You see, my old man knee has been acting up. Nothing too terrible, but enough to have changed up plans. I had been thinking no race was the smartest decision, but smart decisions are often boring. End result: Lets do a "dirt crit". The bobbling between trees up and down steep little hills wasn't an issue to be concerned with - meaning a nice controlled (read: knee friendly) cadence race could be administered. On the way in I kept thinking "You are a stupid little man" - "This could cost you for the rest of your life". Speaking of rest - I flat out did not ride all last week. That's hard - even if your knee winces at the thought. So.. it was off the races - hopefully not to end up trounced by what has to be a roadies dirty dream.
Turnout was pretty decent - overall I think just about 300 folks showed up. Not bad when you consider this course isn't anything like any of our usual technical courses. The ironic part about this is that there are some really nice techy singletrack trails all through the place. Maybe someday EFTA can work things out with the property owners to include bits of singletrack. I mean, we don't crash and burn that often - right?
I arrived about 1 1/2 hours early - to allow for some good stretching & saddle time. After riding out and about for a bit I headed back and found a few guys near the car - including Maz.. There under my rear wiper.. this rather conspicuous number plate:
Good grief - really? A few weeks back I was some unknown Bikeman guy. I miss those days.
When a few folks asked about the plate I played it down with: "Oh, I've just done all the EFTA series races this year".. It's kind nice to be recognized, yet also embarrassing.
Starts were running late - so I got at least 45 minutes worth of warming up. My knee doesn't like sitting still - the more movement - the better. Finally we headed over to the staging area around the corner from the field. This was on a very straight piece of double-track that had little signs indicating "VET 2" and so on.. Nice. This works well if you happen to be an absent minded twit - like say... Rick Nelson. I say that in jest (kind of) but he had the coolest system (not his idea he said) going for counting the 7 laps: 7 Little pieces of electrical tape along the top tube. After going an extra lap at the Orchard Hill race - I can respect the value of such a system. Oh well - too late to do that now - gonna hafta count. Reminds me of the cognitive processing tests they do on Mt Everest. Take a little oxygen depletion then ask people to say and remember stuff. My kind of entertainment right there.
Soon enough it was go time. Off we went. Kind of.
A few of the guys suggested that the first lap was fast. I suppose it was a touch more aggressive than laps, 2, 3 - Woah!! Doug tests us for about 45 seconds.. then 4... yawn... 5....sigh.... Things got so "relaxed" I felt compelled to sing mellow stuff whilst passing folks at the lap count area.
This one came to mind:
The Faith No More version has been brought to my attention - it's OK. But I still like the original.
Then this one:
On top of my annoying short-lived attempts to get others to sing - my front brake had been squealing THE WHOLE EFFIN TIME!!. The only way to placate the farging thing was to apply the brakes. This does not help one "Go faster" Nor are "Sneak attacks" even remotely plausible. Oi vey...
So our group meekly swapped pulls here and there - with Steve, Don, Geoff and myself (that order) doing the majority of the work. Meanwhile... Somewhere off in the back... A few experienced road guys were counting their tactical earnings.
Ka-ching! OK boys!! Heeerrres lap seven!!! Off goes Doug - with Geoff hanging on for dear life.
Musical theme just changed a little:
This began on the straight stretch where we start. I watch as Doug and Geoff get smaller and smaller and smaller
OK - that means our pack of 7-ish will give chase right? RIGHT!! ??
About half way across said straight stretch it becomes painfully evident - NO ONE is going to give chase. Doug and Geoff are now at least 500' beyond us. Yeeeeah. I guess I'd better cash in all that energy I have been saving. I sure hope singing doesn't burn too many calories..
Lowering into full time-trial mode I hammer, and hammer then hammer some more. It takes at least 3 minutes to finally close the gap on Geoff who is now blown out of Doug's wake. Doug: Up front occasionally popping into sight - thank the lord for such long straight sections of course. When I catch up to Geoff, he yells "Let's work together!" or something... I hear: "Did you work to get here!?" or something... Then it finally registers in my puny Mountain bike mind: Ohh... WORK TOGETHER. I GET IT.. Like road guys! Geoff calls out "OK, we need to do short pulls" - so I get in front - pull and after 10 seconds or so pull over. Geoff pulls a bit, then we swap places - being careful around traffic. I'm feeling fairly strong now - and just start GUNNING it. To heck with short pulls - I'm gettin' that bastard.
It's a good thing I don't wear a heart rate monitor at this point. The redline surely has been reached - and now it's a matter of how long the little engine will hold together. Not only does it hold but I gain on Doug with a fair amount of gusto. Approximate distance left: Mmmm.. Maybe 1500' or so.
Doug pulls over and is now drafting me. I haven't partaken in such tactics - but I know exactly where this is headed. Sure enough - he hangs on behind me and we approach the end of the course - with a big pack of riders ahead. This'll be fun.
Just before we reach the taped off chicane style ending we get a surprise visit from the Elites. They are hauling ass- to the point of having to employ the same techniques as the "need for speed" sector of society weaving through interstate traffic. For a moment I thought Jonny Bold was Doug. Good thing it wasn't.
Doug makes his move as anticipated and now its on: Before entering the Chicane he quickly passes on the left. Through traffic I gain it back on a RH turn. He and I rub a touch and he gains it back while turning left - now we head into a RH turn and I take the best line available - which includes trimming a few branches off the pine tree on my right (why, you *can* do yard work and bike!!) . The next turn: A LH to the finish. Doug is barely behind me and I use the only trick left: I cut the corner and my opponent. Doug can be heard cursing and sputtering. I cross the finish maybe 3/10's of a second ahead.
Sorry Doug. Tunnel vision prevails in moments like these.
So there you have it. 1st VET II by a whisker. 4th Expert overall.
There was a bit of panic at the finish. Initially the timekeeper had suggested that I had only done 6 laps. We rounded a few of the guys up and sorted things out.
Andy Gould killed it (again) netting 200 smackers for top Expert finish of the day. Makes a difference running with cohesive bunch at the Big Ring Rumpus. His time was over 3 minutes ahead of us!
Till next time race fans.