On Facebook, Thom remarked:
Had the legs for 60th place, but earned 6th place.
I, on the other hand, had the legs (and staging) for sixth, but earned 29th.
This race starts with a quick drop onto gravel that rewards fearlessness. I had fear. I lost twenty places easily here, but started winning them back place by place. Barton has no space for recovery: no chicanes, no letters carved on hillsides, no slight drops. Everything is hard up (two long runups) or hard down (two white knuckle drops). The only gradual drop is on mud and gravel and the three unbroken sprints (counting the dike) are the only places a rider like myself can recover ground. Which I did lot yesterday. I’ve said it before: I slog better than I sprint, so a course with no respite means nonstop redline racing and more places for Paul. Despite the lack of climbing, Barton is a Man vs. God course.
Anyway, in theory this is a race where I should do pretty well. And until Lap 3 I did well. On the long sprint at the end of Lap 3 I was within two places of Thom, but dropped my chain just before the team tents. It jammed between my ring (note: singular) and frame, and I lost 15-20 places extracting it. Again I started to fight forward, but after the finish line runup on Lap 4 my rear wheel began to slip out behind me, and I feared my quick-release skewer was open. I rode out most of the the lap but stopped again to tighten it on Lap 5.
Then on Lap 5 I flatted on the rear. Luckily right before the pit (!) but still: a dozen places lost. At the finish line I noticed my front tire was losing air as well; I wonder now if the “loose QR” I sensed on Lap 4 was really my rear tire losing air. Somehow I acquired two flat tires on this course.
In a roundabout way, my finish demonstrates
- the power of good staging in a huge field and
- the breadth of ability in Cat C.
I had the worst possible race I could imagine other than a catastrophic failure forcing a DNF. But I still finished ahead of 80% of the field. Thom had a similar race last week with about a 60th percentile finish. So in regards to staging and this huge, diverse field, my take is threefold:
- Easily 40-60% of the Cat C field is basically “second-year beginners,” so:
- on average you race to your “natural” place (in my case: ~80th percentile), but
- staging behind that bulge means you won’t see the podium.
When I say “second-year beginners,” I definitely include myself. When I look over my race log I see a lot of mediocrity in my first two years. I could have used a second year before Cat C.