Monday, September 28, 2009

MWFTS - Greensfelder Race Recap

Sunday was race #12 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It was promoted by DRJ Racing and was held at Greensfelder Park in Eureka MO. 

I was a little nervous about the trail conditions since it rained most of the day Saturday but the dogwood trail that was used for the race apparently drains very well and was in great shape on raceday.

I arrived at the park prior to the beginner/marathon start and watched most of that race from a nice shady spot near the start/finish line.  The leaders were turning laps around the 15 minute mark which is what I expected, so I figured I'd do 6 laps.

When it was time for our race they had us start with a long hill climb up a gravel road that fed into a connector trail that lead back to the Muckerman Shelter parking lot which was were the start/finish line was.

Rock Wamsley, one of the leading racers in my class, spoke to the MWFTS guys before the race about class starting order and convinced them to start us 30-39 sport guys before the 29 and under sport class.  They stagger the start times by a minute usually in the following order: All Expert, Sport Singlespeed, Sport 29-under, Sport 30-39, Sport 40-49 and then Sport 50+.    Then a few races ago the 40-49 guys got to go before the 29 and under group which put us behind both of them.  But if you look at the race results the 30-39 is the strongest sport class; which means we end up catching the 29 and under group about halfway through the first lap and have to pass them; which takes more effort and can effect the outcome of the race since you have to be in a good passing spot.  So for this race since my class is the only one where the winner of the series is still up in the air they decided to start us before the 29-under group.  Then at the starting line the 40-49 group said we should go before them since their series winner has already been determined (John Peiffer) so we started after the sport singlespeed class with pretty much clear sailing for the start of the race.  I came into the race with a 2 point lead in the series over Rock with 2 races left.  We both needed to win.

When the race started Rock got the hole shot and was in the lead at the top of the hill with me behind him and Matthew Crews hot on my heels:

I decided to wear my camelbak again for this race because I didn't have anyone to hand me bottles and the course was technical enough I figured there wouldn't be many places I could handle a bottle.  I did set up one bottle in the cup holder of my folding chair near the starting line that I figured I could switch to if the hydration pack was bothering me.  I have to say that after racing without it lately it did feel pretty heavy on my back.

About halfway into the first lap Rock was pulling away from me and I couldn't shake Mathew.  It seemed any time I was able to get a small gap between us he'd close it on the next hill.  It was starting to feel like I was going to be battling for 2nd, not 1st. 

The trail itself was awesome.  There were a few sections that were wet but it never got nasty and slick.  I'd say the trail comes close to the Rollercoaster trail at Castlewood on the fun scale, but it has quite a few rocks and roots that keep it from being as fast (for me) as Rollercoaster.  There were parts of the trail where I'd be flying along and would just have to pull up on the front wheel and hang on hoping I'd keep control as I bounced over whatever happened to be in my way.  There were lots of quick down/up sections, some nice jumps and only a few off-camber turns.  Most of the hills on the lap were fairly short and you could use momentum to get up them, but towards the end of the lap before reaching the gravel road there was a LONG winding hill that I saw turn many racers into hikers.  It was bad because when you reached the top of the hill on the trail you had to climb the hill where they started the race.

Here's a pic of Matthew and I finishing the first lap (on right side of pic):

During the second lap I still couldn't shake Matthew and I couldn't see Rock anymore.  I was going as fast as I could but he wasn't going anywhere.  Here are a couple pictures that were taken either on the first or second lap:

When we turned onto the gravel road near the end of the second lap Matthew passed me and started to pull away.  That left me in 3rd.  I didn't feel like I could go any faster so I just focused on keeping the pedal down and holding onto 3rd.

The next couple laps I passed a few people and felt like I was riding well but Rock and Matthew were nowhere to be seen.  They both wear "Hub" jerseys so a couple times I'd come up on another Hub rider thinking it was them but each time my hope was dashed.  At the end of the 4th lap I ditched my CamelBak:

On the 5th lap an expert rider that had flatted earlier pulled up behind me.  He said he didn't want to pass, that he was just finishing the race, but I was glad he was there because it gave me a little more motivation to ride harder.  Then about halfway through the 5th lap I saw Rock on the side of the trail fixing a flat.  The look on his face said it all; he was pissed and he was pumping on his hand pump like crazy.  That put me back in 2nd and gave me all the motivation I needed to go as hard as I could go.  For all I knew he was finishing up and was back on the trail chasing me down.  He had been riding much faster than me all day but I really wanted to hold him off and I only had 1.5 laps left.

Here I am somewhere on those last 2 laps:

On the last lap, about 3/4s of the way through I caught another glimpse of a Hub jersery ahead of me.  I didn't really think it was Matthew because of my earlier disappointments, but I figured I'd try to catch him and see.  He had 2 riders behind him and as we approached the hills I got a good look at him and it was Matthew!  As he started to climb the hills that lead to the gravel road he was going very slow, so I passed the 2nd rider behind him and fell in at his pace with one guy between us.  I don't think he knew I was there even though the guy I passed yelled out "there's the race for 2nd".  He was actually going slow enough on that last climb that I was able to use it as a breather and save my energy.  I didn't want to try to pass him there because the trail was pretty narrow and I didn't want him to know I was there.  Plus I was worried he'd be able to hold me off.  When we got to the top of the trail and turned onto the gravel road I locked out my front shock, switched to a hard gear, stood up and started hammering.  I was able to build up quite a bit of speed and I passed him pretty quickly.  I didn't look to see if he was chasing me; I just rode as hard as I could to the finish line.  Here's a picture of me pulling out onto the parking lot at the end of the race:

I couldn't believe it but I actually won!  Granted I got very lucky that Rock had the flat, but still, a win is a win.  Rock ended up finishing behind Matthew in 3rd, so that gives me a 6 point lead in the overall standings. 

I talked to Matthew and Rock after the race and Rock was pretty disappointed about the flat; it was his to win and he really wanted it.  Matthew said he was pretty exhausted on the last lap and didn't try to chase me up the hill. 

Here's a link to the final results for the race.  My overall time for the 6 laps was 1:34:06.  Here's my lap breakdown:
  1. 15:39 (was a bit longer with starting hill climb)
  2. 15.24
  3. 15:48
  4. 16:19
  5. 15:46
  6. 15:10
 Some of the best news for me was that I didn't wreck the entire race.  That's surprising considering how technical the course was and some of the speed I was carrying on the downhills but I only had one time where my front wheel started to wash out but I was able to recover and didn't have any other close calls.  Maybe that means I just need to push it harder...

Here's a picture of the podium and a close-up of the medal:

Now it all comes down to the last race in the series; Warsaw.  I can't wait.

If anybody is looking for more pictures of the race (or pictures that don't have me in them), here are the galleries I've found:
Thanks to DRJ Racing for putting on a great race and to Midwest Fat Tire series for everything they do to make it all happen.  I'm going to do everything I can to get more people from Springfield to participate next year.  I just can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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