With temps rising the race was lookin to be a good one. The course was completely different from 2012 as it was ran in the opposite direction and only used a few of the same sections (backwards). It was a great idea driving up the evening before with Matt Jones to pre-ride. I ended-up goin with a similar gear ratio (36/19). The climbs were dialed-in and were fast. The course was 99% dry which made for fast lap times.
Sittin on the start line I was gettin ready to tear it up. Then a rider comes blastin up in front of us sliding to a stop with a tail whip...it was Wes Richards! Well, there goes my shot at the win! :( Wes is a great/strong Pro rider being 13yrs younger, probably aboot 40lbs lighter, and having aboot 40hrs more of training each week than I!! LOL
Takin-off at the start I easily took the hole-shot and set a good pace into the first long/fast set of climbs. Looking back it was Wes on my wheel then a huge gap back to the remaining field of 10+ single speeders. As we continued flyin up the climbs the gap kept growing. At about the 1/2 way mark there were 2 huge climbs back-to-back. These had me grinding hard on the cranks and pullin up on the bars with each step on the pedals. I had previously chatted with Wes yelling back to him saying, "You know you can take me, eh!?" To which he replied, "Yes, but I'm also racing in my normal class after this." Well, this 1st climb was the climb he decided to take control, just after I told him it appeared we had 1 or 2 riders bridging the gap. He acknowledged this and rode by as I took a line to the side allowing him the better line. Then, just as I was about to crest the 2nd of the 2 huge climbs one of the other riders succeeded in catching me. His first attempt to pass failed as he couldn't maintain his speed. However, his 2nd attempt was good just as we hit the top to begin the fast decent. Hindsight I would've fought harder to hold him off...as soon as he passed I was on his wheel and having to scrub speed numerous times as he was not as smooth or skilled. I yelled a couple of times for him to stay off his brakes. LOL Then as we swung a 360 around a by-passed bridge he made a bobble and went wide on a nearly 180 left turn. Being on his wheel I quickly dove inside as I yelled out, "Inside line!" I'm not sure what happened after that, but I put in an attack to give myself some breathing room for the next couple of climbs and when I looked back I had a huge gap of at least 300yds.
As I continued to push-on, I ended-up getting a glimpse of Wes! It was clear that he was on a quite smaller gear (when asked at the start he told me he didn't know what he was riding LOL) as when we hit a few sections of trail that required pedaling I was pullin him back. As he was approaching the last climb, on the lead to the transition area, I was droppin into the ravine and yelled across to him, "Hey, Wes! You need to wait-up!" Then, as I crossed the stream my gears started skipping when I started puttin power to the cranks for the climb. I started gettin worried, as in-front of me was the tightest/steepest climb on the course. It was a 180 steep left with a root in the middle creating 2 lines. This climb required tons of power and momentum. I wouldn't have made it had I not pre-rode it. Then the clicking of the chain stopped and I chose to go for it. I hit the climb on the inside and pulled hard on the bars while being fully prepared for the worst (chain jumping, chain breaking, or the frame exploding like the SS Trek frame last year! LOL). SUCCESS ! As I rounded the corner I nearly came to a stop as I mashed the pedals down then started to accelerate up the ridge. As I dropped out onto the gravel road to the transition area to start the 2nd lap I saw Wes just aboot 30secs up the road.
Starting lap 2 I blasted back into the single track hopin to keep Wes in sight as long as possible. I was thinking that if I could keep him in sight I could chase him down with the bigger gear at the finish. Then, as I flew around a bend cresting the first climb I was on him! He was just getting back on his bike!? I yelled at him, "Dude, I was kiddin aboot waitin-up, but thanks!" LOL He yelled back that his front wheel came loose and blamed me for sabotaging it! LOL We then paced up the climbs as we did at the start. Once again this only lasted until those 2 punishing climbs! He once again started to pull away. I put in an effort to delay it, but it was futile. He was gone by the time I reached the decent. However, looking back I wasn't seeing anyone bridging-up this time. Now I was focused on my only plan of trying to get him in-sight for a show-down at the finish.
With legs on-fire, I mashed the climbs hard as I could and rarely used the free-wheel to maximize my power and speed. I was even pedaling while simultaneously braking to scrub speed for the tighter corners just keepin the pedals turning and the rhythm going. Once again I finally got a glimpse as I started dropping into the final ravine. This time he was already past the monster switchback climb. At this point I accepted defeat. As I approached the climb out I was prepared to dismount if the chain made any hint of potential issues. It did not, so I chose to ride it again. Luckily all went well and I was off to the finish... 2nd across the line my legs were toast! As I rolled to a stop next to Wes I congratulated him on a strong race and relaxed as we waited for the remaining racers who were minutes behind us. He was able to hold a 30sec lead to the line...I have to be happy with my performance, just bummed that I couldn't defend my VA title, as I called him a "Sandbagger!" LOL!