Living the "pro" life
I wasn't planning on doing this race. Google said it was almost a 3.5 hour drive away. For New England that's far (we're kind of spoiled in that regard). But my whole family is away. Kim and the kids are on MV, and my folks are on Nantucket. I'm stuck in CT due to work responsibilities. Lots of cycling friends are away too (like up in VT to race the 'Grind).
So what was I supposed to do? Stay home and watch the grass grow?
I decided to go all pro and book a room at the Days Inn and go up the day before for a little recon.
James and Kerry had the same idea so I had someone to pre-ride with.
In the morning James and I headed out for a lap. We made it about 2 miles before we decided it would be best to go back to the truck and get a lighter gear. We had heard it was about 60' of climbing per mile, but in actuality it was more like 100' per mile. Made a couple of wrong turns, and discussed just which sections were going to really make us suffer.
Later in the day Kerry and I hit it. No wrong turns but I amused Kerry with a couple of panic stops as I failed to comprehend that the blue tape meant I can't go there.
We line up. There are a couple of serious looking cats in the group. Jay Provencher from Bike 29, who reminded me somewhat of Filip Meirhaeghe (with a better complexion) and Don Harmeyer from Belgen Cycles.
Jill sends us on our merry way, and I do not get the hole shot, Jay does. Don fall in line behind him, followed by myself and Kerry, who rides for Biker's Edge (by the way). After we get through the major suck of riding through a grassy field we hit the single track. The four of us are quickly separating ourselves from the rest of the pack.
Riding third wheel, I'm feeling pretty comfortable, if I can just stick with these guys through the singletrack, I might be able to do something on the climbs. There are no real sustained climbs, but there are many many short punchy ones.
Don and Jay are excellent technical riders. They are just flowing through the singletrack, getting little gaps on me that I need to close again and again. No problem, I'll get them on the climbs right?
Wrong! Those fookers are opening it up on me!
Well maybe I can hold on for third I think as they start pulling away (nice positive attitude huh?).
I occasionally get glimpses of Don in the woods but Jay is long gone.
Near the end of the lap we come out onto a fireroad and I see Don up ahead. I count it off and he has about 30 second on me.
About half way through the lap there is a steep punchy climb that I was able to ride the first lap, when I get to it on the second lap Don is standing on top of it. I yell up to him "You better get back on your bike!" I run it this time, and I'm hot on his heals, he's beginning to cramp, and I get around him. This motivates me to up my pace a bit to hopefully get a gap and out of sight (out of sight out of mind).
Coming through the start finish area, I dare to glance back and I'm in the clear.
Now if only I don't fade like I have the past two weeks.
The course is very twisty. You can often get a glimpse of the riders 20-30 seconds ahead as you weave through the woods. I see an electric blue Niner.
I didn't think I'd see him again. If I'm seeing him now, he must be fading, or I'm going faster. When I get to the hill I caught Don at, Jay's standing on top of it. He glances down, and gets his hustle on.
He's far superior to me on the descents, and anything technical, so anytime the trail turns up, I give it all I've got.
Finally on a short grunt after this giant rusty boiler abandoned by the quarry I catch him as he dismounts.
From there, there is a lot of twisty descending and singletrack, and he's keeping me insight. Fortunately there is a series of steep switchbacks, and I employ my number one strategy; kill it on the climbs.
Apparently this works as I get to the line alone.
Jay came in second about a minute back, and Kerry rounded out the podium.
Millstone Grind is an excellent event. Well run, and well catered. Cookout for the racers, free neutral feeds, raffle, and a super fun course. Definitely going to be on my calender next year.
I rode my Karate Monkey. I've been highly frustrated with my fading lap times the previous two races and wanted to try a suspension fork. My suspension fork's steerer is too short for my Singular, so I rode the KM. It just might have worked as my laps were all right around 47 minutes. Speaking with two guys who did ride rigid, I told them I thought it was a great course for the rigid. They informed me of the contrary, that the course was pretty rough, so I guess the fork helped out. Plus racing for Marble Design I could write off my motel room. Sorry Sam.
I rode with a hydration pack. This helped not only by being able to drink almost anywhere on the course, which would be hard to do on such a course, but also on a mental note as I wouldn't have to figure out how to drink with my left hand (little things are big to Charlie). My back is hating me now.
No heart-rate monitor. I used it at Hodges, and it did confirm that my heart does indeed beat fast during a mountain bike race. Good to know.
I drive faster than google. Google said it would be almost a 3.5 hour drive, I did it in about 3, which included 2 stops to use the potty on the way up and one on the way home. There was also a lot of RV traffic and some construction on the way home.
I won a pair of Mavic shoes! I'm like the Imelda Marcos of cycling footwear, so this is great!
Everyone is so friendly in VT. I like that.