Yesterday was the first XC race of the season for the IMBCS Series. The race was called the Sylvan Island Stampede III and it was held in Moline, Illinois as a joint venture between IMBCS and the I-74 Series. And the weather was perfect with ideal trail conditions to boot.
The drive over had traffic flowing right along at a cool 75mph for the most part. I arrived at 11:20am, registered, suited up, and took a pre-ride of the loop on my rigid Karate Monkey with the 2x9 drivetrain. My ticket stub for the goodies pile on the table had me receiving a Stans NoTubes kit. Great. Now I've got an excuse to try the stuff. ;-)
The Monkey seemed like a good choice for the course with all the twisty and tight turns and lack of hills. Finished my pre-ride just in time to roll in at the starting line where many others had already lined up well in advance of 10 - 15 minutes before the starting gun (whistle in this case). Wow! Talk about getting in line early! Bad timing on my part as that meant lining up towards the back of the 66 sport category racers. Fellow sport racers from the IMBCS were also in the same predicament as I was at the back of the herd: Mike Lebeda, Nick Woolley, Bruce Reese and Bruce Neil. Paul Varnum had budged his way up closer to the front than the rest of us. Paul and Bruce Reese fared the best in lap one by clawing their way up as far as they could among the 80 racers fighting to get to the singletrack first. Guys, lesson learned for the rest of us: we've got to get up closer to the front at these events that have so many riders participating. Somebody save some spots in line near the front next time around.... ;-)
Anybody that wasn't in the top 20 going into the singletrack immediately ended up with a 1 - 2+ minute deficit on the first lap due to the log jam of being stuck behind a lot of riders lined up tire to tire. Between the 66 men and 14 women in sport class, this made for a pile up at the singletrack entrance and meant that lap one was the slowest lap time for all those but the first 20 - 25 or so riders to hit the singletrack. Without any hills to climb to help thin out the crowd, lap one was bumper to bumper all the way with only a few sections worthy of burning some matches to pass people. In fact, lap two wasn't much better, but at least the pace picked up from lap one.
I burned a match after lap 2 going through the finish line area and on the gravel to close the gap between myself and Nick Woolley/Paul Varnum who I saw in front of me. Paul was riding really strong and handling his bike through the twisty turns really well and Nick was right there with him. I caught their draft and tagged along enough of lap three to allow myself some recovery after closing the gap on them at the end of lap two. I saw 4 riders ahead of our little IMBCS trio and bid adieu to Paul and Nick to work on closing the next gap. The way these points work for the IMBCS, anything below top 20 for this many riders (66 of us) means each spot is worth 3 cents - so I wanted to collect a few more pennies if I could before the end of the race. I was able in lap 4 to close the gap on the next 3 riders, overtake them and get on the wheel of the next guy (turned out to be a 53 year old rider who was riding really well - kudos to you Mark Nenniger). His 1st lap time was a minute and 2 seconds faster than mine.
There wasn't anybody ahead of us that I could see to catch, so I just rode his wheel and was waiting to pounce on the final sprint. However, I had mistimed my shift from middle ring to large ring right at the moment of the last turn coming out of the singletrack before the final sprint to the finish line. It cost me a couple of seconds to get the stinking chain on the big ring and even after pumping with all my might, I didn't make those 2 seconds up in time and he had me (according to the official timing by 1 second) a 1/2 bike length at the line. So I lost those 3 points with poor shifting technique. Next time, I'll get the gear I need set for the sprint a little earlier than the final turn to avoid shifting under load. I guess my legs ran ahead of my mind and started the sprint before I could get shifted...
End result = Midpackitis spot of 35th place out of 66. No hills to shine on this time around and I ended up paying for getting stuck at the back on the first lap. Not that my time would have been that much better, but there is something to be said for making it to the singletrack early - even if one is pacing themselves for the 5 laps. No complaints though. I had fun and after a quick turkey burger, I hopped back in the Element to race back home for a Little League game.
Time to train and get ready for some upcoming races which include the Decorah TT, Psycowpath #2 at Bellevue followed the next day by one of my favorite courses at Camp Ingawanis. Decorah and Ingawanis have plenty of climbing to get ready for over the next couple of weeks.
P.S. The Little League Team I coach won 13-12 in our opening game of the season.