Well, it appears that I'm well over-due for posting an update, eh! LOL Things have been crazy busy with work and life leaving little time for racing or trying to post to my Blog! Anyhow...
I left off with the US Cup East #4 which took my team mates and I to Ducktown, TN. following the Hobby Park Wednesday night training series race. I was feeeling great following the race, but not looking forward to yet another muddy venue. We rolled-in to Ducktown in the early afternoon with plenty of time for the planned pre-ride. It was tough to get motivated due to the non-stop rain, and I was not looking forward to the ensuing clean-up from the pre-ride. However, running singel speed it is a requirement when you have never ridden the trail as you would have no idea of what kind of gear is possible. Once on the bike I was ready to go to get it done. It was chilly at first, being that it was only in the 50's, but the start climb had things warming up quick. The trail was in great condition, and surprisingly it had very little mud...needless to say this set me up for a rude awakening race day! Finally finishing the pre-ride I was confident that the 2:1 gear ratio was acceptable, and off to dinner we went.
Race morning we were up and out to the course ready to go with about 1hr to warm-up. Upon arriving at the venue at 8:30AM we quickly noticed that the river had risen numerous feet! We were seeing the bottom with all the rocks less than 12hrs earlier, and now it appeared to be Class-5 rapids! Then just about 1/2hr prior to the start they announced a delay of at least 1hr and that the race was changing. The park directors made everyone move to the opposite side of the river due to the water level, and part of the original course was under water! The course/race was now to be a XC-TT!! 1 lap for all classes, roughly 11 miles long! The start was crazy, with a patch of asphalt for about 10 yards, leading to a drop-off of a few inches, only wide enough for 2 bikes, and into a single track ridge climb for a couple of miles! At the start 1 rider spoke-up and stated he would be letting the other 3 of us go (smallest turn-out yet due to weather). So that left 3 of us jockeying for position. As we took off the rider next to me gave me a squeeze so I backed-off knowing I had a bigger gear for the duration of the race. Then I noticed the 2nd rider, on the far right, having trouble clipping-in to his pedals. I attacked and passed him on the edge of the ridge quickly bridging-up to the leader who pushed me over off the line. After just about 400yds into the climb the leader suddenly sat down on his saddle dropping his cadence. It seemed like we were climbing up a river with all the water coming down the trail. The one good thing about this was that the water washed-away any mud that might clog-up the working of the bike, but it created extra effort and kept the feet and legs cold never allowing them to warm-up. I quickly called-out my pass and increased my cadence to blow by him in a split second! After a few bends of the climb we came to a short false-flat where the trails ascent decreased for about 40yds allowing for a short breather, and for me a pedal strokes in the saddle to get a drink and look back at the competition. I found I had a good gap and quickly stood back on the pedals and increased my cadence again. By the time I crested the first major series of climbs I was out of sight and passing those classes which started minutes before us. It wasn't until the last series of steep climbs that the previous leader finally pulled me back. Just after I let him pass me, to sit on his wheel, we came to a tight/steep switchback. I was dismounted for the entry as he started the climb. 2 steps into the climb he lost traction and momentum and came across the trail in front of me almost crashing. He then dismounted and walked following me up the climb. Once we made it to the final steep/slight right bend to the top I re-mounted and hammered it out cresting the top. We were now on the final crazy decent which would include a mix of gravel road jeep trail and slick single track! We passed a couple of riders, then my glasses began to fog-up. As I pulled them off to place them in my back jersey pocket he attacked and passed me. It was short-lived, as he went into a corner too hot and just as he began to slide-out his tires grabbed! This was pure luck, as instead of sliding off the edge of the mountian down into trees it shot him up hill into the enbankment full of trees. I heard a crack and immediately slowed-up to yell back to see if he was OK. As I watched I saw him pull his bike back out of the trees, so I continued on knowing he was OK. He soon puled back up to my wheel and I kept him there through the nasty single track where we both nearly slid-off more than a few times. (Crazy thinking a couple of single speeds racing downhill!!! LOL) Once at the bottom it was a mile to the finish on asphalt along the road. I encouraged him to take the lead and joked with him that we both knew I had the bigger gear, which he laughed back in acknowledgement. Then with about 50yds to go I gave a sprint and took the WIN!
