Monday, June 15, 2009

My First Expert Podium! - Ruby XC

Maybe it's home field advantage, but I finally got to taste my first expert level podium with 5th place at the Tailwind USAC Ruby Campground XC race. This is the beloved "Ruby Trail Project" that we (Team Sandbag) take care of and is one of the most technical MTB trails in Michigan! You either love it or hate it. This is MTB racing old school style. Super steep climbs like "Lance" and "The Wall". Puckering descents like "Ruby's Remorse", "Out-house Hill", and the "Wash-out". Handle bar wide single track. Enough twist and turns to make a plate of spaghetti look straight, and then there is the unpredictable water crossings. Oh yeah, this is Ruby and we love it. However, mother nature was not kind to Ruby this year. Before the race several re-routes had to be cut and much of the trail was washed away. Thanks to Lee Tremp for giving up his time and hard work to make this palce ridable for not only Team Sandbag, but for everyone that came out and raced Your efforts gave all the racers a positive experience about what "Ruby Trail Project" is all about!

So I guess it was finally going to be my day to see where my training has taken me. And what better way to do it in my backyard, and arguably the toughest race course on the Tailwind USAC State Championship circuit. I was a little nerved up knowing we would have a lot of folks watching and cheering around every corner (Ruby is very spectator friendly!!). In addition, I was not feeling 100% but felt like I would be able to give my best effort. I lined up with my heart pounding and just tried to focus. The goal at the start of Ruby is to be in at least the first 5 places going into the single track. So the whistle blew and we sprinted down the 500 meter gravel road. Instantly my heart pegged and I hit my first goal of the day. I was sitting in about 5th position into the single track. I tried to calm down but the lead group put the hammer down and never let off. I fell off the back a little, but maintained my pace. I was actually starting to put in a good size gap between the folks behind me. Around the 2nd lap my team mate Todd Powers fell of the lead group and joined me for the 2nd and 3rd lap. Todd helped motivating me by yelling insults about my riding style and proving to me that my handling is terrible by catching me after all the technical single track parts. You see, Todd has trained this year by doing 12 oz curls with rice beer and has a sprained ankle. But you get him at Ruby in a race and he is like a dog trying to hump your leg -- He don't stop! God Bless you Brother, and Thanks! So about half way through the 3rd lap, My good ol' friend Adam Naish Caught me. Dammit, he has my number this year. I rode with Adam for about another 3/4 of a lap and he finally pulled away. He was much stronger than me and way more smooth than I was through all the turns. However, this was enough for me to pull ahead of Todd and keep the gap. On the beginning of the 4th lap, I could feel the cramps beginning in tops of my quads. It was manageable, But I ran up some of the climbs like Lance and the top of The Wall to try and control them. It was enough to keep my distance from the rest of the field and hang onto 5th!

This is great for my confidence and with 60 miles of the Stony Marathon in a few weeks. I need all the confidence I can get. My lap times were strong and consistent. 27, 27, 28 and 29. The cramps took a little wind out of my sail on the last lap. But that was a result of the other weakness I still need to improve upon this year -- Climbing power. I just finished up my peak for training, and am now into my race period for a few weeks. Time to see what I can do in my "A" race at Stony.

I have a long shout out list so here we go --

Brian Crook 2nd - place, slow down so I can catch you!
Todd Powers 6th - Even though your all beat up and out of shape you still haul the mail!
Todd Shorkey 5th - First ever podium! And did it with a duct-taped spoke and taco-ed wheel! Way to stick it out!
Paul Wood 3rd - Best ever Expert podium finish!
Tom Payn 1st - Great job!
Ben Miller 2nd on the SS! Way to haul it Ben!
Todd Lawrence 2nd -- In your first ever MTB Race!
Masher -- Finished -- First MTB race in 20 yrs! We still love you mike.

(Thanks again Steve Balogh for use of the picture, and great job in the race!)
(Thanks to Chris Gho for allowing me to use the 2 bottom pictures! Great work!)


cjsbike said...

You are rocking!

Keep it up and carry the fitness to the Stoney Marathon.

See ya on the flip side!

Paynful said...

Great Job John!! I will be joining you probably before the end of the year!!

CX is only 3 months away!!

Todd Shorkey said...

Awesome job John! Congratulations on your first Expert podium! This is just the first of many more to come for you.

You are going to tear it up at Stoney!

TP said...

Funny seriously, really funny!

Great job in the woods on Sunday!

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