Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Truman's Big Love
I have to be honest here, I have never won an XC race this big. It feels pretty awesome. I've had some ups and downs in the bigger races this year and in the back of my head I started to question if I had what it took to take the overall in a bigger event like this one. I know this is no NMBS Series race or WORS race, but the racing this weekend was no joke. With names like Chris Ploch, Aaron Elwell, Cameron Chambers, John Matthews, Shadd Smith, Mark Studnicki and Tom Price, I was standing on the line wondering if my goal for a top five was even realistic. For those of you that don't know, Cameron Chambers has a National Championship Jersey from winning the 2005 24 Hour Solo Championships and John Matthews has stood on the 2cd step of the podium at the Masters World Mountain Biking Championships (one step below Tilford). Aaron Elwell was the 2007 NMBS Series Expert overall winner and had turned the fastest lap at last years Rapture In Misery race with some seriously fast dudes in attendance. These are the names to know when you line up, I doubt that most of them knew my name.
It was a 4 lap race and without all the drama I had in the last race, I can keep it short. We started out up a double track grinder, big ring wheel to wheel. I took count of 7 guys in front of me and wasn't feeling too confident that any of these guys would be falling off the pace. I turned around as we made a 90* turn into the single track and in the first mile we had already shelled the other 30 guys in the field. Occasionally a dab or slide out would cost a place or two but we basically were pace lining through some very tight single track. The first lap was pretty much uneventful and I started to wait for my legs to say no, which they didn't.
The second lap was more of the same. I sucked down some liquid crack and made pace. Occasionally a little gap would open or someone would move up a spot or two through the field, but for the most part, everyone was still riding their A game and it was a very tight race. Mark Studnicki opened up a little bit of a gap on us and was actually out of sight for the second half of the lap. As we came flying through the start/finish I was worried because I needed to grab a bottle, but luckily so did a couple others and I was able to catch back on. I was amazed at the snap that I had in the legs and started to feel a little confidence boost.
At the start of the third lap I downed another Rooster Booster and things started to happen. We caught up to Studnicki just as you entered the first section of single track and he didn't look like he had any power. Chris, Myself and Shadd hit the first section of uphill single track, before the big double track section at some serious speed and there was some separation. I looked back to see Tom Price get caught in a rut and crash and Cam was able to go around him. Shadd sensed catching the guy off the front and then the little mishap and opened it up with Chris and I in tow. Free lunch. I noticed that Shadd was bogging down a little though the single track at the top of the nasty rocky run up and gambled when we popped out into the field; we had just a little gap and I knew that if I were able to get into the woods at the other end first he might slow up the flossers through the next real tight section just enough for me to open it up. The OIZ was made to dominate tight, rooty, fun trail like this and I got on it. I was worried that I laid the cards down too early, but I was riding so well and having so much fun that I wasn't about to look back... Going down Tasty I caught glimpses of Chris and Mark chasing, but I wasn't having too much trouble finding out of the saddle power and was floating over the technical stuff. The were hot on my heels as we came though for the last lap but I wasn't looking back.
The fourth lap was tough. I was doing a lot of self motivating; reminding myself to ride smart, stay on the gas and tried not to think about how much an overall win like this would mean to me. I can't remember much except for the feeling of the legs turning to rubber when I would jam the big ring for another 10 pedal strokes in between the super tech. I thought I had a decent gap and I could ride Tasty conservatively and not risk any crashed or flats when I started to see Elwell and Chambers in hot pursuit... these two guys own the shit out of this trail and weren't about to let me walk away without a fight. I was hammering my brains out and they were closing in... When I hit the double track at the end I got in the full DB TT tuck and dug deep. I didn't dare take my eyes off the ruts.
As I crossed the finish line my teammate Matt Keeven was there with high fives and hugs. Elwell, Chambers and Ploch rolled though seconds later. I couldn't have been more happy. That was some serious racing, by far the tightest XC race I have ever done. Hopefully there is more where that came from.
The post race festivities were pretty awesome with so many good friends around and aside from some roof rack mishaps on the ride home and the dirtiest Dairy Queen ever, things were good. Matt Keeven was nice enough to treat us all to some kickass Mexican in Columbia, making nice use of his green that isn't 5 feet under flood water. On the ride home MJ and I talked about racing and rocked out to our usual Built to Spill as the rookies slept in the backseat dreaming about the expert class.
I really love racing my bike.