US Cup East #6 took my family and I to Jackson, GA for the holiday weekend! This would be #4 of 7 required races for the overall series title that I would be competing in for 2013. We arrived early afternoon once again for my pre-ride of the course. Shortly before I was ready Matt finished-up his pre-ride and came over to tell me to put on a bigger gear! So, after chatting with Matt, Robert, and Chase, I chose to do it and swapped-out my 17T rear cog for a 16T cog. This put my gear ratio at 2.13:1. This would be the biggest gear raced yet on a 29er for me! The pre-ride went great, even though everyone was complaining about the bumpy course ridden with roots and rocks. It was a lot like the Greensboro trails and seemed normal to me. However, once back I returned the 17T cog to the bike. My decision was made due to a few short steep rocky/rooty climbs where I knew I would be trying to pass riders I always catch on lap #1. I figured the lower gear would allow for any slow climbs and fast acceleration for passes, and I also figured that no one would be running bigger than 2:1 gearing.
Race morning started with kids races! As I prepped for my race Thane took off in the 7-8yo class at 8:30AM. He went into the woods in 3rd place for 2 laps of what was the final short loop of our race course. It had a few sharp corners and a couple of short climbs with 1 being a little steep. Coming out of the woods to start lap 2 he was in the lead! He had a good gap as we cheered him on. Apparently the leader stepped-off his bike on the steepest climb and Thane blew by him. He held it to the finish and took the win, his 1st US Cup race and his 1st win! Then it was Nic's turn in the 3-5yo class. He was super excited, but as usual he got timid and let others go in front of him into the trail. He eventually passed a few and on the final decent 2nd place crashed and he was able to squeeze by. Finishing strong with 1 other closing the gap quick he managed to take 2nd! Now it was my turn...
At the line it was choas as usual with all the Sport class riders squeezing in front. I eventually yelled out to them to hold-up as we took our place in front of them behind the Pro/CAT1 women's field. I was fealing pretty confident with my gearing, but the guy next to me pointed to a young guy on the far left stating that he ran away with the race the week before. As we took off I quickly saw that rider attack the inside for the lead, but I held back as we started on asphalt which dropped onto gravel, then back to asphalt with the start of climb #1 which was a couple hundred yards before cresting and dropping into the single track.
As I continued to increase pace I began to pull away from the field into the lead. Once I hit the asphalt climb I stood on the pedals and attacked! As I crested the climb I released my lock-out on the fork and peeked back to see a nice gap to the field with 3 of the remaining 8 giving chase. Knowing there was limited passing in the tight trail I held an easy pace. I figured that if they pulled up to my wheel I would attack again, as by then the legs would be warmed-up and ready to go after recovering from effort #1. Then on a short rooty/rocky up in the trail I felt something in my left hand pop and a short quick pain shot through my thumb/wrist/forearm and then it disappeared. I quickly looked back wondering if this would mean trouble. The chase wasn't closing...so, I attacked on the 1st technical decent. Quickly I was out of sight. I continued to hammer while lookin back in areas of trail where it doubled back, but I never saw the chase. Just before completing Lap #1 I came up behind riders on a minibike. It was Dave giving Robert a ride out!! As I passed I noticed it was him and called out asking if he was ok. In classic Robert I heard, "Yeah, Yeah!" LOL Then I continued to hammer on hoping he wasn't banged-up too bad. Lap #2 was more of the same, and the body felt even better. However, I forced myself to hold-back so as to not make any stupid mistakes. Yet, I still pulled-in numerous riders from the CAT1 classes that had started before us crusing by them in the tight technical sections. Finishing the race I felt great, good enough to take another lap even! But then it was time to start packing up for the return trip to my parents' as my wife was getting the kids ready.
Taking the podium Dave was kind enough to allow me to have the mic. I stood on the top as everyone hushed to hear my words. "Thank you, Dave, everyone! Today in honor of Memorial Day I chose to not wear my team jersey in memory of my friend SCSWO John "Dusty" Marcum, KIA 9/11/08, and all others. Who was the leader of the team DEVGRU which his remaining team mates ultimately killed BinLaden! Thank you!" The crowd then broke into cheers and claps! It was a great response. Only bummer was I missed spraying the champagne! LOL But I already took enough time from Dave's agenda and thanked him again! :)
A couple of hours later, while driving home, the left hand started to ache. Before long it was getting unbearable! We made a stop for gas and some food and Iran into McD's to get a bag of ice. It didn't help, but also it never swelled-up which was odd. However, while getting gas we had a laugh as a moron woman next to us drove off from the pump in her Mercedes ripping the hose off as she left it in her tank!! Her 2 daughters quickly popped up with their cell phones to video it as their mom made the stupid comment of how she didn't break it, that they were made for people who do this! LOL