Okay, so the the hail held off until the racing was done and hopefully everyone got home safely! I know it got really ugly really quickly...
I got to Bear Creek just before the start of the Cat 3 and Juniors race. Always fun to watch those races - there were some fast juniors tearing it up and some true beginners out having a good time. Bikes of all shapes and styles underneath riders of all ages. Then the Cat 2 race started and it was time to think about following my own advice and getting in a warmup. I hopped onto the course (making sure to stay out of the way of the racers) and did a lap, throwing in a few little surges here and there to strech out the legs and simulate passing. Elden did a fantastic job with course design for this race - some good sections for passing, hitting the rock garden twice, a nice little techy downhill and most of the flowy fun stuff Bear Creek Terrace has to offer. I was impressed - and like I said, after so many Bear Creek races, I've never ridden the exact same course twice!
(One of the Cat 3 racers finishing up - Photo Nick Thelen)
Then it was time to line up and get ready to race. Stephanie and I were talking at the start, looking at the ominous clouds hanging over the easter sky. She made a comment about how nice it would be to race in the rain as it was really hot out. I agreed, but figured it would blow over to the east like most storms do. Neither of us noticed the upper level winds teasing the clouds back in our direction...
At the whistle, we were off. Sarah G took it out fast on the long climb up the the Regional Trail. Another thing I really liked about this course was the short start lap with a longer section on the Regional Trail to open up the field a little more. I was about 30 seconds or more behind Sarah as we entered the singletrack. Time to start working hard(er) and see if I could close that gap down! A brief glance to the east and the clouds were looming darker... I turned my attention back to the trail, repeating through the rock garden "Smooth is fast and fast is smooth." Through the finish line and onto the full lap. I could see the gap was shrinking just a little. A shorter climb up the Regional Trail, the back down and around to the steep climb just in front of the finish line. Over the three rock steps at the rock garden, then across the regional trail to the back side of the course. I caught Sarah just before the traverse through the field and started chasing the guys. On top of the mesa and the whole eastern side of Colorado Springs was engulfed in darkness. Those clouds were turning nasty in a hurry. I was still pretty confident that we'd stay dry, even though the leading edge of the rain seemed to be getting closer every time I took my eyes of the trail to steal a glance eastward.
(Chasing hard with the clouds building in the background - photo Nick Thelen)
Another lap, keeping the pace as high as I could, reeling in the men who'd started before us. We were still in sun, but everything from the interstate east was shrouded in clouds and rain. A huge rainbow appeared over the city behind the race course - a harbringer of things to come. I came through the finish line with three laps to go and heard the first rumble of thunder. Uh oh... It was turning into a race to see how many laps I would get in before they called the race! The wall of rain was inching ever closer and thunder echoed in the distance. I was on my third full lap of the course, anticapting, hoping to be able to get in at least four. I could see the leading pro men behind me, getting closer. Then just before one of the switchbacks, I felt Russell behind me. Luckily, this was a wide corner with a double track run out. I went high and pointed - with a quick "Thanks" he was around me and gone. Russell was the only Pro man to catch me, but I think more would have if the race had continued. At that point, with the growing intensity of the thunder and the closeness of the angry clouds I was figuring the race was done. A quick look east at the top of the course seemed to confirm my suspisons - it really looked ugly! Through the rock garden, down the hill and around to the finish and I was right. Race called due to weather. Afternoons in Colorado Springs can lead to thunderstorms. This was the first one that I remember interfering with the racing.
(another shot of the clouds looming - photo Paul Von Boeck)
Smart call on everyone's part there - As racers finished the thunder was getting louder and the wind was starting to gust. Nick was up top, helping to tear down course. He finished just as the first hailstones started falling. Another lap of racing would have left everyone out there trying to clean up right as the storm really got going! Thanks to everyone for helping with the race - the course marshals, the crew at registration, the USAC officials. And hopefully all the spectators had a great time watching the action - there were a lot of people out on course cheering us on yesterday.
(One of the helpful volunteers at race registration - photo Nick Thelen)