Sorry for the long post, I got carried away with the story. Hopefully you all find it a little entertaining. So yea there is this song that came out recently by the band Danger Mouse called “Two Against One”. I feel it describes my day pretty well as I would not only be battling the course this day but myself as well…
“I get the feeling that it’s two against one. I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one?”
It’s a 3 hour drive to Camden and I didn’t really want to do this race but after all of the top 5 guys in the points preregistered I had to show up to defend my lead. On the way up I quickly noticed a lack of clouds and the temperature rising quickly. For those of you who know me, the sun and I don’t get along so well. Its going to be a tough day fo sho. Upon entering the parking lot I met up with Crossley and two if his friends Rob Albert and Vald Capka. First things first, must get the photon deterrent device erected…
There were a ton of day of registrations so the line was bad. It took me a long time to get a number. By the time I got back to the tent Steve, Rob and Vlad were getting ready to go out on a warmup run. Sorry guys I need to put on sun screen so I pull out the two cans of SPF 100 in the truck. The guys get back just as I am finishing up with my fourth coat. At this point the start time is fast approaching, need to get to the starting line. I grab the bike and check the tire pressure but there was time for little else… not good.
The Course: While we were at the start line waiting to go one of the riders asked the promoter what the distance was for the sports… his response: “12 miles consisting of 1 full lap and 2 half laps, but before you say just 12 know most people say its the hardest 12 miles of their life” Man why do people need to go and be right all the time. Immediately out of the gate its all climbing and its really steep, tight and technical. To make this course even more fun there is absolutely nothing to celebrate once you reach the top. The descent, if you can call it that consists of very steep sections were you give up huge portions of elevation in a fraction of a second followed by undulating technical trail along the side of the ski mountain. You never really get the sense your descending. (I tend to repress any memory of the terrifying steep sections) Making the day even super duper bettererrrr was my good buddy the sun. Without a cloud in the sky the shadows in the woods made seeing the course difficult.
However it is all single track except for transition and the first 250 feet of the climb which I love but as expected it’s even more funner cause passing is very hard… I had to get to the front or my day was going to be miserable. (that last sentence suggests a percent chance of not miserable. haha like that’s ever an option) At the start of the climb a line formed on the left of the fire road so I jumped out to the right and kicked it into high gear passing a dozen plus before entering the single track. I seem to recall a spectator say “Wow that buff dude is flying!” on my way by, but it was hot and my memory not so good. It was glorious and it put me 15 seconds behind the group of about 4 leaders (none in my age class) at the top of the big climb. Too bad there would be a massive price to pay for being that totally awesome right out of the box.
The hard tails had the advantage on the climb but the rest of the course calls for full suspension and it was my hope that I could close the gap to the leaders. With my heart rate still maxed I push on the first steep section and end up taking a bad line. BANG! suck suck suck my rear tire is flat. Completely panicked I pull out my CO2 and refill the tire hoping it was just a burp. Zoom… there goes Clint and first place, have to get rolling again. My bike seems lower all of a sudden but the rear tire seems fine so I keep moving. After few minutes WHACK! that was the bash guard really hard on a rock and I stop again to check the bike. Whoosh, there goes Andy and Taylor. I cheer Andy on as I check to see if its the tire again or what. Andy Diskes has been so close all year and I was pulling for him to get his first podium of the season today but apparently the THE RULE had other plans..
The Rule: Andy is not allow to ride in front of me, at all, ever. Andy and I always hang out at the start line before every race. He’s been working really hard and I was pulling for him to podium today but… ok some history first. I was right on his wheel halfway into lap 1 at Willowdale when he slipped on a wet root and went down right in front of me. Then at the Pinnacle I was a few riders back from Andy half way up the first climb when he crashed trying to make a pass. Afterwards I joked that it was now against the rules for him to ride in front of me and he laughingly agreed. Today he was minutes ahead and out of sight but the rule still apparently applies and he endo’d on one of the sketchy steep portions of the decent costing him his podium finish. Sorry Andy, my bad 🙂
So yea I now have the chance to examine the bike and yea… the rear shock is completely compressed, no rear suspension for me and once again the song starts playing in my head…
“There’s only three, It’s just you and me against me”
Quitting pops into my head for a moment, but I’ve never DNF’d a race ever, never ever ever. Six hours of driving to participate there was no way quitting was an option after only 30 minutes on course. So now with a full 4 inches of sag in my rear suspension I was forced to limp down the mounting. Man it felt like FOREVER, the whole time trying desperately to avoid dragging the pedals or take another big hit to the frame.
Upon passing through transition I immediately bang a right and head out into the parking lot. Pull the shock pump out and desperately pump 200psi into the shock as fast as I could which once again put me into oxygen det. After a quick test of the rear suspension (thank the gods the shock is holding air) I begin to return to the course… wait the rear tire, back to the truck. Its soft so I pull out the floor pump, and I notice the dent on the rim. 40 psi, hopefully it holds cause I don’t have a spare CO2. And yes the song in my head again yea thanks for reminding me.
Back out on course I saw Rob towards the end of the second lap, he had also crashed and was just trying to survive the day. I considered staying with him but Rob urged me on to catch the guys up front. I continued on as hard as I could but the heat and stress of the day had taken their toll. Caught only one guy in class before the finish. Thankfully I could now run to the tent and hide from the evil Dr Sun. 6th place and 130 points, I’ll take that.
Thankfully Steve did the NEMBA team proud with a 1st in class and second overall in Expert. Rob finished in 8th in class and Vlad 5th in class. So lesson learned… Always ALWAYS check the rear shock before a race. I think cause the bike was in the truck all week after the shakedown ride on Tuesday the seals dried out some. The bad news is the rear wheel is a mess and after cleaning the bike last night I found a small crack in the frame near the bottom bracket. Guess its time to retire the Titus for the season. 🙁