Tuesday, May 24, 2005

EFTA #2 - Clough Challenge

Sunday was a beautiful day for a mountain bike race - 45 degrees, light rain, with plenty of water on the course. You couldn't ask for a better mudfest than this! As Rob and I cruised-up to the race, we sang songs of joy. Yeah right!

The Clough course is the longest on the EFTA series and consisted of two 13.65mile loops over much of the same terrain as last year's diverted Second Start Enduro track. The course was a nice mix of technical singletrack, open fireroads, washed-out ATV track, some goathills - including 2 so steep they are re-enforced with cinder blocks (and are unridable by any human I know) - and of course, the infamous river crossing.

The race started on an open roadway leading up and over the Clough Dam, then back down into a few miles of fireroad before turning into a section of sandy singletrack that leads to the river at mile 5. Folks were taking it real easy descending off the dam, so I opted to make some passes and found myself in immediate trouble. The fireroad had been eroded badly on the left side and for 2-3 seconds I thought this was it - the end of a season before it even really started! But the Ellsworth once again saved my butt when common sense had completely fled the scene and I made it through the 2-3' ruts by just holding on and keeping the line. Sometimes in a race, when my mind stops thinking and is just reacting, it seems like someone else is doing the driving - and I'm just a passenger on the bus - driven by Otto - "watch-out little dude, you're gonna die!"

By mile 5 some of the guys around me seemed to be suffering more than others, but it didn't seem like the right time to change pace or make a move. As we made a quick turn down into the river, the guy in front of me looked like he was going to make it across, until he dropped into the main channel and was pushed completely over and submerged in the swift, cold waters. Being a complete idiot, I ignored his fate and also attempted the ride the channel only to be knocked-over as well! But, the drenching was a nice wake-up call and I pushed hard on the next couple miles of fireroads before turning into some proper New England rooty/rocky singletrack where I was able to pass a couple riders and bridge-up to 2 other fella's, which included the lead Vet rider who had passed me very early in the race by hammering the fireroads. I sat with these dudes for the next 5-6miles, but knew it would be tough to stay with them on the fireroads... and they dropped me faster than a teenage girl's prom dress when we made the turn onto the second lap.

For the next 7-8 miles I rode alone, trying to maintain tempo and intensity in the mucky conditions. Each minor lapse of concentration resulted in a decent fall - including two full endos - one of pure superman quality - and one encounter with a rotting tree. Thank goodness it was rotten as I should have been hammered into the ground, but the tree exploded on impact and I made it past with minor scrapes...

With 3-4 miles to go, no amount of Cliff Shots or Gatorade was getting me going and I was losing steam. The second-place Vet rider passed me and I grabbed his wheel, desperate to stay in front of the Senior II guy he'd been dragging up to my position. I focused on his back and just hunkered-down for the final miles and we slowly pulled away. With 2miles to go the Vet rider dropped me, but I held-onto my position and finished strong in 3rd place in Expert Senior II and 11th or 12th overall. I thought I'd done better overall, but a strong showing by the Senior I crowd pushed me farther back in the standings than I'd anticipated. But, a great race for me - and a little taste of podium in the EFTA circuit - something I didn't think would happen this year at all. My goal was to finish in the top 5 once or twice, so this was a nice surprise. To all the Senior II's who stayed home because of the rain - thanks!


At 5/24/2005 8:45 PM, Blogger HPrecourt said...

i wish i was there, but the mountains were calling. ill see you at bradbury. keep kickin ass!


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