Monday, June 7, 2010

Down and Dirty recap

This weekend was the Down and Dirty mountain bike race in Warsaw Mo, on the banks of Truman Lake. The event is part of the United In Dirt cross country series. I’ve been looking forward to it after several weeks without racing. The trails in Warsaw are not terribly hilly but there is a good variety of terrain and some long flat sections where you can open up and lots of tight twisty switchbacks.

I arrived at the park around 10:30 for the noon start time and there were quite a few cars in the field near the starting area and lots of people milling around. I was supprised when I registered that I was the first person signed up for the cat 1 30-39 class. I wasn’t seeing hardly anyone from St. Louis, most of the riders were from Kansas City. By start time only 3 other riders had signed up in my class; Rock Wamsley (STL), Travis Donn and Bryce Lawarence (KC). With Travis and Rock there it was going to be a tough day.  It was a sunny day with the temperature in the mid 80's so it was going to be warm but not horrible.

I was supprised to see 4 S-Works Epics at the race; that’s the most I’ve ever seen at one event. Travis was on one and Rock was riding a 22 lb Giant Anthem SL so I wasn’t going to have any advantage there.

Mac Vorce, the race promoter and organizer started all experts together which I perfer over the minute delay between classes. We took off down a long double track section for about a ½ mile before the trail narrowed into singletrack. I was sitting in about 6th just a few places behind Rock. As the trail narowed one of the riders in front hit a tree and went down pretty hard. I saw him after the race and he had a nasty mark on his leg.

Before long I was able to pass the people between Rock and I and I fell in on his wheel. Rock is usually a very strong starter that leaves me at the beginning of races whereas I am more of a 2nd half guy. My plan was to latch onto him for the first lap or so of the 3 lap race, hang on for dear life and see what happened. The only problem was that he was not riding like he usually does. When we would come up on another rider he seemed content to sit on their wheel and I was having to urge him to pass them. A couple times I found him taking it easy on a climb and when I asked him to pick it up he just offered to let me by. I didn’t want to pass, I wanted him to push me!

One of the neat features of this course was that it went out from the starting area for 5 miles or so, then crossed back past back next to the starting line, back into the woods for a couple miles of brand new trail then a powerline climb back to the start/finish. Rock and I passed the start/finish area together before hitting the new trail. The new trail was pretty tricky because it was loose, had several off camber turns and a few very tight switchbacks. On one section Rock lost sight of the trail and missed a turn so I went on around. At that point I put the pedal down and finished the first lap alone. I rolled through in 38 minutes with Travis about 1:20 ahead and Rock about 30 seconds back.

On the second lap things did not go so well. I’ve been having problems for the last week or so where I’ve been dropping my chain when I ride through rough stuff. I have an XX drivetrain where I’m in the front big ring 98% of the time so the chain drops to the outside. I’m always able to fix it without stopping by down shifting on the front and pedaling lightly and it brings the chain back. On the first lap this happened several times but I was able to bring it back without any problems. Near the beginning of the second lap I passed a female marathoner and asked her how far back I was from the leaders and she said I was in 3rd (overall) so I started going all out trying to catch up to Travis and whoever else was up there. Then on one of the many dips in the trail my chain dropped but I didn’t realize it so when I mashed on the crank to climb out of it my chain got bound up and I snapped it. The powerlink that was holding the chain together came apart and I wasn’t carrying a spare so my day was over. I stayed there to wait for Rock and let him know I was out. He came buy, I told him he was in 3rd overall and to go get them. Luckily I was near one of the powerline clearings so it was just a short walk through the weeds back to the start/finish area where I let them know I was DNF.

I decided to stick around and do something I wish someone would do at every race; call out your place and the split between you and the person in front of you. When you’re out there riding you pass lots of people that you aren’t racing against and it’s easy to lose where you’re at in the overall scheme of things. I guess it shouldn’t really matter but I tend to race other people, not the clock and if I’m in or near the lead I want to know about it. Somewhere along the way Travis flatted and Rock moved into the overall lead. When they came by the start finish area during the last lap Rock had a 50 second lead and ended up beating Travis by 20 seconds or so. That’s a good race and I think Rock's strategy for the day paid off. I just wish I could have been in the mix….

My teammate Jeff Yielding did well; he finished 4th in the 40-49 class and 6th overall only about 6 minutes off the lead.  It was a very closely contested race.

Next up is the Missouri State Championship race at Castlewood on June 12th.  I can't wait.

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