At the beginning of the race season I had very modest expectations. This was going to be my first full season as a Cat 1 and from the trouncing I received in my only Expert race, I would be happy mid pack.
A little trip in the wayback machine at my pre-2009 race history might be in order.
I started racing mountain bikes back in the big booming 90's. Races were HUGE! 40-60 plus rider fields in the Sport category was the norm. We had 10 or 11 races just in Connecticut.
I raced a couple races as a Beginner in 1995, got 5th in the second and felt I should move up to Sport.
In 1996 I raced most of the series and invented the term "middle third". It was a way of not saying I finished in the bottom half (39th out of 60, "I finished in the middle third").
The rest of the 90's and early turn of the century racing was spotty at best. I guess that happens when you're breeding. I would enter convenient races in the Sport class with a 1 day license. I had started road riding, and began to occasionally make the top 5.
Hurt my knee. Started playing in a band again. A little smoking, a little drinking (define "little"), and the bike started collecting dust.
Put such tomfoolery to the side and started riding again, and really loving it in a way I never had before.
Then some kid calls Cycle Therapy asking about singlespeed conversions.
Next thing you know, I'm converting all my bikes to SS, and loving it even more.
DNF'd a singlespeed race in 2006 when one of my conversions decided it wasn't happy with our arrangement and throws the chain 7 times in the first lap.
In 2007 I had the bikes sorted out a bit better and won 3 of 4 Singlespeed Open races in the Root 66 series.
Time to move up to Expert, right?
Well I buy my license in December of 2007, and as the 2008 race season approaches, the economy doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me. I find it hard to justify spending all that money on gas to go racing. I end up only doing one race in the Expert Singlespeed class. Some kid kills it finishing like 15 minutes in front of me. But I get 3rd (DFL)!
But that race, Domnarski Farm, really lit the fire. I had so much fun out there, I didn't care where I finished. It was just such a thrill riding my bike as fast as I could.
For the 2009 season I had to choose to race my age group or the Cat1 SS. Since the fast men of the class were going to test their mettle in the Pro / Cat1 open class I figured no one else would be racing Cat1 SS, so I should just race my age group.
First race, Hopbrook Dam, comes and I do okay. I finish in the top half of a huge field (13 of 28 riders), some of which are sponsored, some of National champions, and I'm real happy with that, but I want to finish top 10 to score points, which is my new goal for the season.
Winding Trails was up next, and I do a little better. I get 6th out of about 20. I get points, so I now set my goal for top 5.
Winsted shows me I've been blowing the starts. Maybe I was intimidated by the talent of the field, but my first two races I didn't get a real good starting position, or start, and would have to claw my way through the field to gain positions back. At Winsted I get in the top 5 off the start, and as we begin to climb I move up to third. The leader flats out, and I move up to 2nd which I hold to the finish.
Now I'm beginning to think things.
My starts are getting better; I often get the holeshot.
At Bikes for Bovines I actually win one! I fully admit this victory had a lot to do with someone else's misfortune, but that's mountain bike racing, and being prepared for mechanicals is part of the game. What impressed me most about that performance is Kevin Hines only beats me by 6 minutes, which are easily attained on the 3 miles of gentle fireroad descent to the finish each lap, so I'm climbing good.
Climbing is where my strength lays, power courses not so much (gee there's a shocker).
Through out the course of the season, I learn what works where (gearing, and tires), and might try something differently next year to try and compensate for some of my weaknesses.
The Root 66 series is/was my priority, and as such I went to most of the races. The consistency of showing up was as much a part of the overall as the performance on the course.
I think there's a children's proverb in there somewhere?
I would like to send a special thanks out to James, whose advice on gearing was invaluable to me this year.
Also to my family for tolerating me spending so many Sundays away from home (hopefully they'll join me more often next year).
Finally to Jill and Chris for throwing a hell of a series. They put in a ton of work making this series so good and should be duly appreciated.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and sorry for the book.