Wes Bierman, Drew Black and myself headed down to LBL to race the White Lightning XC race on Sunday. The boys from St Louis "We come into your town, we'll help you party down!" had a pretty good showing. Hell, I'll even include too tall Fuhrman in the "St Louis" grouping. Drew got a little bit different taste of bike racing then he did on the trip to Tsali as Wes and I talked about the good old days (3 years ago) of racing each other, our master training plans and the countless number of supplements we take while looking for that edge to crack into the hot XC scene we have here. I'd like to think that it rubbed off on him a little, his focus was a little less foggy on race day and stepping onto the podium for the first time felt good for him. Nice job Brah!
After taking a couple days off after Tsali I had pretty hard week of training and tried to cool the jets just before the weekend but was still feeling a little overcooked. I was really looking forward to racing Wes again as it has become lots of fun to put each other in the pain cave repeatedly. Furhman showed up too, as well as Yogurt Shooter (Travis Thrower) in the 19-29 class. There were two pros that started with the 5 or so 19-29 riders two minutes in front of us. Travis must of had a cup of loudmouth porridge for breakfast because he was running his mouth quite a bit, I know it was directed at me but I'm so deaf I just smiled and nodded. We had about 6 in our group including two guys with Tennessee State Championship Jerseys which was kind of weird since we were racing in Kentucky and I later found out that they were sport class jerseys from last year... at least they looked good! I can only imagine the ridiculing I would get if I lined up next to Josh and Nate next year with my Cat III CX jersey on... maybe I will so I can write about it because it sure as hell would be worth it!
This year they decided to do a downhill start into a 90* left hander onto the single track. 44x11. Away I go. There was about a half mile of flat trail before we crossed the road and hit the good stuff; a series of 4 big climbs that are no joke. I jumped Wes and Dan and couldn't believe that I had opened up a decent gap as I looked back on the first climb. Wes was right on Dans wheel and I was really surprised that he wasn't coming around him. Every time I'd turn a corner I would bury it for 30 seconds out of the saddle... out of sight, out of mind. When we hit the first technical descent I opened things up even more and crossed the road out of sight. I was riding really well and even though my legs were locked up a bit I knew I would come out of it. By the time I finished the hilly section and crossed the road over into the faster part of the course I knew I was doing well. I had a 40+ second gap 5 miles into the race and knew that the next section of the course was to my advantage. I passed a couple 19-29 riders and was feeling good. I came up on another 19-29 guy who let me pass and hit a root at the top of a short steep climb and went down... I was going slow but my weight fell on my bike which was on top of my other leg. It hurt.
I was feeling good as I came through after the first lap but started to bog down a little and not ride as smooth. I focused on not pushing it too much into the red for the next couple climbs and started to come out of it. The rest of that lap was good as the trail dried up a little and it didn't take as much gas out of the corners. Last year the trail was bone dry and you could just rail a lot of the turns that weave in and out of the coves, but the recent rain had made the course much more demanding.
By the start of the 3rd lap I knew I had a big lead as I had passed all the 19-29 riders but Travis. I was riding well, the legs were good and I was focused. I knew that I had some gas in the tank so I downed a Cheerpack and went to work. All I had to do was ride efficiently on the climbs and not make any mistakes on the second part of the course... It was a long way to the finish though so I tried not to think about winning yet.
I felt great through the hills and knew I only had one more demanding 1 mile long soft double track climb which was a real "speed zapper." Once I got through that it was smooth sailing as I eased it into the big ring and started to flow. At that time I saw a couple CycleWerx jerseys up ahead and was really exited to give Yogurt a little of his own medicine, unfortunately it wasn't him, but around the next corner it was. He saw me right away and made a push. I could hear him saying more mean things to me but I didn't care. I didn't really chase because his goose was already cooked and I wanted to hurt him when I passed, which I did. In the last 5 miles or so I put about 6 minutes on him which turned out to be pretty important since Dan had passed Wes at about the same time behind me and started to put it down. Had I not caught Travis I probably would have kept coasting into the finish and we might have had a little sprint practice.
I have to admit that standing there on the podium it was pretty cool to look to my left and right and see that St Louis had a good showing once again. While it's somewhat demoralizing to take my licks when I square off against our local semi pros, I know that it's making me faster and I like being fast so that's good.
So is another weekend of paying for my racing!