BUMP was my big goal for the season. I was going to be in peak form. While I didn’t think winning was going to be an option, I wanted to be able to mix it up up front for a while and finish strong. Then, life happened. I didn’t want to go anymore, I mean 5 hours is a long drive knowing youre going to receive a severe beating upon arrival. But, I had already registered and I figured this could be the inspiration to get my training on track, or just hang it up. Given my new-found sense of “might as well,” Sarah and I headed down to ‘Bama.
The unusually cool temps were a welcome relief from what is normally one of the first, hot, sticky, and nasty races of the year, but this didn’t make Saturdays STXC any better. In a nutshell, there was one good spot on the course to pass and everyone went for it at the same time and I came out on the short end of it. No big deal, that’s racing. I was just glad my sister was there to let the ladies who criticized my move know what was what and my wife was there to realize “it” (the mouth, the attitude, the I’m gonna get my 2 cents in, call it what you will) runs in the family. Thanks Terry.
The XC on Sunday was looking promising. With much trail added in the last couple years, the folks at BUMP were going to make good use of it with what was, more or less, a 31 mile loop. Even if I had a bad race, a bad race on fun trail ain’t all that bad. Knowing there are some hard climbs, I took the Mtn Goat (XTC) figuring time gained up would more than cancel out anything lost going down.
It all started well, going into the woods 6th, with what appeared to be solid riders in front of me and it only took a short time to whittle it down to 5. I was feeling better than I could have imagined – this could be a podium kinda day. Then on the first rocky section, the guy in front of me spins out forcing a dismount and we lose the front three. No time to panic, they are all still right there…then he slips again. For the second time, I am off the bike and running.
I hate running when I should be riding. Throws everything out of whack.
Once we are riding again, I manage to get around him, (before he dabs again), but the two dismounts allowed the front 3 to have ridden out of sight. The next 10 or so miles I rode with two riders nipping at my heals, but I was able to keep them at bay while maintaining a comfortable pace, until I came too hot into a corner where I clipped a tree and went flying ass over elbows.
As I was picking myself up and becoming re-oriented with the world – what happened, where is my bike, do I hear an ice cream truck? – Mr. I Can’t Ride Rocky Trail came blazing past. Jerkstore didn’t even bother with the standard “yewwallright??” Not that any of us mean it, like asking a co-worker “how are you?” it’s largely a formality, but to paraphrase Seinfeld, we’re living in a society here. It’s part of the code.
This came near the base of the longest climb on the course. I was now in 5thand determined not to lose another spot, so I got myself together and started climbing. I never saw Jerkstore in front of me, but I kept the power on all the way until I crested on the fireroad and began the Jekyll and Hyde, the last big descent to the finish.
I descended in a way one only can when there are cameras, spectators and lap riders – never fearing, feeling no pain and with reckless abandon. Adrenalin pumping, I was launching that hard-tail over piles of rocks, Maxxis tires and Stan’s rims shrunching, poinging, giving it their all. Powering through corners, passing where there was no space, but not crashing anyone, I was flying and it felt fantastic. I take a sharp turn, the trail smoothed out, and there he was. Probably a victim of his poor technical riding abilities, Mr. ICRRT was right in front of me. One more short acceleration and I sat on his wheel.
With about a mile or so to go, I had waited long enough and I made an aggressive, but clean, pass for which I was scolded, “All you had to do was ask!” Well, if I knew he was the most passive racer ever and the one in a million willing to give up a spot so close to the finish, I would have. What a tool.
All was going well, I created a big enough gap to not worry about a sprint, all I had to do was ride it out. Then, weird course marking created confusion. The three-way intersection had two options and no course marshall. There are other bewildered looking racers, I stop, Mr. ICRRT catches up. I hear Dickman’s voice over the P.A. system “Left, left, go to your left!” I have no idea if he was talking to us, or if he could even see us, but is was something, so I went left. I gap ICRRT again. But after a couple minutes of riding with no lap riders around and I can’t hear him back there anymore, I panic. Did I go the right way? Am I embarking on a 10 mile loop and giving up everything I just suffered for? I turn around, ICRRT is in fact still back there, so at least we are doing something stupid together. I turn back to the trail in front of me and my momentary lack of focus sends me through a bad line over some rough stuff and I drop my chain.
It only took a few seconds to fix, but that was long enough for him to eek by. Just a couple more corners and I see we are headed out of the woods to the finish. Those last couple hundred yards, I chased hard, but to no avail, the small gap was just big enough. 5th place, 2 seconds from 4th and 1 year from being 40. I am pretty happy and I think the form will just keep getting better as the season goes on. Maybe I won’t hang it up just yet.
Thanks to the Days, our awesome hosts, for a great time and to Sarah for supporting an old man’s fading glory.