I got to Domnarski farm early Sunday morning so that I could pre-ride the course. Here is how the pre-ride went.
I started at the start (duh). I went about 100 yards around a corner into the woods and was immediately confronted with a 20+% grade rocky hill. I got off the bike. I thought bad things. Luckily it was only like a 20 yard hill. I got back on the bike for about 100 more yards and then got to another 20+% grade, 20 yard, rocky hill. I got off the bike. Holy heck, this was not going well. Luckily after that spot the course was mostly rideable. There was a stream crossing that had a steep rocky bank on the far side (see the trend here) and the one giant puddle with deep black water and about 10″ of mud on the far bank. Both were a bit challenging. The course also had a lot of rocks (Yeah southern New England!) so you really had to pick lines and be soft on the bike.
I went back and tried to ride those two climbs in the beginning of the loop. I just couldn’t get up and over them. Tried this line, that line, nothing. My balance was good. My weight was distributed properly. But no way up. I did manage the slow motion uphill fall and cut my right leg up. (Don’t look down, it will only make it hurt more.) Yeah, it was not great for the whole confidence thing. (Author’s note: My arms and legs are all scrapped up from riding here in CT. So looking forward to a little riding on just plain soil, on a flowy trail, when I get home.) But,I figured the little nasty “hillettes” were really short and I could dismount, run up, and remount faster than someone who was riding them anyway. I chose this over listening to the “You are a sucky rider” comments in my brain from the Yeti.
The race was at 9:30 so I started to stage at 9:15. There was a lot of chit/chat in the field. Nice to be with Mountain Bikers! They started the 30-39 men. Then the 40-49 men. When we got to the line I looked around at the other riders in my group. There were seven of us.
Two of the guys lined up behind the front riders. OK. They are not going to be aggressive on the start. The other 4 guys? Kitted out. Nice bikes. No clear physical duds. The race director reminded us not to crash each other out at the start. The race would not be won or lost at the start. They counted down and off we went.
I knew what was coming and 100 yards into the trail I went as hard and high as I could on the hill but I was ready to get off and run up the rest of the hill. I got back on the bike. 100 yards farther down the trail and I was ready to get back off the bike. Then I got back on the bike.
After we got through that section I was in 5th place.
Now, what I didn’t tell you about my pre-ride of the course was that once you got past those two little pieces of nastiness this course really was made for me. Meaning this. The loop was 3.3 miles long. It was steep and sustained for the first about 1.6 miles (with some really steep sections, but they were rideable if you kept your weight right on the bike), then a rolling bit and then a fast steep bomb to the start/finish line. I passed my first rider about 0.25 miles on the hill. Then I settled into a nice high tempo spin right on the wheel of the next rider. I absolutely knew that I could take him and was just waiting for the right moment. I could not see the front two riders.
Then……. while going up a steep section, I hit a rock wrong while shifting and dropped my chain from the front ring. Ah, sh!t. Off the bike, chain back on. The guy I knew I could pass? Out of sight. Ah, sh!t.
Back into the good high cadence tempo. I got to the top of the climb and saw my rabbit. Ha. Watch out. Here comes the guy in the Fat Cyclist jersey. I was up out of the saddle and really pushed hard on the rolling flat section. Blew by him. That left two riders in front of me. I kept pushing hard and made contact with another rider and passed him somewhere near the giant mud pit just before the descent to the start/finish line. Onto the second lap.
At the first kicker I saw my last rabbit. We were both off our bikes to get up the hill. I stayed on his wheel to the second kicker. And then once we got the the sustained part of the climb, I upped the tempo, called out “on your right” and rode right past him. At some point near the top of the climb I realized that there was no one behind me and I backed off just a little bit. Moderately hard (as opposed to all out) on the rollers. Still no one behind me. Through the mud pit. Nice safe, conservative descent to the start finish line. 1st place in my group.
Awards were right after all the racing finished.
They had a podium girl giving out the medals.
And here we all are.
(And yes, that is my Leadville belt buckle. Sometimes I sleep with it on. OK not really, but it is always withing reach 🙂 ).
My prize was a neat little medal and cash (essentially my registration fee).
BTW. The guy who hosted the race said that in all of his 400 or so attempts to ride those little kicker hills since he bought the farm, he has never been able to get up them. But there is no other way out onto the trails. You just gotta run up them.
And so the official time differential? Yeah not today. I think that one is going to take one more day to explain.