The 3rd time is the charm! The Maskenthine Classic was originally scheduled for early April, but rain caused it to be postponed and rescheduled for June. Unfortunately, the June 14th race date was also a rain postponed event. So this third attempt actually fit my schedule quite well. Fortunately, the August weather proved to yield to the event with perfect racing weather and conditions. Skies were blue, temperatures were in the low 70's, the trail was in perfect condition, the wind was not howling out on the open prairie and 100 racers showed up to toe the line.
I dropped Alexa off at her 7 a.m. Saturday morning high school Cross Country team run and headed on up the road to Nebraska. It's about a 4 hour journey from Indianola and I did not sleep too well the night before due to concerns about my son and high school football. They won the game 48-0 on Friday night, but Zack was upset and wouldn't talk about it (we worked it all out on Sunday so he and I feel better about everything). Regardless, I stayed awake on the road and arrived in time to register, get suited up, chit-chat with Brandon Harpster and warm up for a good 30 minutes. The JET 9 felt good out on the course as I was running the rear shock in full squish/comfort mode for the bumpy track so I could stay seated and hammer through the entire race. The Dos Niner has beaten me up the past 2 years on this newer singletrack, so I didn't want to fight it this year. Most of the beating was due to improper tire choice and air pressure, but I reached for the full suspension to remove any doubt this year.
After the CAT 1's rolled off the line, the CAT 2 Open class went next. I got clipped in right away so was happy with that and hung on with the top 7 or 8 going into the singletrack after the opening gravel road climb. We were scheduled for 3 laps and with the weather conditions and trail conditions being perfect, speeds were up for all of us. There were no traffic jams as we headed through the first and only technical section in the lower section of the course. The past 2 years, this area has been known to create traffic jams. Coming out of that technical section, I saw Brandon leading our pack, but the 2 in front of him had gapped off and were already quite a bit out in front of all of us. Brandon has been riding strong all season, so I knew if we were staying within a stone's throw of him on this first lap that our pace was not too bad.
There was some jockeying for position as the lap unfolded, but lap one was pretty routine and set up the tempo for the day. About a third of the way through lap one, Kory Hill was pulled over with a dropped chain and I went around him. Near the end of lap, Kory had worked his way back to me and another rider passed me as we headed through the final section of open prairie. I upped it a notch to stay within striking distance of those two and I think the gap never got more than 30 seconds.
Grinding it out...
I seemed to have settled in right behind Ben Blomberg during lap one and we both had a very similar tempo and riding style. He was standing on many of the climbs and powering up, but I kept myself on the saddle and ground it out behind him. I guess that's the mark of a 48 year old following a 28 year old. ;-) Believe it or not, that's pretty much the rest of the race for Ben and I. We played the yo-yo game all day long with me sometimes right on his wheel and other times Ben gapping off me 10 - 100 feet with me reeling him back in at every given opportunity. This kept both of us pushing a good pace for all of lap 2 and lap 3. Pretty uneventful as we passed a few guys and a few guys passed us. The only eventful thing for me was during lap 2 my bike started creaking/squeaking. The JET 9 had never made those sounds before, so I was concerned and curious. I kept looking down and thinking maybe a crankarm bolt was working its way loose or maybe my bottom bracket was shot. I just hoped the bike would make it to the end of the race and not force me to DNF. Everything seemed to be working okay, but the creak/squeak was certainly heard by all around me. And it kept me concerned.
Hitting the last section of open prairie before the final push to the finish line, I crossed the gap to get on Ben's wheel again and we both went flying by Kory Hill. He wasn't riding along like he usually does tempo wise, so I don't know if he just ran out of gas or what. Ben and I headed back into the last bit of singletrack and he started to pull away on the final climb. I tried, but couldn't match his climb and crossed the line 4 seconds behind him to take 8th place. Ben and I would have had to shave off a full 3 minutes to catch up to 6th place. The course was in excellent shape and the crew did a perfect job of running the event. Hats off to everyone for their excellent work!!!
A little post race chit-chat and then I headed back down the hill from the finish line to the car to head home. Said hello to Julie who was already changed into her traveling clothes as her category did 2 laps instead of 3. I had a dinner party to attend at my Department Chair's house and needed to get going to make it home in time for a shower and shave. So I kept on schedule and went back to the car.
As I was loading up the bike in the Element, I gave it a once over to see if I could find the source of the creak. I checked the pivot bolts. All tight. Crankarm bolts. Both tight as a drum. Then I found a hairline crack on the rear triangle support brace. I pushed on the crack and it wasn't a crack. It was a complete broken support brace that others with the JET 9 have been reporting. RATS!!!! I fell victim to it as well during the race. The bike is under warranty, so I will contact Niner today and see what I need to do. I was counting on racing it this weekend in Minnesota, but I doubt I will be able to get a new rear triangle in time for that so I best get the Dos Niner or Sugar ready.
I headed home, unpacked and got ready for the dinner party. The food was excellent and the invited group was very entertaining. I was starting to drop by 10:30, so my wife and I headed home to sleep it off. I felt surprisingly fresh on Sunday morning and headed out to Lake Ahquabi for what I thought was going to be a recovery ride, but I felt so good it turned into a training ride. I met with the set designer for a couple hours in the afternoon to knock out a set for The Marriage of Figaro that I am directing this fall for the opera at Simpson. I'm pretty happy with the set we came up with as it will fit the budget and be very appropriate for the smaller theater we are using for the production. There is not room for a full 4 corner post bed in one of the scenes, so we came up with an alternative that will work just as well and I will rethink some of my staging for that scene.
Today is off the bike and involves mowing the yard, meeting with all of my students in my office between 1 - 4 p.m. as we start school tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. for the 2009-2019 academic year. So I guess summer is officially over now. :-[