Yesterday was the wild and wonderful conclusion to the newly formed and purposely shortened 2014 Psycowpath Mountain Bike Race Series in Omaha, Nebraska. I had not been back to Tranquility Park since my nasty endo crash there in 2012 during a race that set me back physically and vocally for the better part of a year or more (pulled a lot of muscles in my neck). This time I had a plan on handling the SOB of a bump/jump that had gotten me 2 years ago!!!
I packed up the Element and picked up fellow Indianola resident Andy Peterson to carpool over to the venue. We hit a little bit of rain on I-80 about 30 minutes east of Omaha, but it was short and non-threatening. The winds, however, were howling out of the south making driving the square box on the highway a little more driver input oriented than I wanted.
We arrived, got checked in, did our warm-ups and headed to the line for the start. It's been a nice battle in the 50+ group at the races this year between Tom Jeffreys and Mark Sullivan. Mark had me by less than a second at the last race I did at Platte River, so even though the series award was going to go to either of these riders that won, I was optimistic that my good form would allow me to at least contest both of them a little bit. I got called up along with Tom and Mark and lined up in the front row with them.
And we're off...
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Greer
Knowing that it was going to be a bit longer race doing two 9 mile laps, I gave a little off the line, but was tactically - in restrospect - incorrect in not working harder to get to the singletrack with the lead bunch. I didn't get clipped in as best as I could and the front row was crowded with bikes wobbling left and right fighting to hold their line. I had to quickly do a couple of moves to keep from locking bars and tires with others and found myself in the second row after a few pedal revolutions off the whistle. All in all, this poor start would prove to cost me dearly.
The lead group of 5 or 6 quickly pulled away once we hit singletrack from the second bunch that I was in due to the rider in front of me slowing down quite a bit for everything that seemed somewhat technical (going between tight trees, switchback corners, etc...) and was holding our 2nd bunched group of about 8-10 riders up a bit. Nobody was quacking this time around - thank goodness! Anyway it was not the fault of the rider in front of me and there was no reason to complain from being behind him as I needed to set up, negotiate, and execute a safe pass if I wanted to move on. This is, afterall, racing - right? And he was super fast after each time he slowed down making it difficult to execute a pass.
By the time I was ready to do a pass, it was not the best place to pass as we had entered the switchback climbs in the forest area which is where his bike handling skills stood out to be the most under scrutiny going through the trees and negotiating the switchback corners. After every technical spot that he slowed, he would speed up and take off again like a rocket making it hard to negotiate a pass due to the yo-yo effect of trying to catch up to him on those sprints. Finally, the guy behind me asked to get around me so he could have a go at the guy in front of me. I quickly, and safely, let him by and he asked to pass the guy in front of us several times. I don't think the guy wanted to allow him around as he never moved over when asked. It sounded like the guy trying to pass finally got tired of asking and not being given the trail, he just muscled a tight pass around him and moved on. Sweet pass, by the way!!!
Now it was my turn to do the same and I was setting it up. Unfortunately, a few turns later the guy who had just passed, went down on one of the switchback turns and I had to slow as I went around him in pursuit of looking for a spot I could pass the guy in front of me once I caught back up to him and move on with the race. You see how important that opening sprint at the start is to get in a good position? Or if an opportunity appears to pass that is safe early on - take it no matter what the HR does, and don't wait! This I know, but didn't execute my plan - so I only have myself to blame.
I remained a bit more patient and waited until we got out of the forest into the open trail where there was room to safely pass on both the left and the right side of the singletrack in the mowed grass sections. By now, the lead group was long out of sight and I knew I had my work cut out for me to play catch up over the next hour or more. I informed the rider in front of me that I was going to pass on his left side in the grass and went into sprint mode to move around him. I moved over to the left and was going around him safely when he looked at me and sort of moved into me where our handlebars got hooked together (he had bar ends) and down we both tumbled hard on the left side of the trail in the grass in a massive heap. Dang!
My handlebars were knocked out of alignment, my saddle was out of alignment and I struggled to get my bike back up and going again, but he was laying on top of my bike and had to climb off of it first. He finally got off of my bike, I straightened the bars a bit and off I went since we both seemed to be alive and moving fine. I didn't feel any physical damage or aches and pains even though my shoulder, head and shins had all hit. I'm not sure what happened as I really was far over on the left side with plenty of room and negotiating a safe pass. I had clearly called out my intention to pass, and have no idea how his handlebars touched mine way over on the left side where I was. I suppose the rider directly behind us would have the best assessment of what happened from his vantage point watching it, but who knows?
Such is racing!!!
My bars were not straight enough, my seat was crooked, and it appeared in the crash that some air had been burped out of my rear tire as it was mushy and wobbly in the corners. RATS!!!! The one time I'm not carrying the C02 cannister - and I needed it! I had moved it into my road bike seat bag recently and forgot to dig it out and bring it along on this trip. My bad. I stopped again to straighten the bars and seat a bit better, felt the air in the rear tire (felt like about 12-14 psi) and chalked this race up to "one of those experiences". I decided to ride on and see how long the rear tire would last. I didn't want to damage the carbon rim, so I gingered every corner and bump.
And so it was for the rest of the race - about a lap and a half - where I was okay for speed in the straights, but was having to slow way down for the corners due to the rear tire. I tried to favor as much weight as possible on the front wheel - but this was not ideal and needless to say I was frustrated. I saw Tom and Mark way ahead of me in the open field sections a few times during the rest of the race and just had to be content with trying to finish for the sake of finishing. And I did - at what seemed like a snail's pace to me. One gust of wind almost knocked me over sideways out in the open prairie it was such a strong southern wind that we all had to face out there! The good news is that the wind kept us cool in the 82 degree temps with full sun.
In spite of having to ride a lap with only about 1/2 the air as usual in my rear tire, I managed to hold onto 3rd place (barely by about 90 seconds) as I limped the bike through the course and across the finish line...
3rd in my age group, and 18th out of the 37 CAT II starters for open category. Not terrible, but the crash and nearly flat tire I had to run on altered my goals for the day.
The podium for the 50+ CAT II race...
Photo courtesy of Andy Peterson
Congrats to Tom and Mark for some really fun competition and also for both being great guys to visit with and swap stories. I look forward to more races against them in the future (with air in my rear tire of course).
Andy finished up his CAT I race which was his first ever CAT I event. He managed to get 10th place out of 15 which is pretty darn good for his first event at that level. And he was doing it singlespeed and rigid!!!! Wow! Congrats Andy!!!
Kudos to Ryan and Roxie Feagen for the 2014 Psycowpath season. Well done! Kudos to Dale Rabideau and THOR for an excellent event at Tranquility.
While I am at it, Happy Father's Day! Wasn't it President Nixon who signed it into law making it a holiday back in 1972?