Last weekend I visited the wonderful town of Wilkesboro NC and was hoping for a nice respite from what would be an abnormally snowy and cold lifestyle of riding in NJ. This year it didn't disappoint. The forecast called for showers all the day before and we were lucky to walk away unscathed with no precipitation on the course. I think there were maybe 2 damp spots on the course and they only lasted for the first two laps. Conditions and the prospect of a good hard effort for 6 or maybe 6+ hours was all I needed to lure me into this early season opener.
So as usual for this race - the race was to get to the line first. I saw the herd going over and jumped in as fast as I could and got to the front row of the race and all ready to line up...a full 30 minutes ahead of the start time. WTF??? Yup - the warming up that I had done would be for naught as we just sat there and chatted for 30 minutes not willing to budge. So at 10 am with cool but sunny skies the race went off. The only thing I wanted to do the first lap was not to go too deep to early on. So I stayed reserved and let people go when they wanted and passed when I could. I tried to be very aware of my efforts and monitor it the best I could. Lap 1 was uneventful and seemingly solid. Lap 2 went just as well - very steady and smooth. Starting to enter lap 3 I thought I would open it up a bit and see how I felt stretching the legs. I hit the climbs hard - went super steady - and rode the lap 4 minutes slower. I thought I was doing well as I did sense some cramps were not too far away so I had to meter my efforts. Maybe that was enough to slow down the lap or it was just my old friend fatigue setting in.
Lap 4 was steady and lap 5 was a little more spirited as I got to grab a half can of coke and head out knowing it would be my last lap. It went well and solid but throughout the race as well as I thought I was doing - I had so many people passing me that I thought for sure I was probably in 20th place. The one problem with this race is that if you don't have any support watching the race, as a solo you have no idea what place you are in. No leaderboard, no intel, nothing but a gut feeling for how well you were doing. At least those that were passing were passing very quickly and were out of sight in a few seconds. That made me at least hope that they were from the duo squads and weren't in my category.
Overall I felt like I was way slower this year compared to last and hoped I would be in the top 10 as I was 3rd last year. After I crossed the line I got cleaned up and checked results to see I actually finished in 3rd yet again!!! I couldn't believe it. No way did I think I was anywhere near the podium. After seeing that I felt great about not giving up and putting in a solid effort but I really wanted to see the lap data to see how I faired. I was 4 minutes slower than last year and that might have been attributed to the new lap/pit scenario or maybe that the course seemed just a tough rougher and eroded than last year. It's anybody's guess but I was happy with the situation and how I finished. I was 19 minutes out of 2nd and there was no way I was closing that gap.
To top it off when I got finished I found out that my teammate was taken to the hospital when I was still on course. At some point he was pushing the edge and found it. His front wheel washed out and drilled his right shoulder straight into the ground causing him to break his collar bone and crack the 2nd rib behind it. Ouch... He was ok but definitely in a lot of pain. I had just enough time to run to the hospital to get him and return for the awards ceremony and the prize raffle. Afterwards we settled into camp to let the days events settle in and for him the Percocet to settle in. We'll both be back for more.