Ahh, mountain bike racing in New England...it just wouldn't be right if weather didn't factor in some how.
I left the house feeling surprisingly tranquillo despite the rain and the promise of strong competition. This was going to be one of the first weekends of the season where there wasn't a competing mountain bike race dividing talent based on series allegiance or location.
Get to the venue, park next to Gerry, Michelle and their awesomely dry EZ-up. I saw Gerry was registered in the Singlespeed class, and was wondering if it was a mistake, but no, he had in fact tasted the Koolaid and was joining the fun.
I ride up and down the course just enough to get filthy, and it's time to go.
In my head the two men to watch were Scooter (Scott Levreault) who was dominating the Cat1 SS until he decided to try the Pro/Open for a while, and Dan Barry, King Of Burlingame record holder and EFTA strong man.
The whistle blows and its Holeshot Baby!...for about 100 meters until Dan and Scooter smoothly glide past me. Scooter gets to the single track first, and Dan has about a 25 meter gap on me.
As things twist and turn I'm slowly loosing sight of him. I can't see the pack behind me, or the two in front.
Great. I'm riding alone.
But as I get near the back of the course I'm beginning to catch back up to Dan. The technical nature of this part of the course is playing to my strengths (I guess?). Right before we get out to the fireroad I get in front of him.
But just as on the opening fireroad Dan easily spins past me once we're out of the woods.
He gets a gap and stretches it to the start / finish.
As he turns into the singletrack he has about 200 meters on me.
Again near the back of the course I catch him, and again when we get back to the fireroad he gets me back.
Hmmm, lets use some strategy... think, think, think...if I can get in front of him earlier in the third or forth lap, maybe I can get out of sight before he can pass me on the fireroad...
The third lap there is a lot of 30-39 y/o traffic. I'm pushing pretty hard through the rough stuff to try and reel Dan in earlier. Hodges doesn't really have any significant climbs but lots of little power climbs. On one of these I hear a crack and this happened:
My bar breaks at the grip / brake lever. My brake lever is just hanging by the housing.
I pull off the trail and put the lever back on the broken side, sliding it over enough that I have something to grab onto, yet still have a little leverage.
The leaders of the 40-49 y/o pass me.
Now I've switched to damage control. As long as I can keep on riding I'm going to. Riding with a short, sharp bar is somewhat uncomfortable, and quite awkward. I clumsily make my way past some more 30-39s and try and stay focused on laying down power whenever I can.
Climbing is a joke. With what the rain and traffic has done to the course, even the slightest rise is a running affair with my plastic shard of death.
But no one is catching me?
On my last lap I pass the women's field. Other than running hills, there are no unplanned dismounts. As I'm making my way up the last stretch to the finish I see a rider coming up fast. After a lap and a half of riding with a broken handlebar I'm not taking any chances and I sprint for it with everything I've got beating him to the line.
He had gears.
I held on for third.
Which was especially important because it was my buddy Cam's birthday and I told him I'd try and win him a medal.
I also won a t-shirt and a stick of stuff to rub on my junk to prevent chaffing. Since I'm Charlie the "Taint of Steel", I have no use for such nonsense.
So I got myself a different reward:
Sugar, caffine and salt yum! umm, kingsized...
Looking at my lap times, I was about 3 minutes slower on lap 3 and 4 than 2 (2 was 2.5 minutes slower than 1, but the conditions deteriorated considerably between the first two laps; there were puddles well above your axles on lap 2). In light of this...I'm not going to get all woulda, shoulda, coulda; That's racing!
I've heard chicks dig scars, does this count?