The weekend's choice of race was determined by weather. The Bone Bender in Lawrence, KS or Sylvan Island Stampede in Moline, IL (first race of the IMBCS for 2012) were the two on my schedule. Both were set up as rain or shine events, but I decided to do the IMBCS race in Moline, IL based on the weather radar's slightly more favorable forecast for eastern Iowa and the reality of my Saturday evening not lending itself to doing a 3+ hour race in Kansas.
I had been out late the night before at an annual fund raiser for a hospital foundation in Des Moines. The theme was the roaring 20's for this black tie event, so Tara decided to dress up in black tie and have a little fun. I wore my regular black tux. Here's Tara who looked great and got a lot of compliments at the party for her attire...
The event was held at the Performing Arts Temple in Des Moines. We got there at 6 for the pre-party special invite appetizers and drinks. There was a big band playing, a casino was set up, and there was a jail with cops where we could pay $25 to have somebody arrested and thrown in jail. The bail was $25 to get out of jail. There was a silent auction room where sponsors were giving away things that you could bid on as part of the fund raiser. There was an incredible food table and a large prize table that you could buy things with the chips you had won gambling in the casino. Tickets were $150 per person for the event, but by the time you bought your gambling chips, bid on some silent auctions (and won), played the jail game, bought a few drinks - the donations to charity could really add up!!! We had fun and it is for a very good cause. We actually did well playing Blackjack. I manged to double our money from $100 to $200 throughout the course of the evening which we cashed in for some prizes from the prize room to take home. We left about 10:45 to go home.
All that being said to clarify why it was hard to drag myself out of bed and get going over to Moline Sunday morning after getting home late from a big fund raiser party. I did manage to get packed up and on the road by 9. The winds were straight out of the south and made for difficult driving heading straight east to the Quad Cities. I got to the race site about 11:40, checked in and the Schwag I won at the check in table was a pair of women's cargo cycling shorts. Not sure what I will do with those as they were a size L and Tara is a sizs S.
I warmed up for a good 20+ minutes and headed to the starting line where I was already 5 rows back. Last year, due to good fortune of the starting line suddenly being moved back to a different orange line than everyone was lined up to begin with, resulted in me ending up front. So I made the top group going into the singletrack which meant I had no bottlenecks and it drastically altered my time (in a good way). Due to the prior evenings fund raising party, I didn't feel like turning myself inside out in a group of 86 (mass start for CAT 2's - no age category waves at Sylvan) on the opening sprint to get to the singletrack first. That was clarified as one of the guys in front of me went down 10 yards after the start and caused me to have to stop, and restart around him.
Great. I was now near the back of the group and had to muscle a bit to move up a few spots - but so did everybody else. I went into the singletrack near the back of the back which is not optimal in a big field of 86. The result of that was the worst bottleneck I've been in (outside of the Bone Bender due to the large mass start of that event). The first 10 minutes involved a lot of hurry up and wait, but knowing we had 4 laps to go and I was competing in the 50 and over age category I didn't worry too much. Eventually, as always, guys start to misjudge corners, roots, trees and the passing begins. I started to work my way through some of the crowd bit by bit.
By the end of lap one, things were flowing quite well as we were all in groups of less than a dozen making our way around the course. My tires were a bit over-inflated for the wet roots and rocks. On top of that, it was sprinkling off and on which added to the slickness of the roots and rocks. The ground was tacky, but not holding our speed back as it wasn't that muddy. It's not normal soil on that island. Whatever it is, it absorbs the rain like a sponge and is only slightly tacky.
At some point in the middle of lap 2, a guy went around me and I noticed his skin tone and hair color matched mine. I was pretty sure he was in the old man's group with me (I think there were 13 of us in the category of 50+). I latched onto his wheel and was going to stick with him because I figured a podium spot was at stake. I was never more than 5 - 20 feet from his rear wheel, but we took one corner pretty fast and I managed to get both tires on wet roots at the same time while I was leaning hard into a corner. Down I went, but nothing was hurt and the bike was fine. I hopped on and told myself not to panic by trying to go all out and catch him right away. I had 2 more laps to reel him in, so I just rode steady.
