Rhett's is a really demanding but fun course so when my plans fell through to go to the DINO race in Indiana it was an easy decision for me to go there, not to mention the fact that Matson is a straight up fun killer.
MJ apparently doesn't have the same kind of pre-race anxiety that I do and we pulled into the venue with 45 minutes until race time. I felt nude without my coloured embrocation but didn't have the time to grease up. I hustled to get ready and saw a bunch of familiar faces but kept the small talk to a minimum and squeezed in a little warm up. I lined up with Mike Best next to me and about 14 other guys, some of whom I didn't know and you can never be too careful...
Some guy on a Super V jumped me to get the hole shot. Being a fast starter I have to say I was a little surprised, so I took a chance on the inside line which turned out to be straight up swamp-tech and covered one side of my purdy white kit in mud. "Some Guy on a Super V" (Tom Brinker)was apparently a superstar back in the day, and like I said, you can never be too careful. I charged through the first section in the big ring taking a couple chances on the sketchy stuff and there was instant separation. As I hit the first uphill switchback about a mile in I saw Mike Best and one other CBC guy nipping at my heels and knew Mike would catch me on the climb, which he did, but not the other guy. There were some pretty slick sections but we both rode the rest of the first lap without making any mistakes and he never gave me any room and I didn't attack. As we came through after the first lap I looked over my shoulder at the far end of the field and there was no one in sight, we had established a decent gap of over a minute in just twenty minutes.
The next lap I bogged down on a climb and Mike took the lead... I was struggling to stay with him and made a couple mistakes and had to run one of the slick, short and steep uphill sections. I didn't try to throw my bike in front of him to keep him from coming by and screw him up while he cleaned the climb like I saw so much of in WI where a screw up like that costs you 10 spots. I dug deep and clawed my way back to his wheel knowing that if he gapped me it would crush my confidence. Overall my legs were feeling good and I was doing well. The heat was getting to me but slowly I began to get used to it. I closed down the 5 second gap and as we came though the field at the start of the second lap, he told me to pass... I grabbed a water instead of my usual liquid calories and downed a Cheerpack. I have been experimenting with using them and since this was kind of a low priority race I figured it would be a good time to do some testing. I doused myself with some water and began to open up a gap on Mike all the time thinking that he was going to catch me on the climbs.
I was riding well and the legs were good. The Cheerpack had me humming a bit and I was pretty focused... Other then a little lower back pain from so much seated power climbing I was good. My legs hadn't locked up at all and aside from bogging down a little after the first lap it was all systems go. I started to hit some heavier traffic and the passing was tough in some spots, but I was able to keep on the gas and rode the lap clean. As I came though for my fourth lap I thought it was going to be the last... I grabbed another bottle of water and noticed that Mike wasn't to be seen across the big field so I just had to ride smooth and smart and didn't have to worry about turning the screws too much.
I was sure it was 4 laps or a 1:30 cutoff so I knew I only had 22 minutes left and splashed myself with some more water to stay cool. I downed another Cheerpack for the final countdown and since I hadn't been taking in any other calories and it rocked me like a freight train. My legs still felt great so I continued to push where I could and get around traffic as fast as possible. The course was tacky at this point and there were some really fun sections you could just shred on. I was shredding like it was my job. The only thing more fun than this would be to shred paper for 8 hours a day. Shredding is totally rad. As I came through the last corner before popping into the field there were about 6 racers hanging out... I didn't think twice.
I charged through the field and threw the damn hands up; hot, sweaty, muddy and all components of being totally pro, but throwing your hands up and having the official tell you your not done yet isn't...
Considering that in the marathon class on the same course and steamy hot conditions last year I finished 8 laps in 3:16, this should have been no sweat, but mentally I wasn't ready for it so it kinda sucked. I had no idea how close Mike was so after stopping to ask the officials if they were sure I had to do another lap, I didn't grab a bottle in fear of Mike popping out of the woods and deciding it was time to race...
The last lap went surprisingly well aside from not having any water for the last half of the 4th lap and none of the last... Even though it was only a half an hour it was damn hot. I asked a Red Wheel guy for some water and he told me he hardly had any left, even though I could see it was 3/4 full through his clear bottle and we only had 3 miles left. I have to say that was the only time in recent memory at a mountain bike race that I wasn't feeling "a good vibe." Not that it's his responsibility in ANY way, but Karma is a crop killer son. When I asked him to pass he jammed on his brakes on the climb and I rear ended him... In fairness, it was hot and towards the end of a race and mistakes happen.
I came through the finish line and aside from my friend Barbie screaming what a stud I was over the loudspeakers, which made me feel great, I kept the victory salute to a minimum. I was the only expert to get out for a fifth lap which was pretty cool and treated myself to a kickass green Shakespeare's 35th Anniversary t-shirt. I love green t-shirts.
St Louis came to the town and partied down taking podium spots all over the place. TK, Giovanni Fondolini, MJ, Andy Gibbs and Ralph Phremmer to name just a few. It was a pretty rad day in general and I love the Midwest Fat Tire series courses! I think I took the lead in the overall which made giving up a second place (at best) standing in our series more bearable. Seeing Marty Weavers totally tricked out Carbon Oiz was just a tease until EP called me Monday afternoon to tell me mine was sitting at his house... Off to build it up! Looks like Landahl will be the first time I get to ride it !?!?!