The Killer3 in Sumter, SC was the venue for race #1 of the Maxxis Southern Classics Series again this year, as well as race #1 of 3 for the SC State Championship title. My team mate, Tyler, and I arrived Saturday afternoon to set-up camp and get in a pre-ride of the course. It was essential as the course was noted as being completely different with a lot more climbing. Last year I ran a 34/16 and I was debating running the same again this year. However, I was not able to get my bike set-up with last year's components. I have not yet received my new race bike, my 2013 sponsor is The HomeTeam by Spooky Bicycles, so I had to convert the old geared bike into an SS. The frame geometry kept me from being able to use a singulator so I used an old XTR rear derailleur This is where my problem began, as the XTR's cage is too narrow to run the PC-1 Sram SS chain. So, I began digging through my bike cases and finally found a 36T front ring, 18T and 19T rear cogs, and a Sram PC-99 Hollow-Pin chain that all fit/worked together. All other cogs were deformed from the non-stop abusive torque it was subjected to last year (until the SS bike frame imploded! LOL ). Now I was a bit nervous, as this only gave me a 2:1 gear ratio as my largest option (36/18).
Following the pre-ride my nerves settled a bit, as I realized that the 2:1 would be big enough due to the new single track having numerous short steep climbs and most not having a lead-in to carry momentum! I actually thought about putting on the 19T cog, for a split second. hahaha Also, the course was not entirely new. The last 2 miles was the same as last year using a dirt/sand road to return us to the start/finish, so the bigger the better for gearing!
Race morning was waking up to chilly 38deg weather, but the sun was out! By race start it was in the low 40's, but it would never make it over 50. Everyone was debating layers for warmth. I opted for my bib-knickers, 3 base-layers of Under Armour, short-sleeve OTOF jersey, Gore Tex socks, winter gloves, and a head cap under the helmet. After about 20mins of warm-up I finally broke through the chill from the wind, all but the nose and eyes, but I was feeling good. That was until we, the SS racers, were told we were starting at the rear of the CAT2 class!! Now, not only would we be chilled-down again before the start we would also have to fight our way through the huge field of riders!!
With 18 riders on the line we prepped to go, lookin over the field I saw 2 other riders I knew would be tough and a third I didn't know. As I exploded off the line, anxious to get this first race under wraps, I quickly verified I again had a good gear (just a touch bigger than all the others). This kept my strategy in place. Getting the hole-shot I attacked the first 1/4mi of climbs and found just 1 other rider that could hold my wheel. I yelled back "How ya feelin'? I think we got a gap!" Mostly to hear the voice tone/strength and to find out who it was. It was Tom, the runner-up to to me 2yrs ago when I just got back into racing. Immediately I backed-off a touch as I knew he had just come off of a very strong cyclocross season, while I was foolin' around building trails! LOL
My plan went into affect as he eventually decided to pass. I jumped in behind him and let him hang off the front about 40yds pulling me through the trail. He kept looking back at me about every few hundred yards. I kept varying the gap to further the mind game! hahaha All was good until about 1/2 way through Lap 2 of 3...
We had just passed a large string of CAT2 riders and I was bombing down a slight decline on a left-bending ridge-line, which then turns into a 180 right into a steep climb, when just as I rocked the bike to start the right-hand turn a woman jumps out to cross the trail from behind a tree.......BAM!!!! The moron took me out! For a split second I thought I had missed her as I watched my front my wheel graze the back of her leg. Then we were crashing to the ground! My left bar-end grabbed her backpack and pulled her down on top of me and my bike! Out came the expletive f-word! as I crawled out from under my bike and lifted both up. I heard a small crack sound, and upon spinning the wheels and giving a look-over of my bike on trail-side, I saw it appeared to just be the stem moved left making it off-center from the wheel. I was losing the leader! "F-word!" Yup, I was a little pissed...Every time she said sorry, or a rider passed by that would come out. It took about 2 minutes to get the bars straight and locked back down, well almost, as I quickly discovered upon re-mounting the bike and taking-off that they were now slightly off to the right, but rideable.
For the next full lap I pressed on passing by all those that had passed me again for the 2nd time this race. Then I finally got into new riders as I approached the front of the CAT2 field. Still no sighting of the Tom, the leader, so instead of completely blowing-up the legs I decided to back-off. Luckily no other SS'ers passed me during the crash. I then caught my team mate, Tyler, as we popped-out onto the road for the sand-race to the finish. Soon after passing him I I heard a yell, "Here comes a single speed!" Then the rider came by on my left. As soon as he passed I jumped on his wheel to implement my initial plan of attack for the win. I would pedal few revs then coast letting the clicking sound of the hub rattle in his head. After about 1-1/2 miles we approached the last bit of downhill which ended with a sweeping left turn to a slight climb to the finish. I then attacked, sprinting past him I opened a gap before even hitting the decent. Then I was into a tuck position allowing gravity to further propel me off the front, due to my weight advantage, and by the turn I had about 400yds. I then went into a spin at about 75% until I stopped at the finish line to tell the promoter and official know that they "forgot to tell the spectators to stay off the course!"
For the 2nd year in a row I took 2nd place at this venue...things will need to change for next year! LOL Now I'm focused on this weekend's race in Danville, VA at Angler's Ridge. Once again this is a single race for the VA State Title.
......No Pressure!! ;)