This course is a BEAST, and if you aren't ready/able it will try to eat you and your bike!
The last 2yrs this race has been in the rain. It once again looked to be the same this year as it started to pour late last night. However, I knew there was a chance it did not rain once I was awakened in the night with the moon shining in on my face as I was facing the window. As I approached the venue this morning it was clear that it had not rained a drop in Sanford, NC. I was glad, as I was hopin to get to ride this trail dry for once as everyone else was wanting.
Temps were great once again as we were warming-up. I initially used my wind jacket, but then after just 10mins I removed it and went with just my shorts, jersey, and long-sleeve under armour. As last week, we (SS) were greated at the start line and given the 1st wave start. 2yrs ago, in their 1st running of the event, we were placed behind the sport class which had us weaving through the riders ahead of us until we had passed them all. However, just as last year, we were once again up-front and were given clear trail to fight it out.
Again, I chose to run the similar gearing as last year which was the same as last week (36/19). Taking off at the start I heard a fellow racer, Josh Miller, yell out "OK, boys. The race isn't won in the 1st 100yds. Oh, wait, Go Bart!" LOL I looked back and gave a smile as I blasted up the steep road climb which is ~100'+ over 1/10"mi with 3 speed bumps and loose gravel as you crest the top just before entering the single track! A few checks over the shoulder assured me of my gap goin in, then it was all about recovery for the next mile as I wasted the legs as usual to ensure myself of the lead.
I sat down on the saddle and tried the best I could to spin, given the terrain, to help the legs and lungs recover from the huge effort. Even while doing this I noticed my gap growing quickly as the trail switched back-n-forth on itself through the 1st technical ravine. As I climbed out my gap was already nearing 30secs. So again I forced myself to control my pace just a tad bit longer to ensure a full recovery. After about the 1mi mark I let go of the reigns and let the pistons start turning. Blasting through the trail I quickly discovered that this course being dry is far more technical than when it is wet!! I was drifting in almost every bend in the trail, and the rocks were grabbing the tires. I'd really need to keep my focus to ensure that I didn't slice a sidewall again like last year!
By the time we hit another of the numerous long switchbacks I again did a time check in my head back to my chasers. It was now over 1min! I just kept pushing-on, as I did not want to be the "carrot" hanging out front. I wanted to be "out of sight, and out of mind!" Before long I was, and I was no longer able to see my chasers. Now it was focus to keep the power going and not let them pull me back. Then it happened....As I ripped through the digestive system of the Rockness Monster, and prepared to exit its tail, I lost my focus just slightly, and with that, my speed. As soon as this happened I was making the sharp dropping 180 right turn and my front Geax Gato tire grabbed a rock with its claws jerking the bars to the left and over I went as the Monster reared its ugly head around to bit me!! The spectators watching went from cheering to yelling "Are you OK?" as I was picking myself, and my bike, up off the ground to continue. With them asking a second time I yelled back yes, as I sprinted away. I was lucky I was going slow, but I was unlucky in that my right hip had landed on a rock!
As I pushed on I started to feel the egg developing on my right hip. Glancing down I noticed a pinkish color developing in the white side-panel of my Rudy Project shorts, but there were no tears so I figured it couldn't be too bad. Then I came upon more new trail, this time it turned into a BMX course! I've never really tried doing doubles or table tops so I took it easy so as not to make any stupid mistakes. I cleared it all while still holding a decent speed. I also took it easy with the 3 water crossings, and somehow stayed dry except for a little water spraying up on my rear and back from the tire.
Coming through the transition area I was just 56mins in starting lap 2. This is by far one of the toughest courses! I immediately asked how many laps I had as I couldn't remember if it was 2 or 3. I kinda figured it was 2, as they confirmed, as it would mean a 3hr race! As I crested the start climb I looked back and again confirmed no one was in sight. I only looked back a couple more times to further confirm this, then I was focused on the lap traffic. This lap was already going better! I was hitting the lines I made mental notes of as I had missed them on lap 1, I was blasting through the water crossings completely drenching myself and the bike, and I even opened it up in the BMX section easily clearing the doubles while having a blast doing it!!
Finally, I was again on the climb up to the finish. This last climb was just 1 more punch in the thighs as it was the 3rd for the race, starting at the bottom and finishing at the top! LOL As I rolled to a stop I started the recovery while waiting for the chasers to come through. After about 4mins 2nd place rolled up the climb, then it was smaller random time gaps to the remaining riders. This turned-out to be a great race despite how my legs and lungs felt after the start climb of the race. Now I'm really feelin good aboot the start of the US Cup East series starting in FL next weekend!!! Time to put the hammer down!!!