As I did my warm up for The Bike For Bovines MTB race in Keene NH, I was overcome with sense of doom. I had geared my bike wrong. The first 3/4 of a mile was flat to downhill on fireroads and even pavement. The climbing seemed too easy. I spun up to Andy Chambers, also pre-riding, and exclaimed my fate.
During the call up, when Chris Logan got to the Cat1 singlespeed group and saw no one was racing it (I race a singlespeed in the Cat1 40-49), He declares "I guess no one is dumb enough to race this course on a singlespeed. Royce turns to me and starts laughing. Yeah, someone is dumb enough.
I'm not worried about a good spot lining up, because I know I'm going to go backwards at the start. They were sending us off in one large group instead of waves too.
The whistle blows, and everyone swarms past me. I'm spinning my brains out praying to get to the first climb.
As I'm about to get "chicked" by pro Aleksandra Rokita we finally get to the first climb and I can begin a little damage control. Fortunately my group didn't put too much ground on me before the climbing and I start reeling guys back in.
At about the 2 mile mark, I've almost caught pro / cat 1 open rider Josh Wilcox. I get excited, take a stupid line trying to pass some guys to catch him and have to clip out.
Josh is my carrot now.
I get right back up to his wheel by the 4 mile mark, when the course turns into the woods for some off camber singletrack transversing the mountain. Josh has super technical abilities (me, not so much) and gets away from me and out of sight.
At this point I notice I am missing a water bottle. They have neutral feed zone at the 7 mile mark, so I slow and grab a cup of water there.
I think I'll have enough water in my remaining bottle to get me back up here.
From the feedzone there is one tough climb that I need to get off and run. At that point Josh is in sight again. But then things turn down and Josh starts putting daylight between us.
When things flatten out I get passed by another pro, and a guy in one of the younger age groups.
I believe I'm in second in my age group at this point behind super strong Jonny Bold.
Being second behind Bold, I'm starting to think maybe I made the right decision on my gear.
When I get to the Start / Finish there is neutral water, so I stop and fill my bottle.
I catch the two guys who passed me on the flats once we get climbing. I just chugged a bunch of water at the feed, and beginning to feel slight stomach cramps. I probably was just chasing too hard, and try and settle into a comfortable pace.
I get Josh in sight once again, and he dangles out in front of me.
What's this?! My missing water bottle! I'm feeling pretty comfortable with my position so I stop to pick it up.
The young pro passes me back, but as we continue to climb I go to the front.
Now with 2 water bottle going for me when I get to neutral support, I have the young lady there splash the cup of water in my face. She's a little perplexed by this request, but finally does it.
As we turn to the hike a bike climb I catch and pass Josh.
But up ahead walking the climb is Jonny Bold!
I catch him and offer him a CO2 to fix his flat which he declines and offers up some encouragement to me.
I don't know if his flat was a catastrophic failure, or if he just didn't want any outside help (your not supposed to get any, but I wouldn't tell), I'm pretty sure I'm in the lead now.
As we descend the mountain, no one is passing me.
But as we get to the flatter, last 3 miles, I get passed by the younger pro again. About 3/4's of a mile out Josh passes me.
They're in a different class so who cares!?
As I peek over Jill's shoulder at the results, yes indeed, I WON!
Maybe it was the perfect gear, or maybe it was my lucky socks (I wore them the first race I ever won), or maybe I just had a really good day. Comparing my time to Kevin Hines, ex-national champion who used to race with me at the begin of the season, but upgraded to the Pro / Cat1 Open and has been on the podium in that class every race, I was closer to him than I ever have been before (6 minutes down), and I beat second place in my age group by 10 minutes. I know Bold's bad luck had something to do with it, but as they say, that's racing.
At the beginning of the season I never thought I'd be standing on the podium of a CAT1 race let alone the top step.
As an added bonus I found an awesome radio station on the way home too. Lucinda Williams, Sharon Jones and the Dat band, The Meters, Jimi Hendrix, and Billy Bragg! The Meters and Billy Effin' Bragg! How cool is that! I can't believe a radio station with the lame name "the River" could be so cool. 93.9 or 101.5 FM.