I wouldn't think twice about going full speed through. I don't know specifically what I hit or exactly how but I took a shot on a bit of a diagonal trajectory that my braces apparently don't guard well against and for a brief moment I thought it had broken my wrist the pain was so intense. My hand went instantly numb, I couldn't grab the bars, grip strength was completely gone. In the span of a second or two it felt like someone put my wrist in a vice and then lit it on fire. No idea how I didn't crash spectacularly. Somehow managed to ride out the next few feet one handed as the shock subsided. Lapped through shortly after to find that I was sitting in 6th in the SS field. No idea how I managed that with how I was riding, fitness must be ok I guess or TVR claimed some lives.
But I knew in that vice-of-fire moment that not only my day was over but possibly my XC racing days in general. If I'm on a race course I'm going to want to ride hard and its apparent that I am going to pay dearly for riding hard on certain courses. I need to do a bit more soul searching and maybe make a few more tweaks to the bike to try and alleviate some of the specific things I think I might be able to make a bit better. But racing is probably going to become something I do just a few times a season. Endurance stuff might still be in play, 'race pace' at those events is a bit more 2/3 to 3/4 and is less frenetic and probably easier to manage and do safely. And many of those courses aren't anywhere near a TVR in difficulty.
Strangely I'm not as bummed about that realization as I thought I'd be. I can still be active with and run the team. I'm pretty invested in that program's success at this point and I think I have it on a really good trajectory I'm just going to have to find more lieutenants on the ground if I'm not going to be attending as many races personally. There is still a lot of riding that I've proven I can do and get a lot of enjoyment from. So I'll run the team as best I can and do the riding I can do that I enjoy and thats that I guess. #shittywrists