Sunday's weather was perfect for being outside and for some XC racing. The humidity was low and the temperature was around 80 with clear blue skies. Ring the bell for another good turnout at an IMBCS race as 68 racers showed up to toe the line at the base of Seven Oaks Ski Area!! That's up from 34 racers who toed the line last year at Boone and 46 the year before. It's good to see these growth numbers in 2009. I hope we continue to see as many racers as possible at all of the IMBCS events. It ups the competition and certainly is good for the sport here in Iowa.
I had noticed when I got home from my pre-ride on Saturday that my REBA fork on the JET 9 was a little sunk into its travel with not as much of the stanchion showing. I spent some time reading a couple of threads at MTBR.com on the REBA and came across a couple of posts about this issue. So, I was out in the garage tinkering with the fork until I fixed it Sunday morning. The fix was to let all of the air out of the negative chamber and then add air pressure again to my preferred setting. Bingo! The fork jumped back into full stanchion showing position for an 80mm REBA and matched the amount of millimeters showing as the REBA on my Dos Niner. I was good to go. I also swapped the wheels/tires from my Dos with the Maxxis Aspens to the JET 9 as I was spinning out too much with the Raven 2.2's on Saturday.
Tara wanted to come along for the day, so we headed up to Boone with XM/Sirius satellite radio providing the musical entertainment. I got registered and went into my warm up routine out on the gravel road. I headed up to the campground and did a couple portions of singletrack from the campground back down to the start/finish area. I did my final bike check and got my water bottles all ready. Then I headed over to the start/finish area. Ron got us all organized and lined us up for the start.
Wave 1 took off at 12 noon with 16 racers in the Pro/CAT 1 group. Wave 2 consisted of 46 of us bunched together in CAT 2 (39 CAT 2 men, 4 SS's, 3 CAT 2 women). I got off the line okay in spite of it taking me a dozen pedal strokes to get my left foot clipped into the pedal. My inside line on the U-turn around the ski lift was not the best line as it slowed to nearly a stop and the outside line moved right around us. There were a couple people in that outside line I did not want to be behind in the technical sections, but there I was stuck as we all got real polite like and single filed our way into a line in the grass for the singletrack. What was that all about? Nobody passing? Guilty as charged, but nobody was overtaking anyone as we moved towards the climb and somebody was actually rubbing my rear tire most of the way up the initial climb and for a good portion of the hurry up and wait opening sections. Hmmmmm....I guess I must be too tall to see around to look at the traffic jam ahead. '-}
The front end of the pack was gone, and I got stuck behind 4 - 5 riders that kept dismounting and running up stuff that I would have ridden. But when everyone stops and dismounts in front of you - you are pretty much forced to do the same. This increases the slinky effect and it all went back to that opening drive to the singletrack where I should have been up a few more slots in the line had I attacked more. Didn't I say last week in my race report from the Border Battle to just go, go, go at all times and not question anything? Guilty as charged for taking part in the polite single file opening start. Now I had to pay for it and dismount a few times as the slinky stopped and started. Boone, at full race speed, makes all those switchbacks, short steep climbs, technical sections easier to ride and stay on the bike. Going too slow just makes them all the more difficult. In previous years, I balked at some of those techincal sections and things as well and would put a foot down, dismount or bail. Now I am able to ride it all, but you have no choice when a group dismounts in front of you. And to be honest, the heavy training week had me come down with a cold on Friday which I was trying to keep at bay with Zicam. My legs felt a bit on the shaky and weak side of things, but I was pushing through it all. I'm not sure of the drying effect from Zicam, but my voice felt dry which always has me thinking I am dehydrated. I was downing water all day Friday and Saturday to counteract it. The good news is that I did not cramp up at all during this race - so my hydration efforts must have been working.
I was finally able to take an inside line on one of the switchbacks and ride myself out of the glut. The course was in great shape. Much better than on Saturday due to all the branches being moved and the number of bikes mashing down the track again. By the time we hit the section of singletrack on the backside - once you go by the edge of the campground and head behind the paintball course - I had closed a gap and was able to pass 3 riders in that section. Crossing the gravel road, I saw Taylor Webb up ahead. He was riding geared this week and had passed me earlier right before the steep drop and steep climb section. What happened to that climb by the way? There is now a little shortcut to the right when you approach the top of the climb making it easy to master as opposed to that extra 10 - 15 feet of steep stuff that was easy to stall on? Oh well, it at least kept us all on our bikes. Back to Taylor. I put it in the big ring and gave chase to close the gap. I slowly worked my way up towards him and Ryan Vanhouweling was right on my tail the entire way. Coming into the start/finish area, Taylor stopped to switch water bottles and my hand up girl was there with my bottle so I didn't have to stop. Thanks Tara!
Lap 2 was the battle for 7th, 8th, and 9th in CAT 2 Open between Ryan, Taylor and myself as we headed up the switchback climb in a clump of 3 with me in the lead. I was able to create a little bit of a gap on just about every technical section that pointed up as I was railing every switchback and root section on this lap - not with tremendous speed, but with good bike handling skills that kept me churning forward. Then Ryan would cross the gap and catch back up to me. I could tell he was recovering and waiting for an opening behind me, but I kept taking advantage of all the technical sections to create a bit of a gap in hopes I could shake him, recover and push ahead. But he would counter and close the gap every time. Finally, I had a misstep when I got out of the saddle to power up a steep climb with roots. My rear tire spun out big time on a root forcing me to put a foot down and he went right around me. I chased him as best as I could huffing and puffing the entire way, but he was hammering and slowly opening up a gap on me. The section behind the paint ball course had me feeling like I really should have popped a gel after lap 1 as my morning cereal nutrition seemed to have run out. I dug deep and pushed through these flatter sections with everything I felt I had. I didn't see or hear anyone closing in behind me, so I focused in on what turned out to be CAT 1 rider Mike Johnson in front of me and I worked on closing that gap to bring it home and not lose my position. This lap was going much quicker than the first lap. In fact, almost a full 5 minutes quicker than the first lap.
I bombed down the ski hill to the finish line and crossed the line in 9th out of 18 for CAT 2 Open (15th out of 39 overall for CAT 2 Men). Ryan took 8th and had opened up a gap of 1 minute, 13 seconds on me in the 2nd half of the course as I was simply unable to match his pace. Taylor came in 33 seconds after I did for 10th place. That Lap 2 battle was certainly a good workout and was more fun than just riding totally alone where trying to keep pace is hard to do. Great race, Taylor and Ryan! Those inner battling for position races can be just as fun as the battle for the podium spots going on 5 - 10 minutes ahead of us. At least it keeps me going. ;-}
Tara and I talked the lady at the front desk into selling us an ice cold beer (low carb beer of course) and we sat under the shade of an umbrella on the patio for my official cool down. ;-)
Kudos to Ron and everyone that helped him get the event up and running. Boone is always a challenging and rewarding race. After racing on courses in several states, I feel if you can handle the 7 Oaks course, you can ride just about anything out there in terms of off camber, climbing, switchbacks, roots, power climbs, narrow bridges, etc... . I love the new trail sections that have been added at Boone. I raced it last year and this year with a 2 x 9 drivetrain. Any more laps and I think I would have to break out the 3 x 9 to conserve a little on the grunt climbs - especially at the 24 hour race. Post race, we had to take off to get back to Indianola in time to take our daughter to a babysitting gig (we were actually 5 minutes late which caused a major panic from our 14 year old!!!!!). My ears are still ringing from her rant. ^-^