Unless I have a really hard time getting a Specialized factory team thermal skin suit for racing cross, the race at Castlewood was my last race in a Mesa kit for a while and I was really hoping to have a good race. For me that means winning. I wanted to win bad and had been feeling sexy all over after a couple weeks of good training up until the point that the bees sabotaged the exclamation point on my little block of training by keeping me from racing at the Show Me State Games. The sexy came back quick though after a hard day at the Wood in place of the race that Sunday, and I was feeling pretty confident.
I knew that CP was flying, Schottler was chomping at the bit for his first W this season and Castlewood has the potential allure to drag any number of arm-shavers off their high horses to come play with us "local" guys. Altough there we're no armshavers present except for the honorary team arm-shaver non arm-shaving member, John Rhines, I did notice one of the fastest "local" guys around, Aaron Elwell, warming up and knew what was about to happen.
I made it happen right off the start and jumped the hole shot only for Scott Ogilvie to be nice enough to come around me and drag me up the first section of the climb on his wheel. We reached the top and I thanked him for the lift and we we're off. I had Elwell on my wheel with CP and Schottler in tow and knew the first climb was about putting on some hurt but pacing enough to save it for the steep pitch at the top. I was calm, collected, the legs were turning themselves over knew what was about to go down. I gambled a little bit at the top thinking that Elwell might not know the trail that well and turned the screws just a little bit a few times in the twisty single track, but quickly realized that he wasn't going anywhere and settled into a comfortable pace.
I like to be a front runner so crossing Ries Rd I knew I had the sketchy technical descent dialed and could throw down some heat going up the steep on the other side and still recover from it if it didn't work on the descent so I railed the first left hander high and attacked the tech with speed. Second turn over the roots and the air came out of my tire all at once. The rim had folded over and I was thinking there was no was the bead was even going to hold. No more front running. I stood there for a minute, completely devastated as I watched every expert rider pass before I decided to see what I had. I was sure the tire was going to blow off the rim but starting riding the kind of pace I normally reserve for the last lap and taking all kinds of chances.
I came through after the first lap with Christopher Connolly and was 4:30 behind the leaders (don't know how I got the time I did, but definitely isn't right as I came through with Christopher). I started to pick some people off and was riding on the rivet for the whole second lap and pretty pissed off. I really wanted a O.K. Corral showdown between us four big guns but it wasn't meant to be and started to have some fun seeing how quick I could open up gaps as I caught people. I knew I was going OK as the gaps were opening quick.
By the third lap I started to find a little rhythm and stopped grunting and snorting so much. I don't remember much of that lap but clearly remember hearing some of the kick ass Trey licks from Red Rocks in my head, which I haven't heard for a very long time during races, and riding really well and very fast.
While Schottler is going to have his day I knew he was no match for Chris on his home course and Aaron has been riding so well I didn't think I had a shot at him so my goal was to shoot for third. I started to catch riders who are usually 7-10 minutes off the pace towards the end of my third lap and realized that I was never going close anywhere close to that amount on the leaders on one lap. Coming through the start-finish area, I saw Elwell on the side of the trail carrying his cooler and looking pretty banged up. Again, it wasn't the kind of race I was hoping for, but it did motivate me just a little bit more knowing that I was just a couple spots away from the podium.
I turned the corner up the first section of Grotpeter and saw Wes at the water bar. I closed some of the gap really fast but he must have seen me because it opened right back up. I stood up and started to kick, bit my lip and closed my eyes.
(thanks to Ryan H for the sweet photo!)
I made the left hander up the steep and saw Wes right in front of me and he looked like he was struggling, but figured he was going to give it to me as soon as I got close. I came up on him, attacked and never looked back. I didn't see anyone in front of me as I descended Ranger Cut-off or when I was climbing Love and was losing hope when I crossed Ries Rd and Metz told me Scott was just ahead of me. I flossed the tech and kept it in the big ring poised for an attack and sure enough, I saw him about half way up when I was at the base. It was all about catching him off guard on the tough part of the climb and going deep to keep him off my wheel on the descent. Once again, I was able to open the gap fast and it was smooth sailing with a really strong wind in my sails into the finish.
I impressed myself and although I was really bummed that the epic showdown of some strong riders at the pinnacle of their summer fitness didn't manifest itself, it was still a good race and the strongest rider won. Chris has now gone up on me, 3-2, on the season and while my abbreviated mtb season is over, I'm thinking that Greensfelder might be the real end. I might have to find a race somewhere after I get back from a week of off road riding in Crested Butte as I should be pretty sharp.
Phish opened up the second leg of their summer tour with a vengeance for 4 nights at Red Rocks. I get to see them in Chicago next week and can't wait. Check out some of this fire... Life is as good as it gets right now.