At this point, a younger rider was on my tail and followed me for about 15 minutes. At one point he said "if you can't go fast, you may as well go smooth, right?". I got a kick out of that. I let him around me in one of the opening connector sections and latched on to his rear wheel to use him to pull me back to my target in my age group. We had a good 100 yards or so to make up, and slowly, but surely we reeled him in at the end of lap 3.
The course was fun, but it's always a lot of tight turns that keep you on your toes. Even though I was on the JET 9 with Nobby Nics for great traction, I didn't feel like I was flying as fast as I could because of the wet conditions. All of the wet rocks and roots were causing us to slip and slide every now and then.
I felt good in the latter laps and lap 4 had me on my target's rear wheel. This lap turned out to be my fastest of the 4. I noticed he was bobbling a few of the technical sections which meant he was getting tired. This allowed me to recover a bit and set up for the end of the race. I smiled and told myself to just hang back and wait for the next to last open connector section for the place to sprint past him. Sure enough, I hit it on that connector section and went around him. I gave it a full 60 second sprint interval max and opened up a gap as he was unable to match.
I entered the final singletrack section and turned myself inside out to keep the gap. I saw a younger rider ahead of me and mashed it to catch him. We came out of the singletrack and - even though it was a bit early to sprint - I hit it with what I had left to go around him. He, however, was going to challenge me. I used NASCAR tactics and made sure I positioned myself so he could not get around me on the left side of a curve as we headed to the finish line chute, and then I drifted to the other side to prevent the right side from being available for him. I nosed him by 1/2 a wheel at the line. All in fun and I love those finish line sprints.
All in all, the fight was worth it as it turns out the target I had been focusing on who passed me in lap 2 was indeed a racer in my age category and it was for a podium spot. My time was 6 minutes slower than last year - a lot of that due to being in the back of the pack going into the singletrack. That's the price I had to pay, but I still brought home some hardware. Initial posting of the results had me in 2nd place, but during the 20 minute time frame to dispute results, I guess a rider in my category that had problems with his chip timer was bumped up to 2nd ahead of me and I was moved down to 3rd. The chip had my first two laps at 23:41 and 23:13 and my 4th lap at 23.04 (my third lap was 23.xx). The other guy "in question" who got bumped ahead of me after the protest period had his first lap at 25:44 and his second lap at 25:40. Then his chip went funky and they recorded his final time 6:05 ahead of me. No big deal, I made the podium in spite of my lousy starting position. But something sure seemed fishy out on that island...
I hesitate to rant about it - especially with the experience of race director at Lake Ahquabi. It's difficult for me to believe that I was ahead of him by 2:30 at the 1/2 way point, and he somehow managed to make up the 2:30 and then 6:05 on top of that to outride me by a full 8:35 on the last two laps - especially when I rode the final two laps faster than my first two laps. The Race Director claimed that our third lap time actually was two laps together. Mine read 46:55 which would be consistent that my laps were averaging 23 and change. The guy who got bumped up to second place above me had a third lap reading of 36:20 (which, according to the race director's explanation of the reason the third lap read with such a high number from everyone, means he turned two laps averaging 18:10 after his first two laps of 25.XX and change). NO WAY!!! No CAT II racer - even the overall 1st place winner for all 86 of us turned better than a 19:19 lap on any of the laps. Probably not worth arguing over, but it's no fun being on the short end of an error stick. I guess it will all come out in the wash if it's meant to be - series points be damned whether I got 2nd or 3rd. If the racer in question is at another IMBCS event, I'll pay close attention to our finishing times. ;-]
C'est la vie. It looks like there were a few errors with the chip timing system. Maybe that's pause for concern that the old fashioned way with tear off tags and a finish line chute may be the best "technology" to use.
I stayed for the awards ceremony, had a burger and a brat (I was hungry after 1:33 on the bike at race speed) and watched the CAT 1's race. Kudos to FORC and the event continues to be well attended and a fun one for racers.
Bad weather rolled in as I was packing up and heading out of Moline. Heavy rains and high wind. I finally drove out of the rain, but the wind was really strong out of the south all the way home to Indianola. Made for difficult driving.
After a nice dinner with the family, I did three hours of work to get things ready for taxes. I have to head into today to H&R to get it all going and finished by tomorrow.