Monday, October 5, 2009

MWFTS - Warsaw Mountain Madness Recap

Yesterday was the final race of the 2009 Midwest Fat Tire Series. It took place at the Truman Lake Mountain Bike park in Warsaw Mo.

This race had high stakes for me going in. I was in a 3 way battle with Rock Wamsley and JP Brocket for the Sport 30-39 class championship, and I needed a top 3 finish to secure the overall win. I think I was more nervous about this race than any I've ever been in.

On Saturday I was able to pre-ride the course and I'm glad I did. The overall length was 8.2 miles and my pre-ride lap was 44 minutes so my goal for the race was 3 laps. One thing that was nice was they put mile markers on the trail so you'd know where you were at on the course. I wish they would do that at all of the races. The trails themselves were awesome; you can tell that the people that designed the course know something about mountain biking and they took full advantage of that knowledge creating a trail system that highlights the terrain and provides a challenging and fun ride. There weren't any gut busting hills but there was a lot of variety. There were 3 fairly long straightaways that provided some big gear fun and lots of tight twisty sections that made me pay attention to my lines and just had me smiling from ear to ear. My plan was a nice easy feeler ride on Saturday but it was so much fun I couldn't help but push myself to ride fast. Those trails are designed to be ridden at speed. If I had to make a comparison to other trails in the series I'd say it mostly resembles Sac River in Springfield. I like it more than the trails at Sac River and since we didn't use all the trials for the race I'll have to make the 1.5 hour drive to the park again soon to sample the rest.

When I arrived at the park Sunday morning the atmosphere was surprising. They had just started the beginner and marathon classes and they had a dj playing music, the promoter was announcing the riders as they rode by and the crowd was really into it. They even had a food stand set up. Parking wasn't a problem because they had a large field set aside so you were never very far from the start/finish area.

Before the race started Rock and I went over to check the sign-up sheet. I couldn't believe there were only 5 people that showed up for our class. It was me, JP, Rock, Ryan Lemmon and Darrin Schupp. That calmed me down a little because I was expecting to see people come out of the woodwork for this one. I don't know why the turnout was low; maybe it was because Warsaw isn't very close to the major cities, but the weather was perfect and the trails couldn't be beat. All I can say is, they missed out.

For the second week in a row Andy started us right after the experts and Rock took off with the lead with me in second and JP in third. I was a little surprised at the pace early on; Rock was tearing it up and my legs were on fire trying to keep up with him. After about a mile I decided to let him go; I just didn't think I could maintain that pace. We had dropped the other riders in the class so that left me on my own which I was cool with. As the first lap wore on I didn't completely lose contact with Rock. I couldn't see him in the woods but when we'd break out into a clearing I could still see him in the distance. That was a good feeling and I think helped me keep up the effort. I haven't seen the final times yet but I believe I finished the first lap around the 40 to 41 minute mark.

On the second lap my legs started feeling pretty good so I was able to speed up and in the clearings I could tell I was closing the gap with Rock. Then around the 3.5 mile mark I had a small wreck where I was making a turn in a rocky area and one of them caught my front wheel wrong and spun my handlebars. I smacked my right calf pretty hard on something but it didn't hurt and my bike was fine so I jumped back on and continued the pursuit. Somewhere around the 4 mile mark I was able to catch up with Rock. He asked if I wanted to pass and I told him we should just ride it out. The rest of that lap was really fun. I was feeling great and I love it when I'm able to watch another rider to learn how they handle the parts of the trail I struggle with. One thing I noticed is how well Rock makes the turns. He's very fluid and takes good lines. I tried to emulate what he was doing well.

When we finished the second lap it was well under the 1:30 cutoff so I asked him if he wanted me to lead that lap. He said sure so I passed him before we got to the start/finish line. When we got to the woods Rock said to go ahead so I decided to take off and see what I could do. My legs felt great and the ride overall felt pretty effortless so I went for it. One thing I think that helped was GU. I had one about 45 minutes before the race started, one right before the race then one at the end of the first and second laps. It seemed to help me keep my energy up and I never got that light headed feeling I sometimes get during races.

On my third and final lap I caught several expert riders, but instead of falling in behind them I went ahead and pushed it to the end. My final time for the 3 laps was 2 hours 2 minutes and something. Amazingly I had the fastest time overall. Granted none of the expert heavy-hitters were there but it makes me feel pretty good for next year when I'll be racing against those guys. Rock finished in 2nd about 5 minutes back and JP took 3rd. He finished his second lap before the cutoff but decided not to go back out. He did a lot of riding over the weekend so I can't say I hold that against him.

After the race we headed over to Sterrett Creek for the series end of year banquet. They served some excellent barbecue and handed out the race and series awards. Here's a picture of my race medal:

Here's a picture of the MWFTS plaque:

And here's the podium for the Sport Men 30-39 class (Rock, Me and JP):

It was a great season and it was awesome competition that had me looking forward to each race. Midwest Fat Tire Series is a class act; I look forward to seeing what they set up for next year.

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