After eating way too much turkey and having way too much fun with friends over Thanksgiving it was time to get back between the tape for the last C1 weekend of the North American CX season.
Doug had dropped the trailer in Tulsa after Louisville so we both flew in and met up on Thursday. We stayed at Jill and Chris Dakin’s house, who were amazing all weekend. Their two 11 year-old boys raced the weekend, Chris did the P 1, 2 race both days, and the whole family came to support all the races all weekend.
Friday, we spent a lazy morning getting ready to check out the course, which opened at 3 pm. Though there is not a lot of elevation change in the park Tanner and the course designers put together a fun track. There was an up and down sandpit, a slick creek crossing, an unpredictable creek crossing, some fun single track in the woods, and some stairs that were rideable.
Day 1 the course went counter clockwise and Day 2 was the opposite.
I was prepared for some tactical racing as the course wasn’t physically demanding. The key was to keep it together as you were seeing red on the rev limiter. One dab or slip up could open up a gap, though, the gaps were hard to maintain due to the nature of the course.
After another pre-ride Saturday around noon, I opted for the Donnelly file treads at 21F-24R.
The gun sounded and we were routed straight into the sand section. The field was strung out and we had a large group at the front for the first half of the race. It wasn’t until 5 or 4 to go that the front group was a definite group of 5: Tobin Ortenblad, Gage Hecht, Lance Haidet, Cody Kaiser, and myself.
With three to go Gage dropped his chain on the steps and then it was Lance, Tobin, and I at the front. Gage clawed his way back on as we started 1 lap to go. I found the front halfway through the last lap, which is when we entered the single track. Soon after that we approached the finish.
I thought being in the front at that point was crucial to holding the chasers off. As we came upon 200m to go I was sure I was going to have the win until I went to the outside around a right-hand corner to avoid the steeper part of a ditch crossing, the line that everyone took all race. Tobin came in hot and sent it straight over the ditch on the inside to chop me in the exit of the corner. I was on his wheel but there was no room to move up in the final corners of the race and he held me off for the win.
That one hurt. I was looking forward to getting a C1 win this season and that was my last chance. While it was my best C1 finish, it didn’t come with the satisfaction that those kinds of finishes usually provide. I was feeling physically strong all day and comfortable in the technical bits but Tobin found the chink in my finish strategy armor. Ellery, Chris’s 5 year old daughter, burst into tears when I crossed the line in second because she wanted me to win so bad. I am glad she acted out my emotions so I didn’t have too. Heh.
There exists a sliver lining, though. We went back to the host house and grilled out, had a cocktail or two, and ate outside on a 60ºF night in the beginning of December, but apparently, global warming is “fake news”.
After a pre-ride of Sunday’s course, I opted for MXP’s at 23F-25R. There were a few more roots exposed and the extra grip comforts me when I am riding aggressively, which was the plan for the day.
The wind was howling all afternoon and I knew that would make it even harder to break up the field. No one wants to stick their nose out in the wind and pull everyone along with them, especially on a tactical course like Ruts n’ Guts.
Sure enough, we had a huge group of 15 strung out two laps in, then 10, and then 8. Finally, with about 4 to go, it was a group of 5. Again, I was feeling strong and thinking ahead to the end of the race, where my positioning should be and how to hold off Tobin’s, infamous, last half lap charge.
Just as we entered the woods section after the finish we dipped down and turned left across a small rise. I took a hard pedal stroke out of the corner and SNAP! I managed to break my chain.
I was far from the pit and there wasn’t much I could do but kick push and run. I got a new bike from Doug and proceeded to do damage control. There wasn’t much to race for except the purpose of finishing the race, going hard, and anger management. I could have easily thrown in the towel as I wasn’t going to get any UCI points and the payout for a C2, outside of the top five, isn’t worth getting out of bed for. But I stayed on the gas and stayed in the race mentally, which is a positive take away.
After the race, I was bummed out. I was feeling good all race and looking forward to shaking it up on the last lap to contend for the win, which is the about the only positive take away. There is comfort in knowing that my result on paper was a direct result of something I couldn’t control rather than having a biomechanical. The fitness is there but so was a small lapse in oversight from lady luck.
It’s on to the next one! I’m heading to Hendersonville, NC, which is 2.5 hrs from Winston-Salem and a race I have done for the last 4 or 5 years. I got my first UCI win there and I am looking forward to the course changes that Tim Hopkins, NCCX race promoter and course designer, has made. There isn’t any rain in the forecast but the temps are dropping into the mid 40’s and lows in the 20’s overnight. Maybe we will have some freeze/thaw slick but at least we will be in long sleeve skin suits.