Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tour de Strongland

Approx. 12 miles - 2nd place Master's class - 1:13

Arrived and registered. Warmed up for about 15 minutes; arrived at the starting line. It had rained a bit in the morning, but it hadn't rained for over a week. I wasn't worried about the trails, but thought the rocks might be slick.

And off we go. My thought was to stay in the front half of the pack off the start line. The first two miles is gravel road before it heads into the woods. I found myself all the way in the back of the pack. I realized quickly I don't have the sprinting ability of the other guys. I made a quick strategy revision. I decided to keep a steady pace, and try to pass once in the woods and rocks.

On the gravel road I passed two people, then saw the course veering hard to the left into the woods up a small but steep trail. Having ridden this trail a lot, I knew what gear to be in. I quickly pass two more riders that misjudged the hill. Quickly got to the creek crossing, and passed two more riders that took the wrong line.

I now headed up the rocky winding trail that led to the top of the ridge. There was not room to pass on this section, unless the rider in front of you misjudged the rocks. My new 29er rolled over the rocks rather easily, and I was able to pass a few more riders that didn't navigate the rocks well.

I played some head games with a few riders in front of me. I would tell them I was behind them, or make some braking noise to let them know I was close. They would then use a lot of energy to increase the pace. I kept my pace the same knowing I'd catch them on the next technical section. We popped out of the woods and headed down toward the first bridges of the day.

I knew from the past that after the narrow bridges, the trail would head up hill. In fact three hills with small plateaus separating each. As we start to head up the first hill, I quickly pass two more riders. To keep my back pain at bay, I have to get in an easier gear and spin, but since I can now lock my front shock and the fact that I'm pedaling a light bike, I am able to keep a good pace up the hills.

I approach the next hill, and can see that the riders in front of me are unaware it's around the next corner. Again I shifted in preparation, and got past another rider or two on the short hill.

I was now coming upon the hill that just killed me last year. It's a long double track that is steep, levels off, steep, levels off, and then steep again. Last year I didn't have the gas to make the hill, and walked most of it. This year, I kept slow and steady and passed three more riders. Though some young kid went blowing by me up the hill. But it was clear he was not in my class.

Started heading down hill and back in to the woods. I took a bad line and was headed for a big hole. I was preparing for an endo, but the new shock got me through it. The rider behind tried to pass, but I held him off.

Made my way through the twisting rocky section and saw the downhill section coming. I could see a rider ready to jump back on his bike to do the downhill section, so I yelled that I was coming through. I was really not close enough to yell it, but he let me pass anyway.

Wound through some fields and fire roads, and back into the woods, leaving the worst of the hills behind me. Kept two riders behind me for quite a while until I misjudged some rocks. They both went by, I caught one of them later.

Finally pop out on the gravel road that leads to the finish. I was passed at this point. At first disappointed but then I remembered I didn't have a big ring, had a bash guard instead. Only one person passed me because of it, so really not a problem.

Finished the race, knew I did well but I didn't know what place I came in until the results came in the mail. The fall race season looks promising. I'm racing better than ever, can't wait for the next one.

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