Sunday, September 24, 2006

Month of Mud - Bavington

Time: 1:00.50 - 11th place in beginner class

Month of Mud is a local race series. About 5 or 6 races, competitive but low-key. I did the series last year and was just hoping to do better than I did then. I had not been able to make the Bavington race last year.

I've ridden at Bavington, but as I was to find out I had not ridden on these specific trails. Got to the race early. It was about 60 degrees; good riding conditions. I took a warm-up ride to get a feel for the trail. I rode the first couple of miles and liked what I saw. Mostly rolling hills through pine forests. Muddy but not too bad. I was able to figure out some good lines through the mud.

With about 15 minutes till the start of the race, I made it back to the car just in time for the rain to come pouring down on our heads. I ducked in the car and waited out the 15 minute downpour. The announcement was made that the race was to begin, and I made my way to the start line. Once there I met up with Dave B., Billy, and Joe B. They were racing sport; I was racing beginner.

I knew this race was to be a time trial type of race, but the guys filled me in on what was bad news for me. Each racer was released one minute after each other. Beginner class was the next to last class to be released. Hence another hour to sit around and talk to different riders. I also got to watch the expert riders finish the race. They were mud from head to toe. Looked like it would be an interesting race after all.

Finally it was my turn. The guy before me was released and I was ready to go at the start line. Suddenly it was time to go. I started up the first hill which I had made easily in the warmup, before the rain. That was before the rain. This time I was suddenly off my bike, running it the rest of the way up the hill. The trail was definitely muddier, but overall not really too bad.

I took off as fast as I could, hoping that I would quickly catch the rider in front of me. From the looks of him, it looked as if it were his first race, and he did not look race ready. I rode and rode up and down the rolling hills, sliding here and there but overall doing well - for me.

Suddenly I saw the rider in white ahead of me. He was about three turns ahead, it had taken about 20 minutes for me to get this first glimpse. This motivated me somewhat to keep up my speed, but what really motivated me was the squeal of brakes that I heard behind me. As I rounded a turn I could see behind me a rider in a red shirt trying to close in on me. His speed seemed pretty aggressive.

I continued to pedal as quickly as I could, be he kept closing in on me. Heading down a hill that had a turn at the base caught me off guard, and I was quickly off the trail. The red shirt rider passed me before I could get back on the trial. I jumped on and took off after him. After a couple hundred of yards, I started closing in on the rider. I think that he had used a lot of energy to catch me, but couldn't sustain it. Not much later he too went off the trail after taking a bad line through the mud.

I took advantage and rode the bike hard trying to stretch out my lead. Pretty soon I saw the rider in white ahead of me again. I was closing in on him, but I could also hear the squeaky brakes behind me.

I caught the guy in white on a steep hill. He was off his bike pushing, he was weak. I quickly passed him. Ok, so I was pushing my bike too. My idea here was to get by him as quickly as I could, push as hard as possible so that when the guy in red caught the guy in white, I'd be nowhere to be seen. I ran my bike up the hill past white shirt got to the top, jumped on the bike and rode with all that I had for about a full two minutes. That doesn't sound like a long time, but in a mountain bike race it is.

I settled in to an easier pace and could not hear the squeaky brakes behind me. Finally settle in to a good pace for the rolling hills. Lots of great single track blurred by. A couple of hills that I had to hike the bike up. Caught a couple more true beginners on a winding hill through an impressive looking field of tall grasses.

Back in to the woods I went. The final part of the course had a lot of logs laying across the trail. None of them very big, so with the full suspension, it hardly slowed me down. I passed another person who got stuck on some of the logs. Soon though I could hear someone catching me. The rider behind me kept getting closer, until I could tell he was only feet behind me. Usually in this situation I would ride to the side to let him pass, but this race I was making pretty good time, and I was going to make him earn the pass around me.

After quite a bit of trail, the rider yelled that he was going to pass where the trail took a little split. Only as he was passing did I see that it was a junior rider. Sheesh, I would've let him pass me miles ago since he was not in my class, and his time wouldn't affect me at all. All this time I had assumed it was red shirt. The upside was that I had kept a higher pace than I would've otherwise.

Shortly after I was passed, I once again heard the squeal of the brakes of red shirt slowly closing in. According to the the guys I had talked to, I knew I was near the end of the race. Soon enough I shot down a short steep hill on to the gravel road. Red shirt not far behind. Knowing that this was the home stretch, I gave it my all one final time. I rode in my big gear till I didn't think I could pedal anymore. Red shirt couldn't catch me as I crossed the finish line.

I finished in 1:00.50 in 11th place. I was only a few minutes behind the riders in front of me. Had my lower back not given me trouble, and had I pre-ridden the course, I think I could've finished in the top 5. This course fit my riding style more than most of the courses, there were no really long climbs. It was a great time, and a great way to start off the Month of Mud series. And it was the first time in a race that I actually felt like I competed a bit, rather than just rode the course to finish it near the back of the pack. Looking forward to the next race in the series.

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