Yesterday was the Bulldog Rump put on by my club - Team Bulldog. It was race #5 in the H2H series as well as the AMBC New Jersey State Championship Race. The park it is held at is usually crazy fast when dry, and dry it was. We had a few sprinkles as we were waiting for the start and during the race but it held off and just made it a crazy fast day. As we lined up for the start there were 8 people in my class. A bunch of the usuals and then Topher. I knew topher from the NUE races and he's one fast dude. So I wondered how long I'd actually get to see him for. The gun went off and I was in a close 3rd into the first turn when the first two went wide and too close into the corner. I split them both and took first into the singletrack. I knew I was setting a fast pace so I decided to turn it back a little and see how that held up. Well a mile or so further into the singletrack Topher came flying by and that's the last time I'd see him. I few of the fast juniors came cruising through and I was sitting comfortably in 2nd for most of the first lap. That was until I hit one of the last downhills and flatted my rear tire. I pulled off to the side of the trail and waved to the pack as they flew by knowing it would take a lot to catch up.
I fixed the flat and as usual rode with some nice anger to try and catch up. I was pacing good and concentrating on being smooth to try and catch up. The pace was working well as I was picking off the slower riders from the other groups pretty well. One by one they fell. Lap 2 was fine and at one point I saw a racer in my category and wanted to close the gap. I counted he was 1:50 in front of me. By lap 3 at the same spot I caught him. I closed that gap FAST. I passed him and attacked to try and put a gap on him which worked for a little while but then he got a burst of speed and passed a few miles later. From all the hard work so far I couldn't hold on and let him slip a little ahead. This was ok as I figured I'd rest up a little and try to reel him in later. During the last lap I passed one of my teammates, and then another teammate as they were having flat issues as well. Then I caught another racer in my category and passed him. At this point I worked my way back into 4th. Then as luck would have it, 2 miles from my finish I had some shifting issues so I had to step off and one racer got by. Back into 5th. I jumped back on and then had flat #2. I ripped it apart quickly and realized I had a 26" tube for my 29'er and made it work and took off again, not losing any places which was great. I just wanted to finish now.
I made the final turn and all it would take was a mile of grass cross a road and then up to the finish. Well as I made that final turn my tire blew for the 3rd time... So I kept on rolling since it was in the grass. I hit the road, threw the bike on my shoulder, and ran up to the finish. Finishing in 5th place and feeling upset about the flats but good overall. Since Topher killed it and won the race handily and was from PA, I took 4th in the state. Not too shabby with all my issues. I think that if I didn't have the flats I would have podium'd for sure. It's all about livin and learnin.