Monday, April 28, 2014

Pontiac Lake XC

Well another season has officially begun. And to me there is no better place for early spring mountain bike racing that Pontiac lake. With lots of hills, rocks, roots and great overall flow, it remains one of my favorite places to not only race, but ride a bike in general.

This year's race was packed with a lot of racers! Which is great to see. And with another season, there are always new faces in the expert 30-39 class. This year was no different. But not only were the the folks I don't know, but a lot of fast folks that moved up from the younger age group. So I figured I would have my work cut out for me, and was just hoping that all the work I been putting into training would pay off and at least keep me competitive.

As we lined up, it was a little confusing, not to mention that the class was 20 racers strong! So I ended up in a 2nd row start. When we took off, I got flushed to around 8th place and just sat there to see what would happen. As we rolled through the woods, the pace was not blistering and a group of 10 or more stuck together. I would move up as some made mistakes, or fell off the pace. By about 8 miles, I was sitting in around top 5 and looking to bridge the gap to the top 3 guys, Dub-9, Dan Sterling, and Jody Cagle. As I crested the top of a climb and stood up to accelerate around a group of guys, I had to take a less optimal line and caught a root with my pedal. This completely threw me over the handle bars and onto the ground! UGH! I could see the top 5 group slip away through the woods. But now full of adrenaline, I lit a match.

I pushed hard to find the front of the group again. and within 2 miles, and the beginning of the 2nd lap. I found myself in a battle for top 3 with Dub-9 and Roger Anthony.

Dub pushed the pace, and I sat in. We stayed wheel to wheel with Roger in tow. We had 2 other riders with us from the 40-49 age group as well. Later in the race, Dub tried to make a pass around the older rider, and was forced off into woods, but he was able to work his way back. Into the final few meters of the race. We were all jockeying for position. Bumping and grinding know one was willing to give an inch. I managed to push forward enough to get my wheel out first and into the last corner to take the best line. I made one last acceleration to the line, and found myself first across. An early season unexpected win... I will take it!

Great job to Dub-9 and Roger for the tape to tape battle. I'm sure this will not be the last. And congrats to all the other guys in the class. It's been a long time since I have been in a race with that many guys riding together that deep into a race. And that's the way it should be.

My hats off to Brad Lako. Stepping up to Elite and showing he can hang with some blistering lap times. Look for a top 5 out of him soon.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lowell 50 - Classic Gravel Road Race

I can't get enough of racing on gravel roads, and the Lowell 50 is one of my favorites. It's located in some of the best rolling terrain this state has to offer. With a good mix of short steep hills. a few long grinders, and some open flat farm fields that course seems to have a little bit of everything thing for all all types of riders. Not to mention the beautiful park and backdrop of the Flat River Valley. Thanks to Jeff Z. for making this race possible.

This year mother nature decided to throw in a bit of mud, to make it a little bit more challenging. The race attendance grew, and the competition got better as well. All this made for some great racing!

I came into the race a bit tired but hungry to get back into some fast pace racing. The guys to watch were going to be Simon Bailey who put up a blistering timing at Barry-Roubaix and Adam McIntyre. And of course, there are always the unknown players as well. I got a front row start next to Adam, Simon, and Tony Baustik. We rolled out the train all the way to the historic wooden covered bridge. The pace quickened as the first few attacks came from some unknowns. We now hit the first gravel section and were coming on on one of the steepest and biggest climbs of the day. Adam made a jump and I covered as did Simon and Tony. We hit the hill at the same time. Adam and Simon Surged ahead. I was just behind with Tony. We were already blowing the field apart and I was into the red zone as well. Simon, Adam, Tom White and Tristan Greathouse were slowly slipping away from us and getting a gap. We finally crested the hill, and I had to play catch up. Tony and I were working together and soon latched back on. But before we could fully recover and get into a groove, the 2nd round of hills came. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke the gap swelled again, but they were still within site and hope. I put in my best effort, and soon found Tony was dislodged from my wheel. A few more hills and I could now see Tom and Tristan slowly coming back to me. Simon and Adam were off the front alone, but I was pinning the rest back and there was still a lot of racing left.

I continued to push and finally made contact with Tom and Tristan. We made our truce and decided to work together for the remainder of the race. All 3 of us were in different age groups, but we knew that the 3rd step of the podium for the overall and maybe more was still up for grabs. Were worked well together, and shared the load equally. By now we could not see Simon or Adam, and no one behind us as well. this gave me time to think about a strategy if I had a chance. Ton and Tristan were slightly better than I was on the hills, but the rest of the course was fair game. The problem was, there were still a lot of hills.

Since I had done the race the year before, I remembered much of the course. I knew that the after the last big climb with about 2 miles to go, it was relatively flat with only a few steep bumps. If I had a chance and was feeling good this was going to be the place. On the decent off the last hill, I was on Tristan's wheel and Tom was behind me. At the bottom of the road, we hit the nastiest muddy rutted section of the course thus far. Tristan hit a deep rut that slowed him down and threw him to the left. I managed to steer clear and stay to the right. And I knew this was my spot. I stepped on the gas! Out of the saddle and full on sprint. I was now in the upper limits of my TT pace. I took a quick peak back and saw I already had a good gap. I turned the screws just a bit more. hit the 2 small bumps with the legs already full of lactic acid. But I was still holding my gap. Finally, onto the pavement I knew I was safe and kept the pace high all the way to the line. I took the last step for 3rd in the overall 34 mile race and 1st in my age group.

Congrats to;

Simon for another blistering performance to snag another overall win!
Adam McIntyre for getting off the couch for the first time this year, and coming out just to kick my ass for a solid 2nd place overall!
To Tom and Tristan for sharing the load during the race and both taking home 1st in their age groups!
Jim Jackovatz for a solid 3rd place in his age group!
Adam York for 2nd place in the Big Kids Race!