Maxxis Southern Classic Series has started the season in beautiful Poinsett Park, just outside of Sumter, SC. It's one of the longer cross country races of the season which is good for me because I'm usually hard at work on my endurance training early on. This year it was even longer. Additional singletrack had been built to replace most of the long fire road featured in the previous editions of what had been called The Killer 3 race.
I was warned at registration that I may not finish my Single Speed race before my CAT 1 race started an hour and a half later. I must say, that news simplified my strategy. I planned to go full gas in the SS race from the gun to try to make the start of my 2nd race.
I got a really good start (for me) - getting into the singletrack 3rd. The pace started out pretty high. After spending yesterday road racing, it was taking me a while to really get the flow on the SS. I decided to follow along behind the other 2 racers. However, the leader chose to let us by. Now, riding 2nd, I'm starting to get a rhythm. The trail is tight and twisty, but not stop-and-go tight but quite flowing. Much of the surface is loose and off camber, keeping me on my toes. When the leader slides the front wheel and off course I blast by and decide it's time to hammer.
The trail is mixture of short climbs and twisty corners that really suit my bike set-up and style of riding. I never looked back. I kept the hammer down. Pedaling my guts out on the occasional long straight(ish) sections and rolling the corners. Standing to hammer out of the tight corners to keep the pace high.
The second (and final) lap went even better. Knowing what to expect from the course I know how hard I can push the limits. I remind myself to flow. Rolling the corners to keep the pace high. Single speed racing is more about not losing speed than it is about trying to go faster.
I drilled the final fire road section to the finish. There was no time to celebrate my victory though, the CAT 1 racers were already rolling off. I rode back to my car, hopped on my geared bike, restocked my jersey pockets, grabbed some water bottles, my bike computer a gel and a Hammer bar and headed to the start. My age group had just rolled by. Fortunately I hadn't given them too much of a head start.
I was completely gassed from hammering out 2 laps on SS. My plan was to finish all 3 laps of the CAT 1 race, but if I was going to be last and be in the way I would stop at 2 laps.
I finished all 3 laps.
The first part of the lap has the most climbing. I was certainly suffering. But when I got into the flatter, twisty sections I recovered pretty well. I defaulted to a sort of high 6-hour endurance pace. Being careful not to push too hard, but making sure to be pedaling at least endurance pace as much as possible.
By now I know the course pretty well. I start reeling other racers in. It's obvious that not all of them are from my class, but having missed the start line-up I wasn't really sure who was in my class, or even how many.
I kept my focus on being smooth and flowy, always mindful to keep the pace up. I kept passing riders through all 3 laps. Most of the time there was someone in the distance to try to reel in - helping me to go hard.
When it was all over, I was pleasantly surprised to check the results and find that I had finished 4th in the CAT 1 40+ field. It was a fun course and a heck of a workout! A fine way to cap off a weekend of racing.
The race was run really well with park rangers at the road crossing controlling traffic and helping with parking. The course was in great shape and well marked. There is plenty of supporting crowds around the course, too. It's really cool to see the spectators really get into it and help keep the motivation high to keep digging.
It was great to see all my MTB friends again! It seems like a long, long time since I've been to a proper cross country MTB race.
See you on the trails!