Polartec is sponsoring a series this year and Gunstock offered up their nordic trails for the first two races of the series as Thursday night events. I was super pumped when I heard about this. Usually you only really see weeknight stuff down south in the more populated areas so it was really nice to have the option to get a good race pace effort in close to home.
Gunstock Nordic Association opened their lodge up for the event. It was pretty ideal.
The turnout was great. Looked like 45-50 racers by the time things got going. Course was a bit modified from what they had hoped to do due to snow conditions and the open trails that were available. Loop ended up being a short 8/10ths of a mile but it had a decent little climb on the front half followed by some flowy descending on the back half. There were two high speed left handers that were fun to try and take as fast as possible without washing out. There was even a fan gun going through the start area that created sand pit like conditions. Squirrelly snow that required power and quick reflexes to stay upright.
We did a mass start Expert and Sport all at once. They ran it like a CX race. 45mins for Expert, 30 for Sport. First go through the 'snow pit' was carnage as expected. Everyone hit it at full speed trying to establish that front group. Several guys washed out completely and most others had outriggers going just trying to stay upright. I escaped unscathed and found myself at the back of the lead group of maybe 10 guys or so. The gap from that group to the rest opened up pretty fast and pretty significantly. By the top of that first climb it was probably already 15-20 secs.
I was on my limit on the tail end of the group. Probably should have warmed up a bit more but that is pretty much always the case and I'm also just not really good in the first 10-15mins. Lapped through with the group and heading into the snow pit the second time I clipped some deeper powder and before I knew it I was completely perpendicular to where I wanted to be heading. Didn't go down but it took me a bit to get all figured out in that snow and moving again. By that time the group had steam rolled away and I was firmly in no mans land.
I spent the next few laps isolated just churning along. Didn't seem to be making any progress on the front group and no one seemed to be gaining on me. Lapped riders started showing up pretty early with such a short lap and before too long it was basically impossible to keep track of who was who and where anyone was. I started feeling a lot better around the 20-25 minute mark. Power felt pretty consistent. I'm not 100% sure but I believe I clawed maybe 2-3 guys back from the front group as they started to fade. I'm only really basing that on how long it took me to catch them once I saw them. I didn't pass them like a lapped rider it took a bit to come up to them and pass so I'm assuming they were stronger riders from the front group.
If that was the case I believe that put me somewhere in the maybe 7th-10th range? About mid way through the tops guys lapped even me. Don, Lee and Anthony all came by but I think that was it. I was still feeling pretty good towards the end of the race but I was caught by someone on the last lap. He rolled up to me about halfway up the last climb. We rode together for a few moments and then he slowly started to pull away right towards the switchback at the top. Luckily I was able to plow through my brain governor that was telling me I was giving what I had. It took me several years to have the confidence to push past that, its a pretty strong biological process.
Grabbed two gears and got out of the saddle and closed the gap over the next few hundred yards in the rolly stuff heading into the descent. I was fairly certain that I could take the descent just as fast as this guy so it was going to come down to getting there first and then keeping the pace up. We came up to a lapped rider at the same time, I went left, he went right and I tried to use the opportunity to punch it with a clean line in front of me. Not sure if he got held up but I got a slight gap and I was able to descend a bit faster and get to the line with maybe 3-4 secs to spare. RACING BIKES!
Promoters decided to focus on the podium for both classes when it came to results. With all the lapped riders and lack of timing gear it just got too tricky to keep everything straight. Its all good. I was about where I thought I should have been and I felt good on course so I'm happy with the day. Upon crossing the line the race promoter was walking around giving out swag and I scored a free Bontrager beanie and then had some Moat Mountain beers with the Clarks Bro Racing crew. Solid Thurs of racing bikes.
Can't wait to do it again in two weeks.