Saturday evening I decided to take the plunge and join in on this race for some training. I decided to race the SS in the CAT1 30-39 group. It was a last minute decision due to the high entry fee. They were charging $40 (+the on-line convenience fee of about $3) for pre-registration, or you would pay $50 day of!! US Cup races allow mail-in and are only $30 for CAT1!! Anyhow, since it was local and I would be missing a few races later this month, I figured I needed to use it for training.
Arriving at 10:30AM, I got my registration finalized for my 12PM start. I was already sweating in the humid sun blistering mid-day! I jumped on the bike and rode around while periodically stopping to talk with my friends/competitors for the day. Riding around I didn't feel too good, as it felt like my body/legs were sleeping. A friend, Gabor, actually called me out for yawning as we were just minutes from our start! LOL
At the line the promoter announced a prize for the "King of the Hill". This would be for making it to the crest of the paved soap box derby hill first, which would also mean the hole-shot into the single track. I was just focused on having a good solid ride in our field of 11 riders, me being the only rider on a single speed! At the yell of "go", the field tore-off the start line down the paved model airplane runway used for the start/finish. I found myself mid-pack as we made the sharp left-turn of about 130degrees to start the derby climb. I was sitting comfortably in the pack taking the draft trying not to get boxed-in. As soon as the pavement pitched upward I started my cadence to hold pace up the climb. Almost instantly I heard the clamour of all the riders clicking through their gears to shift down for a spin up the hill. It was almost like they hit their brakes as I shot out of the pack to the left immediately gapping the field. Through my years of experience I have learned to never look back until the objective has been reached....well, I almost made it, as the spectators cheering me on gave it away with about 20yds to go. As I looked back over my shoulder I had about a 40yd gap to the 5-abreast field!! I gave out a yell for fun, "I just got a mug!" LOL
Entering the singletrack I coasted a bit and spun the legs out from the previous effort. I figured I would let them pull me back and then pick it up again to hold the front position. After a few hundred yards I still had about a 10sec gap, so I just went with it. Finally the legs and lungs were feelin good again and I started to rail the singletrack and began having some real fun. It wasn't until about the 3/4lap mark that a rider came by, then a second. I tried to hang best I could, but now the legs were feeling like lead! I finally entered the last section of singletrack, after exiting the woods to a clearing then re-entering again, when I found myself back on their wheels! I yelled-out in fun "Hey guys, you're no longer allowed to shift!" as I saw them both in a small gear spinning up the small climb. LOL They just laughed back! We were now havin some fun. As we made a decent and began the last climb to the final downhill tight singletrack chute through the trees I finally got around the 2nd rider as he clambered up a rooty section. Unfortunately rider 1 just made the chute as I got to his wheel. But then the trail opened, as he missed the right-hand line which gave a direct shot out of the trees to the field with 2 big drops. As soon as I saw him sway to the left I mashed the pedals and sprinted through the right-hand line jumpin off the drops at full speed! Again I gapped the riders and lead into lap 2 with another big gap, and again up the dreaded derby hill climb.
Again as I crested the climb the spectators were cheering me on, to include my normal SS competitors who had already finished their race! One even told me I had a big gap, and it appeared so, so again I backed-off as I entered the singletrack. However, this time I was very taxed as it didn't take long at all for rider1 to catch-up and soon he was telling me to up the pace. I just ignored him and focused on getting my rig back up to speed while I tried to continue my recovery. Eventually I gave in and told him to just call his pass. Then he finally called it out and I squeezed left to give him a fair shot at a pass. Briefly I was able to hang on his wheel, but only for about a mile. I then yelled up to him, "Have a great race, finish strong!" Not long after I had rider2 and a 3rd pulling me in. Once we hit the big climb in the woods adjacent to the derby hill I was no longer able to hold the pace. The 2 of them then overtook me just prior to the crest of the climb. Things were now getting H O T!!! I had unzipped my jersey in attempt to get air to the chest and into my lungs. I then realized I lost my bottle!!! After another descent I suddenly saw a guy tryin to hand me a bottle, my bottle!! LOL What a great guy! I was by him too fast to take it and yelled that I'd get it on the back-side (just up the trail it performed a switchback); however, he misunderstood me and I later found him on the opposite side of the park where we dipped out of the woods briefly before the last singletrack section. I yelled, "Thanks, man! You're awesome!" as I grabbed my bottle and drank! Never noticed who it was but, THANKS AGAIN!!! :)
For the next couple of miles I was playing slinky as I kept reeling them in on the technical sections. Then surprisingly I found myself pulling them back on a climb! I was then on their wheels. Rider3 was starting to get on my nerves with his lack of technical skills, as I thought 3x's he was going to take us both out. He was hitting roots, rocks, and unclipping in the corners moto-style! I had to force myself to stick to his wheel throwing caution to the wind so as to not let them gap me. Finally, as we approached a lap rider, I found an opportunity to pass them both! Quickly by, I soon was able to yell up to the lap rider that I was fast approaching. It was perfect! We were just into a technical descent on a ridgeline as I approached the female rider. She called-out for me to pass left before I could, then all of a sudden yelled, "Wait, a rock!" LOL Too late I was already by her clearing the rock as if it weren't even there! I yelled back, "No worries! It's all good, thanks!" This was the break I needed. I immediately opened up a huge gap as I assume the others got held up by not passing as I had. However, it wasn't long after that rider2 came back strong. Again I watched as he crept away and my legs yelled at me to hold back or they would implode!
Lap3 found me goin up that darn hill again doing all I could to turn-over my cranks! I just had to hold-off rider3 to keep the 3rd spot on the podium! Once to the top I forced myself to hammer-on, and surprisingly I wasn't feeling too awful-bad! Now I started to believe I could do it. Then I noticed again I had lost my bottle!!! I had nothing!!! The only thing in my favor was the liquid air as it kept my throat and mouth from dryin out, but not wet enough to chance takin a shot of GU!! Looking back and listening for approaching riders I kept finding no-one except for the lap riders I was passing. The lap was going smooth until that last outing into the field before the end...all of a sudden I had a rider pulling me in!!! I hammered up the slight climb to hold him off as I would not allow a pass!!! I made it!!! As soon as I got into the single track I knew I had him, as I would now use my size and power to keep the trail to myself not allowing a pass. As I approached any areas with possible passing I upped the pace and then sat back in to blaze through the tech sections. Now I was at the final climb. As I crested the ascent he was on my wheel!!! Once I made the chute entrance I yelled back askin what group he was in and he replied........don't worry, I'm Pro. LOL I just blew my wad holding him off!!! He was just now catching back up after being trail-side to fix a flat when I passed him earlier!! Regardless I held my pace, just in-case, down the chute makin a huge gap to cruise across the finish line... D O N E!!! Podium on the SS with the King of the Hill title and some CA$H!!! Now I'm thinking I should do this all the time, as they never pay-out to the "OPEN-SS" class!! USAC only recognizes it as a CAT2 equivalent, even though it is open for Pro riders down, and seldom do you see beginner racers on single speeds. Maybe it will change sometime in the future...?
Following my podium I left some GU Chomps for the promoter to give to each of the Beginner wave winners, as they were going off at 2:30PM. The only other complaint I had on the day was the horrible lag of time for them to get our awards done...We started at 12, finished before 1:45PM, and then had to wait until 3:30PM!!! You'd think after 20yrs of hosting this event they'd have it figured out!?!?
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the PAIN of winning!! LOL Thanks for reading!!