It was a pretty easy decision to choose this race over the EFTA series "Horror at Harding Hill" event. I have been to the Horror a couple of times now, and it's a little further from home. That said, I'd prefer to do em' all.. I feel a little shortchanged on the competitive side of things when half the crowd is at another race.
Addtionally, a week or so back localish boy Charlie Beal suggested this course might suit me. I suppose that could mean "there's not any serious climbing fatty" - or taking a less cynical approach: "It's rather technical".
I arrived at the Meriden Motorcycle Club about 2 hours before the 2:00 pm start. You couldn't help but feel welcome and at the same time as though you were intruding on someones secret spot.
Main building - BBQ, families picnicking & motorcycle guys young and old.. Rich with character.
After checking in it was time to check out the course. A few thoughts within the first mile or so:
- Yep, this qualifies as technical.
- I hope my tires stay intact
- I don't know that a HT bike is the choice weapon here..
- It would clearly "bite" more than usual to crash here
- There is such a thing as a rock festival going on too long
After some up & down through the jagged parts past a junkyard it was on into a little valley area with some more rocks. The rocks were changing flavor some - getting to be a little less shale, a little more granite. After a particularly fun / swoopy up and downhill section laced with smaller rocks, I came across the dread "Boneyard". Thanks to Charlies preview videos it appeared the right side was a better place to be. I eased in and trundled through - passing a few Sport racers who were hung up. From there the trail headed through some more swooptastic terrain - into a very punchy little climb - again lined with shale.
After this spot - the trail rode along a narrow rock lined ridge - hopped a couple of logs - and finally moved into a Pine forest area with some smoothness and a few logs thrown in. The Pine Forest riding included a few hills with a little oomph but nothing like last weeks "straight the hell up" race in Camden.
Once you got through the climbs there were a few straight & level sections that led into a few more climbs (all with a little recovery built in) - then back into more dusty, rocky terrain towards the finish.
Huh. 4 times around. Anyone have a FS 36'r with solid rubber tires they want to lend me??
Ok - I might be exaggerating a little - but wait till you see how many Pro's actually finished..
I chugged down a bottle of Hammer Heed (new stuff for me) and waited around longer than one should - as I really started too soon - but as always, the start came along.
There were about 12 guys in our age group. Like usual, I wasn't in the mood to go flaunting my extreme sprint skills when it was time to go. The course didn't really have alot of running room anyways.. Let's let this one sort itself out over time..
Around the dusty loop we went - into a few bermy corners then up the first climb past the water station. Into more of the rocky stuff - which was now more difficult to "flow" on due to limited forward visibility. This is pounding the crap out of me!! I made a few moves within the first mile that may have surprised fellow racers. Here's the deal: If there is a little downhill - with a semi-hill on the other side, I am going to lay on the juice HARD through the downhill - so's to float right back up the other side. In these times of effficiency and energy management, it's the right thing to do! Not to mention, your single-speed brethren will appreciate this style of riding.
Onward we cruised binging, boinging and banging off rocks - Whee!! Don't screw up! Don't screw up!
I managed to get through the boneyard on lap one just dandy picking as nice a line as possible. Then while cruising the downhill side of the little ridge lined with stone I kind of got nutty hopping logs. I figured I could just hop'm both, 1 then 2 as I was all hopped up on racin'. Problem is - when I landed #1 I was pretty much on top of #2 so I yanked the bike in multiple directions to clear it. Meanwhile both feet had come clean out of the pedals further deleting any remaining style points while heading clean off the trail in a semi controlled stop. Yeeeahh.. Reckon I better tone it down. I know I'm 40, but not actually.
From here things got nice and smooth. I'm not sure how many riders I passed through the first couple of miles - but I was pretty sure I'd gotten near the front when I caught up with Brian Cantele. That's where he always is. I stuck with Brian for the remainder of lap one - then on the climb up towards the water station looked down to see my water bottle gone. Not again..!
Today was clearly not a day to be short on super juice or hydration in general (93º). I followed Brian on through the first part of the second lap while keeping an eye out for my bottle. Finally after passing through the Boneyard and on - I found it. Guess where? Yep - right where I left it trying to hop those damn logs.
I stopped and grabbed my bottle - while Brian cranked away. This time when I got going again I rode at a nice reasonable yet sprightly pace. Within 5 minutes or so I caught back up. I followed Brian into the wicked fun descent - and unfortunately like many others he missed a critical left-hand turn. It didn't take him long to figure out what happened - (he was already stopped and turning around) but the damage was done. I continued on - upping the pace just a little through the rest of lap 2 - never to see him again.
On the climb to the water station on lap three I caught up with a pretty strong rider. He was moving pretty well - but asked if I wanted the lead. I decided against it - as he was going pretty good and we still had nearly half the race to finish. While riding through the dusty corners near the junkyard I let my attention drift - which led to my front tire drifting and soon my left leg was plowing dirt.. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It always happens this way. Lack of focus + mild terrain = wipeout. The crash caused minimal bleeding so I hopped back on - and got back on his wheel. I stuck there for the better part of lap three discussing the trail features and asking key questions like: "What age group are you in?" Response "40-49". I kept my mouth shut right about then.
The plan was to launch into full speed mode with maybe a mile left in lap 4 after the last significant climb. It didn't quite wring out like that though. I forget exactly where or how it happened but I passed him going into lap 4. At that point I commit to picking up the pace significantly. This guy was possibly strong enough to stick with me - so I was runnin' skeered.
Just before the Boneyard I catch up with SS hero Charlie - and in what has become tradition he says: "Took you long enough!". This of course prompts boyish high speed antics. I blast into the Boneyard - overly confident now - having passed through 3 times and go a little to the left.. Oops. I figure I can just ride it all out. About 3/4 of the way in I catch a rock just the wrong way and go ass over teakettle onto my face. Ouch
Charlie can be heard yelling "WHAT are you doing Alby??!" I mutter "I'm fine" while checking my jaw for any fractures or blood. It's all good. I hop and and skedaddle out of there full tilt - only to enter the tricky little shale lined climb with a little too much speed. I wash out of what little berm there is and promptly hit the tree on the left which results in rapid de-biking. I certainly hope Charlie is amused with all of this... I scramble up the hill and leave that SS heckler in the dust.
Nearing the top of the first pine woods climb I'm about to head into a pretty fast downhill. I approach a rider and announce: "I BEEN CRASHING LOTS..!!" She quickly moves over and I blast down the trail nearly losing it whipping through one spot where a log butt end sticks out.. WOO-HA!
The rest of the ride is amped but a little more controlled now. I approach a Creatix-Benidorm rider we chat for a bit and as it turns out he (Alex Combes) is the 30-39 leader. I figure if he is leading them guys - I'm maybe leading us guys so I give the rest of the race a strong finish.
Result - 1st 40-49 CAT 1 and 1st overall CAT 1. A nice rebound to last weeks C- performance.
A few more pics
CAT 3 awards
CAT 1 & SS results
Yer's truly sporting the new "Sunny dry day Jersey from Bikeman" Perfect timing -just got it the day before.
My dad would totally love hanging here. These pictures are who he was.