Whooey what a day! Went really well, one my best P2A's yet. I was SO overdue.
|Muddy Shoes. As usual.|
We lined up really close to the front of Wave 2. I had an uncharacteristically slow start, usually I'm ready to just hammer it out of the gate, but I got passed a lot just getting to the first corner. The road immediately after was really loose with gravel, craaaazy, had to keep your whits about you not to mingle handlebars with everyone around you!
Rail Trail #1
I had a really awesome draft going for pretty much the entire trail, which is really the name of the game. At one point a faster guy caught me a bit off guard, but I managed to jump and grab his wheel - and hold it for most of the rest of the trail! We massively distanced those behind us, it was great.
Actually this was most of my day - grabbing wheels, sucking them for all they were worth, and trying to do as little work as possible. Save the legs for 70km!
Farmers Road... I lost some of my drafting partners here, some took off, others got left behind... no biggie, though, there were a of of people around, figured I'd find another wheel.
Rolling Gravel Road... This was a bit tough... I did end up in a pretty decent group, but got dropped on a climb. I just wasn't ready to commit to going too far in the red... so I took it a bit easy, picked up the next group, we got caught by another group, caught up to some other groups, it was just kind of chaotic and random.
Ditch... The ditch was the ditch, same as it always is. Ditchy.
Offroad Wooded Trail and Farmer's Field ... Way dryer than usual - this is when I really got the idea this would be a fast, fast day. I remember a few years ago everyone having to walk through soupy mud! This was fully rideable, and fast. A few little wet spots but nothing horrible.
Orchard ... Dry, fast. Good.
Windy Roads (with one little farm in between)
Wind was pretty strong in our face, I kept trying to pick wheels and mostly did a good job. Legs weren't feeling alllll that wonderful here, was starting to think I may have gone out too hard?
When we hit the little rutted farm road, it became apparent who had offroad chops and who didn't. Amazing that a guy taking massive pulls on the road can lose so much time to a little gravel... my strategy here was to put a bit of time into those road heros, then if I found myself solo on the road I'd have a little recovery before having to get back in the pack. Worked out great!
Rail Trail #2 ... This one is always muddy, and this year was no exception... my race has ended here in the past with a derailleur hanger failure, mostly because there's so many loose sticks and stuff. This time it was a bit better, and most of all a good chance to put some time in a lot of people... I kept within myself but passed a good 10 or so people in there.
Paved Road... Paved roads!? Yuck! This was the one time I didn't have a wheel to suck, though, for a good half of this section before someone caught me. Used it as recovery time. When a couple of guys did show up they were awesome fast dudes, managed to hang on and go super fast.
Farm ... loose gravel, yikes!
Rail Trail #3... other than a few trees down, this was uneventful. Actually I passed people walking between the trees that were down, it was kind of lame... I just ran a little. But, you know, I'm a runner, so... made up like 4 or 5 places!
More Paved Road? Yuck. Drafted. Ended up in a huge group.
Farmer road type thing ... much drier than normal, this is the other place I've had a derailleur hanger failure. Fast.
MORE PAVED ROAD!?!?
Rail Trail #4... short, fast, in a group.
Farm ... I usually don't look forward to this farm, it's so wet and spongey and soul-destroying. This year - fast! Dry! Yay!
Rail Trail #4 (continued) ... back on the same rail trail, this time I wasn't in a group. I was actually very lucky - managed to grab a guy's wheel just as we joined it. He let me wheel suck for longer than I should have before signalling to me to pass, I finally did a turn. In the end him and I ended up trading off and doing a really solid job for a good chunk of the race, it was really helpful for both of us. Saw him at the finish, we did a smile and "good job!" thing, it was cool.
The other farm during Rail Trail #4 ... again, dry, fast, no trouble at all.
ARE WE THERE YET!? Not quite... but the money shots are coming!!!
Highway Crossing ... for the first time in years we were actually stopped here! I get that traffic needs to move and stuff, but man, it's so hard to swallow. Two of my buddies were stopped as well, at different times, so seems like it was more common this year than ever. Just depends on the cop I guess. We were one of the first few in our group stopped, sucks to watch all the guys you had been putting time into catch up like that... but honestly, at this point of the race the drafting is over, it's all climbing and bike handling, so probably didn't make a huge difference.
Mud Chute #1 ... no mud! Dry! Rode it easily.
Hills between the Chutes ... I forget about these, they are overshadowed by the mud chutes and the final climb. But they're damn hard, steep rollers.
Mud Chute #2 ... MUD!!! Wet! I tried to ride it, it looked like it should be possible, and it was... until I hit this mud pit hole type thing and whooop! Over the bars I went. A valiant effort. My calves immediately cramped up like crazy, made me really worried (having had cramping issues at this race in the past)... but once up on my feet I ran a few steps and all was ok. In fact I ran by about a half dozen people who were daintily trudging through, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this was, you know, a race! Or maybe they were tired. Either way, eat my dust! (mud?)
The Final Climb ... I did feel niggling cramps coming on, but I spun as much as I could and just kept going, they never grabbed fully. I rode the entire thing - no walking, although damn my cadence must have been down to 20 or 30 at some points... really rough climb. All those repeats on that steep Westney Road climb near Durham Forest (look it up) really paid off. When it finally eases up a bit I was able to get a more reasonable cadence and pick off a few last people before my triumphant finish!
So close to my best overall result... I placed 316/1188 back in 2011, so top 26% vs top 28% this race. Back then we were in the minority riding cyclocross bikes, now everyone's got one... so the competition is stiffer! I'll take it.
Felt good, finished ahead of my buddies (and let's face it, that's what counts the most!), didn't DNF, and finally did this race justice after 5 years of futility.
Oh yeah, and I had fun.
See in you in 2017!