Throughout the day yesterday I looked outside to see rain, sunshine, wind and heard a few rolls of thunder through the afternoon. I was not sure what we would be in for at race time but it is always a bad to think or plan on anything but going to the start line ready. A couple of times I have been in races that were rained out at or just after the start. That is a head trip, you are mentally turned on to race mode, tapered back in your training, fueled ready for high octane performance, and then nothing. That energy has to find some outlet or I combust. The most recent time this happened I was racing a Rocky Mountain Endurance Series race in Denver. Luckily my Uncle and I made it up to great trail conditions above at Buffalo Creek, but I could not contain myself and my poor Uncle had to deal with me sprinting around at race pace for the next three hours.
On the ride over from CTS things cleared up a bit and even though a gorgeous rain shower was moving over the Peak it was looking promising for the race. Gerry Cody was joining Daniel and I on the pedal from work. Gerry is a CTS Athlete and top 10 Leadville finisher. He is here from LA area for the last month of prep before the 2012 edition of the race. It was good to have another new face on the start line. Rolling a warm up lap we found the opening climb to be a touch different and featured a tough switch back and a keyhole notch to slide through. I foresaw bike running on the first lap. When pre-riding a course you need to stay privy to features early in the race that can cause bottlenecks and lose you precious seconds on top of forcing you to burn matches. When putting in a big effort it should be something that pulls away from or at least stings your competitors, not an effort that pulls you back onto even ground with them. If someone is going to mess it up and have to get off the bike forcing others to domino down, it might as well be you at the front.
It took awhile to get the rowdy start line crew settled down and through the litany of instructions Andy had for us. Notably absent from the start line was Kalan Beisel, and Russell Finsterwald. Kalan was smart to not be lured out to a race after the epic 12 hour slog he put in over the weekend. Rumor had it that Russell was sipping Lattes in Boulder, likely he did not miss us. The usual suspects of Fernando, JJ, Matheny, and Shad along with the aforementioned wildcard Gerry Cody made for a strong Pro field.
Fernando took off with a wild sprint that none of the rest of us cared to try and follow. Holy cow, he put a massive gap into us with the opening 30 second climb. I led the chase group some distance back. I made it up to his wheel in a few minutes and we had a little gap at the awkward switchback, we both went around it that time and Fernando smartly held up through the tech and pinned his ears back in the open pedal sections. This forced me to ride exactly how I do not want. I accelerated with him some but mostly just bid my time. JJ was clawing up behind and Gerry Cody was hot on his wheel. Across the paved road section Fernando did the dirty work for me and put in another massive acceleration, this time I held his wheel and we distanced the chasers. As we dropped back into the trail I rounded Fernando and kept the pace hot through the rocks. With daylight between us I stayed on the gas into the start of lap two. I dug deep and put myself in substantial pain with a mean little side stitch hampering my breathing. Back along the top of the climb I could not see the pursuit and was able to relax and find the rhythm. Finding rhythm means go as hard as possible while not wasting energy by entering sections that you have to scrub off speed. Bike handling is what separates us from the apes, I mean the road racers.
I rolled two nice laps by myself and stayed fairly comfortable to come across the line for Win number 2 at Palmer Park. JJ Clark and Gerry Cody rounded out the podium. I was impressed with Gerry ripping on the trails that he had only seen one lap of. He obviously has horsepower, it should be a good year at Leadville for him. This extended me another two points over JJ with one race remaining, not next Wednesday but the following back at Bear Creek.
Dang man, another race season is closer to being over than having just started. That makes me sad. I know that we can’t do this year round or it would lose how special it is to race the local series and Andy would lose his mind. It is like Christmas, you spend more time being excited about it approaching but then the day goes by so fast it is tough to stop and really be thankful it is here.
Mad props to Ascent Cycling and the efforts of Patrick Cross. Thank you guys so much for the sponsorship of the Sand Creek Race Series.