It’s rare that you get a weather forecast that predicts a 100% chance of rain. It seams like even when a hurricane is bearing down on you there is only something like a 80% chance on rain. So the weather forecast for Wilmington (100%) was pretty bold.
I figured there were a couple of good things about having rain in the forecast: 1. Not everybody would show up (thereby increasing my chances of getting a Leadeville spot); and, 2. Not everybody would finish (thereby increasing my chances of getting a Leadville spot). The only real drawback was having to ride in the rain and mud. The temps were forecast in the mid 50’s. I hate biking in a rain coat if I can avoid it, so I went long sleeve jersey, no rain coat. (BTW, that FC long sleeve jersey is the BEST long sleeve jersey I own. It was warm, even when wet.)
The gun went off at 7 am sharp. The rain started (literally) when the gun went off. I have documented the race course before. Say here for example. So I’m not really going to talk a lot about the course. But….. there are 4 major climbs in this race. The first was a dream (good). The rain tamped the sand and dust down. The road was tacky and the traction was good. The second was also in great shape. 1:30 into the race and the rain was a non factor.
And then we got to the top of the second climb and the a very different dream came into focus. I rode the first half of the course a couple of weeks ago and knew that this section was rough. It was still rough, except that now it was also a muddy mess. This transitioned into the downhill, and that folks is where the wheels became….. completely unnecessary.
The road had deep ruts and now those ruts were filled will rivers of mud. The line you took down the descent was largely dictated by which mud river rut your wheel was in. In a lot of ways it was like being on luge run. Steering? Completely ineffective. OK, to be fair it wasn’t like a luge run. You can steer a luge sled. It was like a bobsled run (you cannot steer a bobsled ). When I got to the bottom I looked at the guy next to me.
“I wonder if my face looks like yours.”
“Don’t know, all I see is mud.”
On the back side of Jay Mountain the roads were soft with a 1″ layer of mud. The net effect was that going downhill felt like biking on a flat, going on a flat felt like biking uphill. The turn around is a 3 mile section of “single track” that was really a muddy swamp. Then back up the river of mud.
(Yes I AM smiling in the pictures from this race.)
Bike started to get really upset at this point. Every pedal stroke was accompanied by grinding (on my NEW cranks, NEW chain and NEW rear cassette). Shifting was a 3 step process: Index down, index up lightly (to release the cable so it could actually index down) and then index down again. I was in good shape though, I still had brakes (which many people lost).
The course “firmed” back up once we got back over Jay Mountain. My time wasn’t great but I was feeling good. Down the Jay Mountain descent back into Wilmington. Up over the last major climb. Into the Hardy Road “Trails” (i.e. mud pits). Then back to Whiteface to finish the day. We ride a set of trails called the Flume Trail. I was wondering if that one would be cut out of the race. It parallels a river and is ALWAYS wet/muddy, even when the world is dry. Those trails ended up being the best single track we rode during the day.
The final section is on Whiteface. Every year it seams like they change the end, never really finding the right mix. This year they carved a bit of trail that went up, down and then up the lower portion of the ski mountain. I rode it on Saturday to see what it was like. Like? Steep, loose, rocky and tight. Fun in the right conditions. A day of rain? Not the right conditions…. As I rode onto the mountain I realized they bypassed this new little section (yeah!) and I entered the final single track right before the finish.
That section, well it sucks in dry conditions. It is deeply rooted with a really soft surface. In wet conditions it was a nightmare. I did wrap myself around a small tree in a slow motion crash. Nothing serious. I went conservative and walked some. Only bad things would happen at that point.
And then onto the finish.
See, I got a medal and everything…
And that is where the real adventure BEGINS (and this episode ends……)