King of Burlingame MTB Time Trial: This was the first race of the season. It was short (30 min) and technical. I was the only junior in the Expert / Po class, but overall I was about midpack. Pre-riding the course would have been helpful, but doing it blind was fun. It was a good way to start the season. My bike stayed together and so did I!
Fat Tire Classic: Well, it was going really well until I randomly flatted. On the start of my second lap, on a smooth section, I managed to slice a sidewall. How, I have no clue. Wizards??? I ran light tires because Winding Trails is smooth and fast, but there was nothing on the trail that should have caused me to flat. I didn't panic too much because I had already built a 4+ minute gap on second and I had an awesome CO2 inflator. The cut eventually sealed, so I started riding again, but the hole ruptured. Ehhh, that was a bummer, especially since it is a 3 hour drive each way, but at least I got a really good lap in.
Massasoit Lung Opener: Based on how well I WAS doing at the FTC, I decided to do the Pro/Open race. Guess what? There were at least three fellow racers in the Open race who had been to either the CX or MTB Word Championships. One of those guys was...Jeremy Powers!
JPow!, Seamus Powell, Johnny Bold, Justin Lindine, the usual...
It was pouring and 40 degrees at the start. My first lap was decent, not too far back from the lower 50%. Then, halfway through the second lap my rear brake stopped working. Not having a rear brake kind of stinks because you can't stop (duh)...so I crashed into a tree on a downhill...which stopped me better than my failed rear brake did. I snapped the trunk of the tree in the process (it was LOUD!) and banged my head into something. The crash broke my front shifter's barrel adjuster, which forced me into the 26t chainring for the last lap.That was okay, though, because I really couldn't pedal at that point anyway. My head was okay thanks to my Limar helmet. I'm pretty sure I saw SNOW sometime during the race, maybe it was hail. Either way, there was stuff falling from the sky, and it was cold. My vision was horrible because of the mud being flung into my eyes. AND THEN I FINISHED! I was delirious towards the end of the last lap. I was totally trashed. It took me several hours to get warm again and I kept shoving food in my mouth until it was time to sleep. It was HARD. Was it fun? Maybe...
Weeping Willow: This is my "home course." I can ride to it in 45 minutes and I enjoy the trails. I wanted to do well this year. Last year was great and I wanted to repeat that success. I decided to stick with Cat.1 in hopes of having a stellar race. The pros were doing an extra 8 miles, which just seemed like too much. The juniors were staged with the 19-29 group.
I led for the first mile, which was entirely fireroad. One junior and an "adult" squeezed in front right before the singletrack - no big deal though. We quickly caught the HUGE singlespeed field and passing was nearly impossible. The guy behind me was having a temper tantrum, swearing and rubbing my wheel, but I had nowhere to go and neither did he. I ignored him and luckily I never saw him again. I passed the junior and once I had some open trails to work with, I drilled it to get a gap. I began to cramp halfway through the race, not because of dehydration; I was just pushing myself to go fast.
I went full gas until the finish. I won by 14 minutes and got 25th out of 108 Cat.1 men. I'm pretty happy about that result. I had fun and it sounds like everyone else did too.
Coyote Hill Classic: This was my third time doing Coyote Hill. It is a small race in the middle of nowhere. Mapquest doesn't recognize the town as existing, GPS units don't work and cell phones don't always work either. Welcome to Vermont! I have fond memories of the venue, but the course itself doesn't really suit me...soft loam, tight turns, muddy grass, short steep climbs with wet roots and some slick rock gardens. Each six mile lap has a decent amount of climbing. It is always wet for whatever reason. The course got changed since the last time I raced it (2009) and more loam and more rain made it slower than ever. Keeping momentum is not easy on this course. My legs were sore before the race even started, it was a long drive and, honestly, I wasn't too excited about racing my bike. This was also the first warm, summerlike race...80 degrees, 70% humidity! The other juniors were both Vermont-ers who knew the course better than I did, so I told them I'd hang out behind them on the first lap. Zeb led Matt and I through the first lap at a casual race pace. He got something in his derailleur, and as nice a kid as he is, this is bike racing, so I gunned it. Sorry! Matt hung on for a while, but eventually faded. Zeb came back on the last lap, casually saying "Hey Nathaniel!" through the switchbacks. I freaked out because I thought he was right behind me. Turns out he was actually about 5 minutes back. Those switchbacks are deceptive! So, I won, but it was not easy at all. I struggled. I could not ride my bike for the life of me. Chain suck was a persistent problem with everyone. I ran probably a quarter of the race (no joke).
The mud left three options: 1) Cross chain big-big, no chain suck, but say hello to CRAMPS!, 2) Spin in the small chainring and get chainsuck every 4 pedal strokes (also no joke), 3) RUN! (or walk...).
This was definitely the hardest race of the season so far and the hardest race I can remember from last year. Talking with others led me to the conclusion that EVERYONE basically had the same problems I did. Chainsuck was the name of the game. It is no wonder why the singlespeeders absolutely destroyed everyone. No opportunities for chain issues and no place for mud to accumulate.
Yay bike racing!