Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NORBA Finals - Mt Snow, VT

This past weekend's NORBA Nationals race at Mt. Snow was exactly what i had hoped for! I wrote a race report for the crankracing message boards on Monday - and am recycling it here (mostly) as i simply haven't had much time for writing in the blog recently. But, the good news is that Jenn and I have almost dug-out from underneather the piles of work on our desks and in our house - and just in time for our long awaited summer vacation which commences at 5p this Friday! Jenn's the one who's really been under the gun with work, which has effected her running and pretty much everything else, but she still found the time to go with me to Mt Snow this weekend... we both sat at our computers till 10-11p on Friday night to make it happen... but it was really great to have her support at this one.


jenn and i arrived at Mt Snow, VT at 3pm on sat - we headed directly to the race site to catch the pro race. it was really cool to see our heros ride the course. adam craig - a guy who's attitude i really dig... and to see Allison Dunlap destroy the women's field and take a win at the last NORBA race of her career - smiling the whole way! i didn't know at the time it was her last race, i just thought she was the happiest pro on the planet (especially the last lap) - of course, being in front for the final two laps probably helped bring a smile to her face...

by hanging-out near the pit mechanics, i also got to recon what the pros were using for tires/wheelsets/brakes (mavic disc sl's almost all the way around), how they made bottle exchanges, when they goo-ed (i then ate my cliff shot at the same time/place on the course the next day - man those things give you the go-go juice!)...

after we soaked-in the pro scene, i headed-out to pre-ride the course around 6p. a really friendly fellow EFTA racer in the master's cat (he nabbing 2nd in his cat the next day!) gave me some excellent tips on the what to pre-ride and what to look for - nice! he also warned me that i shouldn't even bother trying to climb certain sections of the course - as it was too tough... and to take it easy on the descent... my legs felt great on the pre-ride, climbing was literally effortless and i knew it was going to be a good one... i pre-rode some of the trickier climbs and descents a few times and within an hour was back at the hotel, making last-min tire changes, etc... ready to eat, sleep, and race! little did i know that this dry, smooth course was about to turn to mud! (jenn told me it was going to rain, but i didn't believe it)...

sunday began at 545a under heavy skies and a drizzly rain... by 6a, i was huddled over a bowl of oatmeal, anxiously waiting with a pack of other riders for our hotel staff to bring the coffee out. we could barely speak - 15mins later, we were chatting it up like old school chums. the power of caffine. after suffering from bad cramps in my other "short" races of the season, i woke-up early to eat and drink, then let it settle...

before i get into the race recap, the most important thing about sunday, was that I had a blast riding my bike! It was pure joy. Having Jenn there to support me - and be there with bottle hand-ups (Hammer HEED - great stuff!), was really fantastic, as was Roz getting out of bed so early to camp-out high in the woods (in the pouring rain) to cheer us through the technical climbs.

The course at Mt Snow is relatively short (5miles or so), but a real fun challenge. It begins with a short loop up and down the ski slope (i call this the "prologue section") to the right of the mtn, then cuts back across to the left and heads up, up, up for about 2miles. The climb is on a mix of open ski slopes, fireroad and technical singletrack - stuff I had been warned was "unclimbable." After reaching the top of the climb (about 15mins of steady uphill riding), we head downhill almost exclusively on technical, blown-out singletrack, some real challenging sections, 90 degree turns and some rocky headwalls to navigate - real white-knuckle riding - for 15mins or so! At the bottom of the descent it's a short 1/4-1/2 mile sprint to the finish.

I started the race by blasting-off the start, opening-up a gap after the prologue part of the course, then heading into the long major climb I put it all out there, opening-up a good 2min? (not like i could look back and tell!) gap by the top. Since my legs felt so good, my goal for the race was to sprint, open a solid gap, survive the descent and stay far enough ahead that no one ever saw me. Out of sight, out of mind. BUT, I crashed 3times on the first descent, rim brakes just weren't working in the rain on that technical terrain - the third was a bad one - was rattled from the other two and made a bad mistake when a course marshall blew a whistle as i went by. It really startled me, i hadn't even seen her squatting in the woods...

But, my crashes weren't the course marshall's fault, but of my own choice. I choose to ride the ultra-light, titanium hardtail with rim brakes vs the full suspension Ellsworth Truth with disc brakes. I also thought we were in for a dry course! The rain had changed conditions and i simply couldn't go into the technical sections with any speed on the rim brakes - i was out of control at the same speeds i had pre-rode the course at in dry conditions. On the 3rd crash my bars rolled fwd and I had to loosen the stem-up to roll 'em back. When I did that I also let more air out of the serac's to hook-up better in the rain, figured as long as I'm off the bike and getting passed (by 2 guys in age), I might as well get the steed dialed-in perfectly for the next 2 laps!

I hammered the flats and the prologue section at the bottom, then reeled-in #1 & 2 on the climb of lap 2. On the real steep, technical section of the climb, I'd get fired-up and just put it all into the bike, yell "track" to the riders pushing their bikes up the line (including the fellows i was battling for position with), as everyone believed it was un-ridable. it was a blur of effort - but so rewarding, so much fun to clean something I didn't think would be possible. it's little breakthroughs that make racing so rewarding - it isn't beating a fellow rider, but beating my own expectations that i love... Roz had camped-out a little above that section and hearing her yelling helped me clean the next section too - and get some nice encouragement from the crowd.

Basically, 3 of us battled it out the whole race after my first lap's disasterous descent, but I knew I couldn't win this one after the first lap - there wasn't enough room after the descent and before the finish to catch-up to the other 2 guys in time. My hand fatigue got so bad (from white-knuckling the rim brake levers for 15mins straight) after the 3rd lap I had to punch the shifters to get them to change for the final sprint to the finish - last thing i needed was someone passing me on the flat to the finish 'cause i didn't have enough thumb strength to shift!

I ended-up 3rd in 30-34, but definitely proved to myself that the legs have made a leap in performance this year. The fastest expert rider of the day was about 9mins ahead, but there were only a handful of these "young guns" - and they were all in the 19-24 age bracket! Future pros, maybe... The 25-29 age bracket was also a little tougher, but by less time than the youngsters. Basically, they were riding their race and we were riding ours. All of the sub 40 age brackets had about 3-4mins between 1st and 5th. Nice, tight racing. A real good time - on an excellent course.


Results haven't been posted yet for the Expert Men's race, but when they are, they'll be
here. They did post the semi-pro results. Semi-pros did an extra lap (vs the Expert's), but they also had nice, dry conditions, while we had a river running-down the descent by the end. Anyway, I rode a 2:02 (40:40 laps), which with an extra lap would have placed me somewhere around 15th place in Semi-Pro - of course, this is all conjecture... but i know my legs could have done another lap no problem... anyway, like i said, it's all conjecture, but it is clear i have officially made the next step forward on the bike - and am far stronger now than i've ever been - and could conceivably compete at the semi-pro level if desired. Pretty damn cool. And i'm pretty damn psyched!


Post a Comment

<< Home