This race season Im going about things a little differently Last season I played sleeper, rode within pace and only made moves when I had to. I gauged my fitness, gauged my strategy, and played things very close to the chest. Ill be very clear and say that this is my racing style. But even Picasso painted squares from time to time. Everybody experiments with their style; and this year Im getting a little aggressive. I rode my eyes out at Fools Gold last year and I aim to do it again this year, but for the rest of the racing this season you will probably see me riding a little on the rivet, pushing pace a little, moving to the front a little sooner and making moves which hopefully will pay off.
This approach is a bit of an experiment, especially given the winter we’ve had. My miles have been low, my hours few (on strava anyhow), and the time Ive spent on the bike has been mitigated by terrible weather and a limited ability to stare off into trainer space. All the same this new attitude pushed me to head out west to try and stamp my mark on the NUE for another year. I saddled up the Pivot LES, got some fresh rubber from Blue Ridge Cyclery and lasso’d a delta flight out to Utah.
And boy was it the Wild West!
So anyhow…What it all boils down to is when you take 4 boys raised in the south and drop them in a town known as the “Dixie of Utah” there is some potential for mayhem. But collected professional bike racers we all are things never ventured into dangerous territory.
The racing however. Was amazing. A short pre-ride on Friday yielded some incredible, if difficult and grueling terrain and a course that wasnt messing around. And we hadnt even ridden the burly bits yet!
Bright eyed and tightly trimmed we got our race mojo in gear we hit the road to the race course early Saturday AM. And ventured wight back to get the water bottles I had forgotten in the refrigerator….Bottles collected and attitudes stoked we dropped our bags and suited up. A short chat with Thom Parsons from DirtWire and a high-five and a smile at the competition and we were staged. The cast of characters who make up the endurance mtb scene are incredible. They are a family of rowdy self-made hooligans who I would be poorer off to have never met. It was great to see them all in person and meet some new ones!
The Pro/Open men staged 7 minutes ahead of all other categories. Im not sure why this was needed, and Ive never been more on the side of women racers feeling discriminated against but my indignation only lasted 7 minutes. Luck for them! The staging meant that I was going to be stuck at first staring the competition in the eyes, playing cat and mouse for at least a few miles. It also meat I would be chasing, and catching, and passing nearly all day. Which I dont terribly mind. You meet a lot of nice folks that way!
The racing was amazing. Thom’s hilight reel is incredible but even that doesnt capture the intensity of the course. I rode things I never thought I would. I am particularly proud of making a pass through the waterfall section of trail. Trail isnt really an accurate description for the four HUGE descending rock moves that make up the waterfall. Yeah, proud of that one. #whoneedsadropper! But race on we did. If you want the recap Mark Stover’s show on Mountain Bike Radio does a dang good play-by-play. It was fun and games until it was hammers and flames; moves through the rocks yielded an incredible scenery of shred unfolding before each and every one of us. The course could not have been laid out better to take advantage of the terrain and it truly made for a mountain bikers course. None of this fire road, namby-pamby stuff a lot of endurance events get these days!
It was a hugely epic journey across the Utah desert.
An amazing day in the “woods.” Reflecting on the good work that had been done, and focusing mind and spirit for a long season ahead. Endurance racing is hard work, and success depends on commitment to cause. I often describe this as “pre-deciding” not to quit; entering into a race having fully made up your mind that failure is not an option. Ride like you mean it, race like you want it, and eventually you will get it.
And this time I was fortunate enough to get it. Riding down the main street of Santa Clara I found myself exhausted but bathed in the exhilaration of having won and having started into a new season strong, and in control. I couldn’t have gone there without my support team of Emily, and the folks at Blue Ridge Cyclery. I cant stress enough how important these folks are. I cruised on 5th across the line, which meant by the time the 7 minutes had been subtracted I was 3rd overall. A little under 16 minutes back was AJ. I feel confident that had I been able to ride my own race a little more by riding with the open men I could have had more but satisfied that the work was all mine and proud to have beaten a pretty stacked field.