A flawless race. 12th of 160. I did some things right but a lot was just plain handed to me.
- Maintenance, no mechanicals.
- Competent handling, no crashes.
- Pit bike (didn’t need it, though.)
- Warm up (for a change, and not too hard. Literally: just enough to make me sweat.)
Handed to me:
- Staging. Last place last week = first place this week. The race flows very differently for the front 50 riders than for everyone else. Not faster, necessarily: just smoother.
- Weather. It rained this week, enough to stabilize the duff but not enough to make it sloppy mucky.
- Course geography. Specifically: a 100' climb at the start of the race and every subsequent lap, and at the finish. I like to climb. The moderately technical corresponding descent helped mask my deficient descending skills. And a long section of singletrack and switchbacks gave some space to recover.
As much as I would like to think I “earned” a 12th place finish, the happy confluence of those three factors really made this race for me. Seriously: I had primo staging on a course custom-built for me in ideal weather. Here’s how it all came together:
After the 30(!) individual callups, the Zeros staged second. So I staged about 40 back. Importantly: this gave me plenty of rabbits to chase in Lap 1 (when I usually despair the most). Everyone races better as a wolf than a rabbit. The start wasn’t crazy hot — ironically, at the front it doesn’t have to be. I let a lot of heroes beat past me onto the climb, and batter themselves up that. I knew I’d recover all of that on Lap 2+. But the long initial climb sorted the field out nicely.
I took Lap 1 nicely easily, although I lost lots of places on the descent to the team tents. Hit the first barriers really hot — I did this every lap, actually — and then shot wobbly into the singletracky stuff on the middle third of the lap. Here I started passing, and passing, and passing. And then: the climb. I gobbled up a dozen places on the climb, with good legs for the descent again.
By the end of Lap 2 I had settled into a really firm position. I was trading places with the same four or five guys, all of us about eight places off the leader, apparently. (At the time I had no idea, thought I was still about 20-30 places back.) Laps 3 and 4 were really similar: on the long climb I’d put a seemingly unbridgeable gap on those four or five guys — like 50 or 100 yards — and they’d pick it all back up by the time we reached the team tents. Then we’d trade places through the singletrack and switchbacks until we hit the climb. Two of those guys were well enough ahead of me by the end of the race that they beat me: #519 by less than a second.
Early in the race I picked #392 as my rabbit, he had approximately my wattage on the climb and through the singletrack. He finished a minute ahead of me. That’s a good measure for how much my subpar descending skills — read: ballsiness — costs me. I also felt my poor barrier handling; lucky I didn’t pull a Joey at the speeds I was doing.
- Gunnar loses a little weight every week. But still damn heavy.
- Clement Crusade PDX tires, ~60psi, perfect. Never crashed, barely slipped.