Red Wing Race Report...

Knowing that it was near peak weekend for fall leaf colors, Tara decided to join me on a drive up to Red Wing this past Sunday to see the fall colors.  I know we did that at least once when we lived in New York City, and headed up to Vermont for a weekend.

The peak colors can vary 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, but this year they are a bit later than normal here in the upper Midwest.  Regardless, the timing worked out perfectly for us.  I wanted to race in the rescheduled Minnesota Mountain Bike Series event that originally was supposed to be in June, but rain in the forecast caused a postponement.  Luckily, the trail organization at Red Wing, and their crew, were able to figure out a date that would work for them while still providing MMBS to have their full 10 race season.

I like the Red Wing course a lot, and saw that I had Sunday free to travel to the race, so that's what we did.  We made a road trip for fall colors and mountain bike racing.

We left the house at 6 am and Tara got a picture of the sunrise as we headed north...


Thanks to sharing driving duties, I was able to work on a flat tire my rear bike wheel had while we motored up I-35.  I added sealant, and pumped the tire back up (which is not easy while sitting in the front seat).  We arrived a bit later than I would have liked, but I got dressed, made my drink mix, and headed to the registration table to pick up my number plate.  Then I headed out for a 15-20 minute brief warm-up in the blustery fall morning, that was filled with beautiful sunshine and fall colors every where one looked.

I lined up about 10 minutes before the start and noticed that the 2nd Wave would be all the 40-49, 50-59, and 60+ racers.  Usually we are near the rear of all the start waves, but this time we would go second.

Tara snapped a shot of me with my game face starting to develop...


I got some final tips and directions from a fellow racer in my group before we took off...


After the call ups for our combined wave of three age categories had been completed, I was lined up back in the bunch at the line.  On the "GO!", I was able to move up to the top 10-12 quite easily in the opening meadow section as my legs were feeling good for racing.  I knew that this race was going to be a lot longer than the typical 60 - 70 minute version of a Sport race due to the number of laps we were slated to do - 3.  So I didn't want to get too excited right off the bat, and thought about pacing to remain strong throughout the race.


I recognized a racer (Steve Kapaun) in front of me that is usually near or on the podium, and managed to settle in behind him.  I have finished behind Steve before, as well as ahead of him - so he was a good marker for me to tuck in behind.  By my count of who had lined up at the start, Steve was the final podium spot with Craig Brown right in front of him.  I remained on Steve's wheel and when we came into the final open meadow section after a long climb, I really thought about passing both he and Craig in front of him as my HR monitor said we were just cruising along in that meadow at Tempo, rather than in race pace.  Again, my strategy was to follow these two riders, pace myself well, and the strategy developed - whether it was good or bad at the time - to making the decision I would attempt to make my move in either the 2nd or the 3rd lap at or around that same spot.

As we came around the start/finish area for the 2nd lap, Tara snapped a shot of me which shows the vivid fall colors we were all fortunate to experience out there...


In that opening meadow section where I noticed Steve had slowed down during lap one - he took off, and I gave pursuit to stay in contact.  So, that adjusted my strategy to wait until the 3rd lap to make my move.  Lap three had some of the faster racers from waves that started behind us catching up and asking to pass.  Other than that, it was going according to plan and I was hanging on the wheel of the rider in front of me.  I was riding my Dos Niner which has wider handlebars than my Niner bikes, and negotiating between some of the tight trees was going fine, but took good timing, balance and coordination at this race speed.

About 2/3's of the way through lap three on a tight tree section that didn't give me any troubles before, I snagged the right side of my handlebar on a tree.  That stopped me dead in my tracks and threw me as well as the bike into a tree on the left side where my helmet smashed into the tree.  My chain also flew off and the 2 guys behind me screamed at me to "Get out of the way!!!".  There were no "Are you okay?" sympathies shared from what they had just seen.  So I moved out of the way and it took far too long to get my chain back on than I would have liked.  I fumbled with it in 3 or 4 attempts to get the chain on and get going again.  Rats!!!  "Game Over" I thought, but there was no way I was going to go down without a fight.


So digging deep, I gave chase in hopes I could make up a 20+ second deficit before we ran out of singletrack real estate.  I pushed my heart rate higher than I thought I could take, but was heroics or nothing at this point if I wanted it that bad.   I felt like I was slowly crawling my way back into it, but was still about 15-18 seconds or so behind where I had been before hitting the tree by my count.  Since we were already nearing the 90 minute point, I was in a deeper pain and suffering mode than usual, and the extra effort spent trying to catch up was draining my tank.  I just didn't have it in my legs to catch back up to Steve who finished 18 seconds ahead of me for the final podium spot.  I gave it my all though, and had the tree hit not happened, who knows if I would have had enough left in the tank to pull off a pass and make it stick?  Regardless, I was happy with my effort at this level of competition.


Post race posing...


I think Kyle Williams (who raced Sport in the 30-39 age class, and got 3rd in that group) said it best.  Something like "COMP in Minnesota is like Elite in Iowa, and Sport in Minnesota is like COMP in Iowa".

However one says it, any time I make it to the top 5 in Wisconsin or Minnesota is a good effort for me as the competition is really high.  After the race and results were posted, we took off to find a suitable lunch spot in Red Wing.  We wandered in at Marie's Underground Grill and Tavern which turned out to be a nice local spot for lunch.  Then we hopped in the car for the return trip.

Full color in Red Wing...


567 miles round trip was a bit much for the day when you add in a 90 minute race, but seeing the colors on or near the peak weekend made the trip worth it - as did the always well run Minnesota Mountain Bike Series events.  I'm glad they were able to have the race as it was a fun one - as always.  Kudo to all those involved in the MMBS and to the local crew at Red Wing for getting the course ready and hosting the event!!!

We rolled into Indianola about 7:30 pm tired and tuckered out...

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