Perfect weather. Perfect race course conditions. Perfect rider turnout. Perfect Hosts. Perfect warm-up.
Paul Varnum and I catch up on everything since last we saw each other in the fall...
Perfect weather. I know I said that, but it was worth repeating. ;-)
Relaxing at the starting line with Andrew and Brandon
Perfect start (went into the singletrack about 7th or so out of what looked to be 30 or so riders). Perfect strategy was unfolding like I wanted. Heart rate felt good. Legs felt good. I didn't have to dismount in the bottlenecks. All was well.
Then it all went wrong in the first 1/3 of lap one. I started to feel squirm in the rear wheel and I knew something was wrong. Loose quick release? Nope. Tire losing air? Must be. How could that be? The tires had been working so well the past 2 weeks on this course. I had the perfect psi of 23.5 in the rear. What was happening?
I forged ahead struggling to hold it together on the turns and the off-camber sections which were all the more difficult on a squirmy rear tire. I passed 2 people that had crashed. Then I had to let 2 pass me because my tire squirm was slowing me and them down. Then I passed by Nebraska bud Brandon Harper who was pulled over on the side of the trail looking at his bike (after talking to him, he was in 2nd place and crashed as well as flatted twice). Not our day, that's for sure.
A rider in front of me went down and I passed him. We came down out of the north half of the loop to the pavement section and I put it in the big ring to hammer to the south half of the loop. Wow! I could feel the low rear tire and since I had practiced this course all week, I knew what gear I wanted on this pavement. Suddenly, I was 2 gears less than I had practiced and it felt like very hard work even in this easier gear. Well of course, silly - the rear tire must have been down around 14 psi at this point. Going into the south loop, I asked the guy behind me if my rear tire looked really flat. He couldn't tell.
I kept turning the cranks over and was flying pretty well through this section in spite of the low air in the rear. Coming to the end of the south loop and about 100 yards before hitting the pavement where one has to hammer back to the beginning for lap 2, the guy behind me said "yup, now your rear tire looks flat" and of course, I felt it. I thought I could make it up to the pavement so I was out of everyone's way to air up. But it was time. I pulled over on the side of the singletrack. I took the can of Big Air attached to my seatpost off and aired up the rear tire. Whew! It was filling up and I was excited to be back in business having only lost 2 positions in the race. Then I pulled the can of Big Air off of the presta valve and PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS... all the air came out of the valve hole on the rim and the tire was flat. RATS!!!! I wanted to cuss. I wanted to throw the bike. But I refrained (costs too much). ;-)
No spare tube and my race was over. How frustrating! So I started the walk of shame back to the starting line to DNF. To make it worse, there stood my lovely wife and kids who had come out to cheer me on. And I had nothing to deliver due to equipment failure. I was all dressed up and had no place to go. Frustrating.
So I stared in disbelief at my plight and explained to everyone at the start/finish line what had happened:
Fellow MOBster Paul Varnum's Dos Niner front wheel is in the picture above as he stopped for a water bottle and heard my plight. Thanks for the offer to use your bike, Paul. You came to ride and it was great to see you out there. You'll be at Ida Grove next week, right?
Here's the culprit of my woes after I got home to take it all apart and have a look:
I run the tires tubeless and the rimstrip with the presta valve can be torn from the rimstrip if the nut is too tight on the valve stem (not my case), if one pulls and yanks too hard with the floor pump (or can of Big Air - or Topeak Digital Pressure Gauge), or it might just wear out over time from all the pumps going on and off the valve stem which finally works the connection near the rimstrip to start a tear.
Thinking back, I liked the air pressure I had in the rear tire, but for safety's sake I went back to the car and checked the air and added about 1.5 psi just 5 minutes before the starting gun. In my haste, I must have been all thumbs and yanked the pressure gauge or my floor pump off hard enough from the valve stem to tear or at least start the tear on the valve stem/rim strip connection. Once I got riding, had hopped that first log and gone over some bumps on the trail - the leaking air started to show up.
This is the third NoTubes.com rimstrip with a presta valve that I have had this happen to over the last couple of years on my American Classic wheels. It's never happened during a race, so this was a new one for me. It's time to switch to Schrader valve ghetto tubeless rimstrips and that's what I did when I got home. I did a ghetto conversion on the back wheel with a Schrader tube after drilling out the valve stem hole large enough to take a Schrader valve stem. I'll hit the front wheel in the same way later this week to take that element of possible equipment failure out of the equation.
Hats off to CITA, all the trail builders and to a great course we are lucky to have here in Central Iowa. I can't complain since it is about 5 or 6 miles away from my house (30 minutes on the bike) and is right off the Summerset Bike Trail that runs from Indianola to Carlisle. That means I can ride to and from the mountain bike trails without having to mess with my car. That's a nice plus that I'm excited to have.
Hopefully this weekend brings better luck as I really, really, really would like to get some racing in this season after my first 2 races ended up in DNF's. Outside of a torn sidewall last year at one race, I have been trouble free equipment wise for 2 seasons. I guess I was due.
Bummer. But the great race course, fun crowd, perfect weather all helped calm my mood. There's nothing you can do in those situations and it wasn't worth getting myself worked up about it all. Life happens.