70km – 2:31 – 182/1560 OA – 46/299 AG
This race ruined me last year. Gravel, wet mud tracks and wind. I mean, I achieved my goal of qualifying for Wave 1 this year, but several segments lived on in my mind and haunted me even as we drove to the race this year:
- Windy rail trail
- Super sticky muddy forest trail
- The farmer’s field
- The mud chutes
- The climbs before the final climb
I signed up again this year though because I felt I had something left to prove. I started too far back in my wave last time and spent a lot of the time without a good group to ride with in the open section. I was coming back to get my revenge on the course but couldn’t help but be filled with a slight sense of dread.
Goal? 5 minutes faster than last year and feeling more in control of my pacing.
After a whole week of terrible forecasts (rain? snow? both?) race morning was a beauty. The sun was shining and I peeled off my beanie and buff before we even started. I pushed right near the front of the group and made sure to be in the lead pack going into the first rail trail. Right off the bat I knew things were way better because I felt like I was holding back and sitting in the group, avoiding the temptation to blast off the front on my own.
Now, the first loose rock climb was a different story and became the story of the race. I dropped about 20 places as I got off to run and the best rode up. Then back to smashing the open roads, then running and losing the group in the technical, then pulling on the front in the open (repeat x 5).
However, the most important part is that each of the tough sections that haunted me from last year, I simply took in a controlled manner, took my time and ran when necessary, and remained calm, controlled, and safe. I only had one crash when I tried to cut inside a slower rider on a 90 degree left hand gravel turn and had the bike wash out from under me. I was then comfortable enough to bridge up to faster groups on the open roads a couple of times.
Two real hiccups worth mentioning. I absolutely smoked another rider. In the mud chute someone had gone down in front of him and he dismounted into the lane instead of off to the side. I rode right into his leg at about 20kph. However, he apologized to me knowing he shouldn’t have dismounted right in the middle.
Secondly, my quads cramped solid on the final hill and I had to walk up. Last year I rode it and there’s definitely some pride in that. This year, not so much.
16 minutes faster than last year! Vastly exceeding my expectations, this course will no longer haunt me. I may do it again next year, but now I can ride the 40k with my kids or run Forest City or whatever, I’ve made my peace with it.
I’ll leave this with a final pic of me all cramped up at the end.