Today, FarmerAndy and I headed up, with Olivia, to Wawayanda State Park for the first race of the USAcycling MTB series, and oddly enough, the regional championship. I needed to place well in this race to qualify for MTB nationals at MtSnow later this Summer.
The course was balanced, yet completely unbalanced. There were ~3.5 miles of fast smooth trails (almost completely contiguous), then ~3 miles of rocky, technical trails with some impassable sections. So, you spend the first half of a lap reaching for all the power you have and making yourself a bit delirious, then, you try to finesse your way through the rock gardens and technical climbs.
I took the hole-shot and lined things out, for there was a single-file bridge over ~40 meters of flooded trail about a half-mile into the course, and I wasn't interested in throwin' 'bows and risking a mechanical on the first lap.
Feeling pretty good yesterday and this morning, I kept the pace up, but soon realized that I was overcooking my legs, for there were no technical sections in that first 3.5 miles to let the legs recover, unlike most places I ride. After going backwards for a few miles, I got back into rhythm and regained a number of places on lap 2, especially where it got technical. I was able to clean a number of climbs that other riders were having trouble with, and I was quicker down the descents and over the rocks. On lap 3, I got in a bit of trouble, as my legs were starting to fade in the long power section. By the end of it, I could feel some previously distanced riders about ten seconds back. Digging really deep, I put everything that I could into holding them off, but they were closing on me even through the technical sections! Some delirious bobbles in the rocks held me from opening the gap back up, and I was sure that at least one of them was going to catch me. He was only ONE meter from me before the final climb before the descent to the finish line. I remembered the sport singlespeed victory that I took on the last climb at Granogue two years ago, upshifted, and cranked out the last climb out of the saddle. My opponent was not able to chase, and I blazed down the final descent to a second place finish in the expert 19-29 category.
Special thanks go to Olivia, who kept me well fed with moral support and sport drink.
You can see here, can't you? She's the one holding the bottle. Oh, and she also saw a bear today!
Special thanks also goes to Efinger Sporting Goods, who built a really tough rear wheel for me (thanks Dustin), provided a last minute bearing adjustment (thanks Chris), and had a high-end tire in stock (thanks MarcC) for the back of my bike to help me over the climbs and rocks that most couldn't seem to manage.
Last, but not least, thanks to FarmerAndy, for allowing me to drench his helmet in sweat. The temperature increased dramatically from 11am to 12pm, and Andy had removed the bug net from his helmet, replacing it with the other pads and increasing ventilation. My helmet was still in cold-weather mode, and I would likely have gone deeper into delirium on the course if not for the good Farmer.
After seeing Andy's performance (more on that from him later), and looking forward to the performance of other team mates, I expect this mountain bike season to be pretty great for the Rutgers University Cycling Team!
PS - I was asked if I was on the road team after the awards ceremony. A rider wanted to congratulate you guys on some recent performances in the region. RutgersCycling is becoming a force to be reckoned with!