Monday, May 21, 2012
SCS #8 Catawba Riverfront Classic
Just when I was starting to think I'd never be able to hang with the elite CAT 1's in a cross country race the Southern Classic Series race was held at a venue that was long enough, climbed enough, and was hot enough for me to do well.
US National White Water Center has historically been a good trail for me. Last year I crashed kinda big but ended up finishing 3rd as a CAT 2. This year my goal was first and foremost not to injure myself the week before Trans-Sylvania. The second goal was simply to race hard and see how my form was shaping up before the week-long stage race.
On the starting grid I took my place at the rear of the pack. Long time friend/competitor Carl asks me what I'm doing starting at the back then says I don't have any excuse for not doing well. And that's when it finally hit me. I had been working a lot and not getting enough sleep lately, but I've also been tapering for Trans-Sylvania and had a couple of easy days prior to the race. So when there was an opening on the front row as our class rolled to the start line - I slotted in line and locked the fork. When Neal said go - I did. I fell in behind two Carolina Bike racers who were discussing who should lead into the singletrack. Suddenly a Boone Bike racer comes around all of us on the left but fails to make the tight right-hander into the woods. It causes a bit of chaos but I still get in the singletrack 3rd. The pace felt pretty comfortable so I decide to ride with the pack as long as I could.
The Figure 8 loop goes well, with no pressure from behind. After the first climb on the main trail the two Carolina Bike racers are recounting the 1st turn incident. The leader suddenly hooks a root and goes down. I'm now 2nd. When the trail goes flat and wide, my patience goes thin and I go around for the lead. The view from the front is nice. It's much more relaxing than the mid-to-rear of the pack start that I usually get.
Shortly, teammate Rick Pyle, goes around me on a climb. I know he's usually faster than me, so I run my own pace. Perhaps those behind thought I was playing team strategy and holding them up, but I wasn't going to be able to hang on Rick's wheel.
Somewhere along the line, I managed to lose a water bottle. Unfortunately it was the water bottle containing my HEED which I was counting on for my calories and electrolytes for the 2+ hour race. At least I had a bottle of plain water left. That, and my awesome team had a water bottle hand-up for me each lap. Without them I probably would have suffered quite a bit.
Eventually the front of the pack settled in with Rick off the front, Boone Bike in 2nd then 2 Carolina Bike racers and me swapping positions around, and a Clif Bar racer gaining. The 2nd time up Goat Hill I was following a rider too closely and ended up going down at the base of the climb. Clif Bar passed me as I struggled to clip in and restart on the steep grade. It seemed like I lost a lot of time and I was almost resolved to a 5th or 6th place finish (I was starting to lose count of who was in front of me). I reminded myself to calm down and get back in a rhythm. Not far up ahead I could see some Carolina Bike Jerseys. I was still in the race. Clif Bar was making up ground on them so I decided to pace myself with him. As we neared the end of lap #2 I was starting to feel speedy again.
When we hit the clearing for the feed zone, I grabbed a water bottle feed from a team mate, drank some, poured some on my head then took off at an elevated pace. I had apparently passed two riders in the feedzone and was pleasantly surprised to catch and pass Boone Bike before Weigh Station loop. I caught the one remaining Carolina Bike racer in front of me on Toilet Bowl loop. He lets me around on one of the climbs and I never looked back. I ended up a little over a minute behind race winner, Rick Pyle, but became the 2nd half of the Cycle Works 1-2 finish.
So my form seems to be coming along, my bikes are dialed in. I feel a lot more prepared for my 2nd 7 day stage race that is Trans-Sylvania. Having raced there last year I now know what to expect of the trails. I have a little more stage race experience. My endurance seems to be a bit better this year, and I feel faster on the shorter distance races too. However, there is quite a bit more competition this year as the race has a gained a bit of notoriety. My humble goal last year was to make all the cut-off times. Which I did. My lofty goal was to finish on the podium on one stage. Which I did. This year my goals will be largely the same. My daily goal will still be to finish within the cut-off times with an overall goal of finishing top 5 at the end of the week. ...and if I dare to dream I would really like to stand on top of the podium for one stage in a Cycle Works kit.
See you on the trails!
Oh, and I'm not trying to be impersonal by referring to the racers above by their teams instead of their names. They are all fine competitors that I love to race with and hang out with. It's more out of respect, as not everyone likes to have their name bantered about on the internet.
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