Who is that handsome guy on the far left????? Photo courtesy of my awesome girl De!
I arrived late Thursday night in Dahlonega Georgia to get ready for my first new race of the NUE series. Admittedly I wanted to try this race for the new venue as well as the anticipated small starting field to help my chances in the NUE series overall. Since there were only 46 people registered I had my sights set on a top 20 or maybe even a very slight chance of top 15 knowing well that the top 12 or so would be full on pros.
Feeling pretty decent after a nice preride on Friday I knew the end of the course wouldn't be bad and it could help with the mental aspect of the race. It would already be a tough course since it was two 50 mile laps and would be rough heading out for lap 2. I was hoping to keep a good pace and pass whatever aid stations I could as it was around 10 miles between aid stations. The main battle would be keeping off the cramps in the muggy august heat in GA.
At 7 am sharp the race was on and into the 10 mile fireroad climb we went. As I looked ahead I saw Eatough driving the pace and a LARGE group of singlespeeders mixed in with the likes of Tanguy, Lichtenwalner, and hanging onto the back of the group of 20 or so....me. I knew the initial climb was about 4-5 miles so I just wanted to hang on as long as I could. Through the climb I was with them for the first two miles or so and then I had to start easing back as did some of the rest. I kept hammering with a group of 3 singlespeeders that got shot off the lead group and we just paced each other and kept on it. We marked each other on the climbs and really pulled hard through the 10 mile climb. On the downhill though I was very confident and pulled away taking chances on the hard loose turns. I wouldn't see anybody else for a while until the second singletrack 10 mile climb where these same guys started to catch up again. We cruised through the climb and on the next descent I dropped them. This was working well until I hit a slow section of singletrack where I heard the voices sneaking up on me.
I hit a section of really fast smooth singletrack carving through a pine forest. I kept standing and putting the power down and then in one turn my bike disappeared from underneath me. In the attempt to add some extra speed I must have let my front wheel drift a little off the edge of the trail or caught a root or something. All I know was the wheel was gone and I was doing a 20+ mph summersault over the bars and into a sharp piney tree with my name written all over it. When I stopped I was basically doing a headstand at the base of the tree with my bibs torn and caught on the tree and my bike using me for an air bag. Luckily I came out virtually unscathed. I checked to make sure my junk (and my bike)was still in one piece and kept on it.
Then the next problem started to arise. On each fire road I would reach down and flip my lever on the fork to lock it out so I could stand and grind out the climbs. Well each time I did this there was less and less movement of the lever until you guessed it...the lever would not come off the lockout. I now had a rigid fork for the remainder of the 60 miles. This was ok since I could deal with it but just be a little slower than I needed to on the downhills.
The one thing that seemed to go right thankfully was my nutrition and hydration. That was on. Every 50 minutes to an hour I ate, drank, and took my endurolytes and there were NO signs of ANY cramping. Thank goodness. I didn't want to deal with that monster on top of my other troubles. Then bad luck comes in threes, so my front derailleur stopped working. I had to start yanking on the cable with my hand and start shifting all over the place and it started to work...somewhat. It was never really right.
So with all the problems I was lucky to be alive after my near death experience and started to just relax and finish the lap. 4 hours and 24 minutes later I crossed the start/finish for lap two and got a cold powerade thanks to my cold cooler waiting for me, and started the 10 mile climb again. It was going to be a long day at this point. I checked my GPS and the climb took me 1:13 when it only took me 0:53 the first time around. Yikes... I started to go into reserve mode. The realization set in that I might not be recovered from the Wilderness 101 two weeks ago. So I thought to myself to take it easy and just enjoy the rest of the race.
Well that didn't last long. I got to the next aid station and the volunteer so graciously told me that was in 10th place in my class. WTF??? are you serious? Great now I actually had to race again. So I took off down the next descent and rode the remaining 40 miles looking over my shoulder to see when that guy would take the 10th place away from me. Grinding away I still didn't see any riders coming up. Finally I took the last few turns and realized 10th was mine. 10th place in 9:39 in a long hard fought day when a lot went wrong. I could have been much worse and it could have been much better. I am just grateful I got to finish and make some nice lemonade with the pile of sh*t that was handed to me ;-)
Photo courtesy of mattisonbarne's picasa album.