Oh, Palmer Park. Our in town, technical play ground. I'm just now starting to feel really comfortable riding in Palmer Park - when I first started, the rocks all scared me. Now I'm taking the fun trails - not always by myself, but I try to at least find one fun rock section every ride. And I have to admit that I've never raced at Palmer Park before. I know, sad with all the fun races last year. So I was a little aprehensive about this race. After all, riding is one thing - racing is another! The pre-ride Tuesday before the race helped - I knew the course, knew most of the lines and where the really tricky sections would be. I also did another lap and half before the race, just to remember where the sand pits were!
The lure of racing in Palmer Park was great and there was a good sized woman's field. At the whistle, we were off, charging up the loose road. I got the hole shot this time, but with Jane and Hillary right on my wheel there was no time for celebrating. I had a clean run through the first sand surfing section, then attacked on the first section of single track. Up Kinnekinnick, a gradual climb through trees, over rocks and roots. At the first turn, it was just me and Jane. Pressing the pace on the steep climb up to the OverLook Road, we opened up the gap even more. I was happy to have made the steep climb - something I struggled with even last year. I fumbled the cyclocross manuver in the really deep gravel at the entrance to the road and Jane got some distance on me. Gradually, I reeled her back in on Grandview trail, but lost a little on the road. The drop down from the road to Kinnekinnick had plenty of spectators, but I was easily able to roll the rocky drops. I closed the gap down on the rolling descent back to the finish line and was right on her wheel as we started the second lap.
We'd trade the lead back and forth a few more times. I'd get a small gap on the steep hills and techy sections. She'd shut it down on the wide open trails and the road sections. Then a moment of inattention with my weight a little far forward and I hit the deck. Managed to mostly bail from the bike when I felt the slide start, so it wasn't a bad crash. Did manage to get some new trail makeup on my hip and forearm! Check brakes - good to go. Check chain and shifting - good to go. Back on the bike. Jane missed the next technical section and I re-passed her. But I knew I didn't have a gap and wasn't going to get one - I could feel her behind me.Jane attacked just after the finish line as we started our third lap. And I was done. I'd gone all in at the start and fought hard for those first two laps. I just didn't respond quickly enough to match her attack that time. So when I started to try to bring her back on the climb, she was just far enough away to make it stick. Oh well. Time to ride hard and enjoy getting to rail the corners without worrying about other trail users! I had a blast on Grandview that trip through - just riding hard and fast like I never do alone. I kinda fingured (hoped?) the pro men would catch me and lap me on the desecnt down Kinnekinnick. I was ready to be done after those three laps!
But no... I was the last rider alowed to head out for that forth lap. Guess Andy was trying to make up for the race last week being shortened due to weather! I should have switched race mode back on and given it some heck on the last lap - tried to shrink the gap a little more. But I didn't. I stayed in fun, conservative mode - launching some rocks, trying some new line, thanking all the specatators, course marshalls and other volunteers. In the end, I gave up about 2:30 to Jane. Oh well, maybe next time!
Racing at Palmer Park was really a blast. I enjoyed the course - a nice mix of everything Palmer Park has to offer. And judging from the number of riders on the line, so did everyone else! I was sorry that I couldn't stick around after the race - Nick and I needed to take off pretty quickly after I finished. We had a long drive ahead to Gallup, NM for 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest!