Well, it seemed as if all was going to go well on Sunday. The weather was great (during my race), and the course was excellent. There had been a few changes made since last week’s recon, but I felt they were definitely improvements. On Friday morning, I got a call from T-Hom telling me he was going to come up and hit the Grind as well. This was going to be fun!
T-Hom finally showed up around 8pm on Saturday night, needing a boatload of work done to his ailing bike. Luckily, I had everything that was needed in stock, brake pads, wheels, tires and a new rear cog. I did my very best pit stop style pro bleed on his old Juicy Ultimates and got them dialed right in for him. He was ready for racin’, as was I, so we then stayed up until 12:30 drinking beer and watching Swamp Shark on ScyFy (a truly awful movie).
My day started a little earlier than T-Hom’s. I had to make sure the dog had an opportunity to do all his dog things before I was gone all day, and ten headed out to the shop to load up the tent, tools, bikes and what other stuff we might have needed for the day. We headed out, and got there right after the rest of our large-esque crew. The tent came out, and we had our base camp all set up and ready for the day.
Our group was going to go at 10, and JayPro’s and T-Hom’s at noon. We were going to be there all day, and we had planned accordingly. R2D2 was there, filled with beer and brats. I picked up my race packet, and got ready, and then headed to the staging area for my start. Well wasn’t I surprised to see T-Vo standing there? Great, that was just one more place down from the top that I would be. He was a good sport about the “sandbagger” callouts, but his reasoning for doing the Cat 2 SS Open was legit. To do the Cat 1, he needed to buy a $60 USA Cycling license. USA Cycling is one of the most BS organizations in cycling, and this little issue is the only blemish on this otherwise well run event.
The starting whistle blew, and we were off. The start was up a grassy hill, which is not very much fun to ride. Nothing like going up an energy sapping hill to start a race, but it did stretch the group out a bit before descending and rolling into the woods. I could tell my gear 32/22 was spinny on the flats. I had a hard time keeping my placement out in the open, but once in the woods, all was well. The bike was performing flawlessly, despite my battle with breakfast I was having. I had a peanut butter bagel, but ate it too close to the start time, so my stomach was not happy with me. My sinuses were also clogged up thanks to allergies, ad I found breathing to be difficult. Yet I managed to power through it, and settled into a pace that was good for me. I found that I was able to click people off in the woods and leave them behind me. The gear was spinny enough so I didn’t have to work too hard, and the squishyness of the suspension allowed me to take what ever line I wanted. My plan was to take as many places as I could in the woods so that I would have a little breathing room out in the open where I would be at the mercy of those with gears and taller gears than I.
Some of the climbing was a little rough, but I knew that none of it lasted too long, and tried to maintain a constant, quick pace without blowing up. My strategy was paying off. I could handily bomb the descents, and was able to reel more and more folks in from the category that started ahead of me. I made sure to drink as often as I could. Joey was at the neutral feed zone out in the field, and had bottles and food for our group of racers. My plan was for a bottle per lap, and I knew I would need to stay hydrated, lest I get crampy on the second lap.
As I rounded the horn for lap 1, I saw Joey, who had my bottle. The swap was clean and fumble free, and the news was that Shaun (aka Shackleton) was right in front of me. There was my rabbit. Shaun is pretty darn quick, and his start was 2 mins ahead of mine. I knew I was riding well, the bike was money, and if I caught him, I might have a shot at actually placing well in my race, sandbaggers aside. I kicked the spurs in, gave it a little turbo once back in the woods, and set my sights on Shaun. I was slowly catching up to him, and almost got there, when CRRRACKKKPOWW!!!! My drivetrain locked up. WTF???!!
At first I thought I might have thrown the chain, but once I hopped off the bike to asses the damage, I knew it wasn’t going to be that simple. Or cheap. I had torn my chainring, and pulled a chainring bolt through the spider. Damn. I had been warned of Ti chainrings by a certain someone
, and he was the first person I thought of. D’oh!!! Well, at least I wasn’t that far away from the feed zone, so I turned around and walked out, cheering on the other racers who were still in the game.
I went over to the timing tent, received my DNF and went about getting changed and opening that first beer.
A big thanks to Joe (aka Blue) for being the pit boss. He was there for all of us, and kept us riding.
“You’re my boy Blue!”
George 0, Millstone 2