The weekend of racing is over and my legs are gassed.
The rained out Psycowpath race on September 13th meant doing 2 back to back races this weekend for me. I wanted to compete in both since I have been racing in the Psycowpath and the IMBCS series all year. I had only missed one Psycowpath XC race due to a reschedule conflict on the same day as an IMBCS race. I didn't want to miss another.
I turned 47 on Saturday and "celebrated" by driving over to Branched Oak Recreation area north of Lincoln, NE for the Psycowpath #6 Capital City MTB Challenge. The drive was actually quite relaxing and beautiful as I had not been to Lincoln since the summer of 1980. I got there in time to do a pre-ride of the lap which was exactly 2.9 miles and filled with a couple of nice sustained climbing sections. The course was in good shape with plenty of ruts to keep one on their toes on the climbs and the descents. One sandy turn and one really sharp turn - both of which challenged all of us. Sport Category was going to do 6 laps plus a one mile gravel road climb at the start for a total of 18.4 miles. The weather was perfect and the conditions were ideal.
The experts took off as a group with open and masters together. One minute later, the sport open and singlespeed categories took off followed by the sport masters a minute later. Our group worked our way into a pace line right off the bat for the mile climb on the gravel. I went into the singletrack in 4th position and we stuck closely together for the first half of the lap. When the lead riders of the sport masters caught up and a group of 4 passed on the left, I latched on and was able to go around the guy in front of me from sport open to put me into 3rd place. Because the loop was only 2.9 miles and we did a lot of laps (experts did 8), there was a lot of passing going on from various categories and it was hard to keep track of who was who after a while. However, I knew I had to conserve and use the strategy of spinning at a high cadence as much as I could to be able to complete in both this race and Sugar Bottom on Sunday. In spite of that, I rode lap one really hard to stay in contact with the first 2 guys in sport open.
Digging deep in lap #1... (Thanks to Mr. Tom Winfield for his excellent photographic talent and sharing at all these Psycowpath events).
I settled into a nice pace for laps 2 - 5 with my high cadence spin. Near the end of lap 5, I passed Brandon Harpster (2nd place sport open) who was pulled over on the side of the trail airing up his rear tire with a cartridge. After I crossed the finish line and began my final lap, Brandon caught back up with me and passed me. I upped my pace and gave as much in lap 6 as I did in lap 1. So much so that my stomach was feeling the effects of pushing that hard. I knew I had 3rd place locked up, so in spite of riding a very conservative race energy wise - I was pleased. I finished feeling strong and felt like I had left enough in the tank for Sunday's race.
Crossing the line for the finish of lap #6...
Result: Podium Spot for 3rd Place
By the way, Brandon got me by one position back in April at the Psycowpath #1 Maskenthine race as well. The same three riders finished in September just as we did back in April. So, not much has changed. '-)
April 5th, 2008 at the Maskenthine race:
6 Andrew Keffer
8 Brandon Harpster
9 Bruce Brown
September 20th, 2008 at the Branched Oak race:
1 Andrew Keffer
2 Brandon Harpster
3 Bruce Brown
Lots of climbs kept me in the pain zone a few times...
I drove back to Indianola and hopped in an ice bath for the legs in an effort to aid my recovery for doing the back to back race trick. We celebrated my 47th with a good meal, stories and fun at the family table. Then I hit the sack.
Sunday's weather was perfect. A little bit cooler than it was in Nebraska. I pulled into the Sugar Bottom parking lot about an hour before the sport class was to start. It was a big turnout with 53 or 54 lined up at the combined sport classes. Last year there were only 39 guys. I always prefer a start where the open and masters classes are separated so you know who is who and the bottleneck going into the singletrack is not such a mess. We had 50+ guys and I was probably lined up about 2/3's of the way back in the group. I had warmed up, but not overly so in an effort to conserve energy. My goal was to finish as best I could and improve upon last year's Sugar Bottom time and finish.
Off we went at our appointed time and it was a huge massive dust cloud. I couldn't even see and the air was not fun to suck in all that dust. I thought maybe I could pass a few on the opening gravel climb, but I pretty much held my place and only passed two guys before turning into the singletrack. At the first turn, you could see the long snake we had formed and it looked like I was in about 40th place with no where to go. The good news is this allowed me to do a very high cadence spin and hold my place in line while my legs and cardio got all warmed up. The group was literally still one long snake, but I could see that I was now in the 2nd group of about 12 guys with the first group breaking away. As usual, some of those that went out hard at the start of the race started to get passed. Within the first 1/2 lap, 5 or 6 guys were passed due to mechanical problems, crashes or simply burned out. I kept chugging along and finally decided to burn a few matches and pass a few riders. I did it one at a time on sharp corners or spots that provided a little bit of room to pass. By my count, I had moved up at least 10 riders during the first 1/2 of lap one. Nobody had passed me.
One guy I had passed earlier, went around me on the gravel road leading to the back 1/2 of the lap. I jumped on his wheel and stayed with him for the remainder of the lap. I went over the finish line for the start of lap 2 with him and then took off and left him. Another guy on a Sugar 29"er went around me crossing the finish line and I followed his wheel up the gravel road. Going back into the singletrack, we caught up with one of the expert women and the three of us pretty much rode all of lap 2 together. The guy on the Sugar passed her and was leading us, but we were all still together. She was a great bike handler and I was totally impressed with her riding. On our dismount at Cyclocross hill, I passed her on the foot climb grimacing all the way up the hill, but she got mounted up on her bike quicker than I did so the pass didn't hold.
The infamous Cyclocross Hill during lap one where I gave it a go...
I followed her closely for the remainder of the lap with the guy on the Sugar a little bit ahead of us. He was my goal to sprint by in the final section since he was the only guy who had passed me in the race that held. My legs were still working even though the twinges of cramping were starting to be felt when I stood on some climbs, but I didn't push myself into the cramp zone - yet.
As we came out of the singletrack and into the pasture with the sprint to the finish line, I was at the back of our little group of 3. I put the chain on the big ring and selected a small cog in the rear. I stood and mashed with everything I had and went flying by the other two going much faster and harder than I thought I could do. I held it all the way to the line and beat the guy on the Sugar by 4 seconds. He wasn't even in my category, but still - it's always fun to let it out when you can and end the race without letting any pass stand. I cramped right after I crossed the line as the effort was enough to take me over the edge.
End result: 18th Place Sport Open; 26th Place overall in the sport categories of 50+ riders.
My time last year was 2:21 and change. This year it was 2:04 and change. Granted, the final race times on this course were running about 5 - 8 minutes quicker this year with the way the course was set up over last year, but even with that factored in, I was pleased with my time as it was faster than last year. And that was pretty good considering I had raced the day before in Nebraska.
Hats off to ICORR and the trail crew for getting the course in such excellent shape. That was the best Sugar Bottom has been since I've ridden there starting in 2003. Trails were in perfect shape. Fast and fun with just enough technical challenges to keep you on your toes. And it was marked much better than last year. There were no questions about any corners. Great JOB guys!!! The full suspension Sugar was what I raced this weekend and I was glad to have the extra cushion to keep my lower back in check. It's a pound or two heavier than my Dos Niner, but was ideal for all the roots.
Next weekend is the final XC race with a combined Psycowpath/IMBCS season ending race at Lake Manawa. That's a very flat, but very twisty course that is going to favor bike handling and pushing big power on the flat straights. It will be hard to score high series points for me as the race will be well attended being in Omaha, but I'm plotting my strategy to finish the season strong. ;-)