There was a solid drizzle of rain all night and all morning. Having rode The Millstone Grind after torrential rains that made the trail a thick, greasy, peanut butter slop fest, I was full of confidence for riding wet trails.
I also knew this would be a disadvantage – as the course speed would be MUCH slower than I had originally anticipated. Stacey and Laura are both awesome climbers, and I was hoping to max out the descents to make up time, but with all the off camber roots on the downs – I’d have to be cautious and reel in my speed.
I pre-rode the course last wednesday. The trails were dry and I was FLYING. I haven’t raced the last couple weekends, so I’m really itching to GO.
It’s chilly and rainy, but I learned at Millstone that over dressing in the rain equals CERTAIN DEATH. So I keep to my usual race gear. I run through my usual warm up/ skills drills and I’m anxious to get this party started.
The drizzle lets up as we stage. The announcer starts us off. Jess jumps off the line and leads us up the gravel incline and through the creek. I’m sitting on her wheel, tight, too tight. Coming out of the creek her wheel slips and her bike pitches across my path. She comes to a complete stop to realign her bike and I have NO WHERE to go. I have to stop and let her move to the side. I hear Stacy giggle as she slips around us, along with a train of women.
No! No you don’t.
I jump back on and hit the gas, passing girls up the rooty climb.
I’m back in 2nd position, on Stacey’s wheel now. She’s powering up the climbs. I watch her inch further ahead with each rise. I keep calm and controlled, thinking I should be able to catch some ground on the descents. The first half of the lap is mostly climbing, and she slips from sight. I edge out of my comfort zone in the single track, but I’m making time, I can see her green helmet pop back into sight. Climbing and I lose her.
Suddenly Laura, who was missing from the start line, comes roaring by at mach speed. She catches me just before one of my favorite descents and I coast behind her, knowing there is little passing opportunities for a stretch. We hit the switchbacks at the bottom and her wheels wash out. She goes down (gently) and I slip by.
I trudge up the next climb and before long I’m in the twistys at the end of the lap. That was fast. I can see Stacy’s green helmet as the trail winds back on itself. I pass Art and he tells me she’s close!
The twisty’s are greasy, not much I can do here but keep it steady and upright.
Finally into the open gravel descent and I can let it go. I don’t see Stacey though. I pass the lap area and the spectators say she’s close.
I put some gas into it and head into lap 2.
As I start up the rooty climb I can feel my back starting to sieze up. The rear wheel slippage seems to inflame my lower back.
I don’t see Stacey and I’m starting to lose my drive when I pass my teammate Norm, who is having derailleur issues. He gets pedaling again as I pass and hangs onto my wheel for the remainder of the lap, giving me MUCH NEEDED encouragement and advice the entire way. I try to stretch out my back when I can, it’s so stiff already and I can’t generate my usual drive up the climbs.
We get to the end of the lap and he jumps in front to give me a draft. I grab his wheel, but the mud spraying off his wheel is pelting my eyes, covering my face. I can’t see. I have to drop his draft and slow way down to wipe my stinging eyes.
He pedals away.
I see him ahead and try to motivate myself to catch him. Half way through the lap I lose sight of him.
It’s just me and the bike for the rest of the race. The trail feels slipperier than the first lap – the mud now thicker, even though the drizzle has let up. I keep trucking and before I know it the race is over.
Last year Stacey beat me by 5 mins. This year it was 1:13. PROGRESS.