The last race held at Sunderbruch Park in Davenport was back in 2008. I wrote about my woes during that race here. I raced with a concussion, had a tire burp shortly after the start, cramped up in the heat trying to catch up after the flat tire, and was looking forward to a much more pleasant experience this time around.
And boy - what a difference!!!! I did have a bum knee from the crash at Boone that was "iffy". Turns out, it hurts more to walk and drive a car than it does to ride a bike. So I decided to do the race with expectations that I might not be able to put as much pressure on my right knee as I would need to be competitive in an XC race.
I drove over early Sunday morning and arrived at 9:45 a.m. to check-in and do my warm-up. It was warm, but nothing like the previous week's heat and humidity combination. It was about 10 degrees cooler and the singletrack is all in the shade, so no worries. I did have a moment of cringe as I walked to my car after registering when a song was booming over the P.A. system that contained the words "M'ther, F'ker" blaring through the air. Nothing like a "family event", right? ;-) OY!
I chewed the fat with Kevin Betters who gave me a report on the pre-ride he had done the day before. According to Kevin, the course sounded like it was going to be a blast. I had read that a lot of new features had been added since 5 years ago and the pictures of the S curve wooden bridge looked like a fun addition. The CAT 2's took off en masse at 10:45 and I was lined up more near the rear of the pack as I knew there was plenty of climbing on pavement until we got to the singletrack. That, and not knowing what my knee would do kept me on the careful side of the start. I picked my way through quite a few in the pack on the 2nd half of the climb as those that had gone out hard started to get winded. I moved up enough in the line that going into the singletrack I was at least closer to mid-pack of the 50 of us rather than the end of the pack.
I got stuck behind a group of 4 that were having difficulty keeping up with the lead group(s) in front of us. I had to get off the bike twice on a couple of the steep or techinical climbs since the three in front of me dismounted. And of course that made everybody behind me have to do the same. Such is crowded XC racing. We finally sorted some things out and I was able to pass the three in front of me over the next mile or so of singletrack. I finally got myself into a position that there was nobody in front of me and was pretty much that way the rest of the race since the first 1/2 of the pack was long gone. One guy caught up to me in lap two and asked to get around me, but otherwise - it was one of those races that things were so spread out it was like an individual time trial for the majority of it.
The course was a blast! Rocks, roots, creek crossings, bridges, whoops, switchbacks, tight and twisty, and the new S curve wooden bridge!!! The wooden berm "S" Curve is a blast and wonderful new feature at Sunderbruch...
I kept pinching myself in disbelief that I was in Iowa because this course was so much fun and so darn good. It's a real nugget for Iowa mountain biking. If you haven't been to Sunderbruch - go. Don't miss out.
Back to the race....
After making the turn to begin lap 2, I remembered the singletrack climb back up to the top to enter the singletrack on the other side from 2008. I relaxed my pace just a bit so I didn't red line it on the climb, but gave plenty to keep my gap on those behind me. Two singlespeeders eventually caught up to me, and one of them is the guy I mentioned above who passed me during lap 2, and the other one backed off as I opened up a gap and started pushing hard. The banged up knee was doing fine, so I really had nothing to lose and started going harder.
Loved the berms....
Finally, near the end of lap two, I saw up ahead of me a racer at the top of a climb. I hammered to catch up to him. Once he got wind of my presence behind him, he tried to take off and leave me in the dust. I pushed harder and stayed on his wheel as I was feeling really good. We had a nice little mano a mano going on for about 5 minutes which was really fun. One of those "race within a race" moments so to speak that always keeps me motivated. He started dabbing a little bit here and there. Because of that, I tried not to get too close and cause him to crash as I figured I could get him on the final sprint, but without my asking, he suddenly pulled over to let me around him after he had tired a bit from our little battle. I thanked him as I flew by him and never looked back. Turns out he was in the age class younger than me, but the battle was fun nonetheless for those 5 minutes and he ended up about 30 seconds behind me at the line.
I crossed the line in 1:09:03 - good enough for 2nd place in my division. After my cool down out on the road, I went back to the results table and found out it was Tom Jeffreys from Nebraska who got first. I didn't even know he was there as I didn't look around at the starting line to see him or a few others. I guess that's what happens when you line up in the rear of a pack of 50. Tom had me by 2:46 in this race. You never know who will show up at a race to toe the line, but Tom brings new fire power to the 50+ age group and increases our competition. I know he would do well in Minnesota against the top riders in our age class.
I am still riding the wave of my peak form. I felt really good in this race and was not that tired at all after it was over and done with for the day. My lap times were consistent. This, in spite of riding 40 miles on Tuesday and 72 on Wednesday with Tara to get our us ready for RAGBRAI as our final longer distance training rides. All in all, I was happy with the race on Sunday. I didn't crash. I didn't bobble. I didn't cramp. I didn't burp a tire. In fact, I loved the trail and have to say the bike and my nutrition were both flawless for the day.
The "Seniors Age Class Results". At least that's what the announcer called us as we were getting our awards (SENIORS!!!)..
Hats off to QCFORQ for a really, really excellent race course at the FORC Side Thrill Ride! I couldn't stop smiling during the entire race it was so good. Well done.
I am teaching at our Orpheus Music Camp this week and have a wonderful group of young singers. We will pack our RAGBRAI bags this week and double check everything is in order before we head out on Saturday morning.