I went into the weekend of this race being both excited for the first race of the season, and also with a bit of trepidation for a few reasons. First was that due to a trip out west (which did not involve any riding) and some of my staff being out at work, I had yet to actually ride my mountain bike outside before that Sunday. Secondly, I had switched to a 1×10 setup over the winter, which had yet to be tested, and although I was pretty confident it would be fine based on gearing calculations, it was still a bit of an unknown. Lastly, having ridden Freetown back in September, I knew the course was very rocky and was not exactly what I would have chosen for my first time on the bike for the season. That being said, after being buried under snow all winter, I was pretty stoked to get out and ride again.
The morning was chilly, but I knew it was going to warm up later in the day, it was just a matter of when. I rode a few miles at the beginning of the course, and then looped back to ride a few miles at the finish, trying to conserve some energy for the race itself. Everything was shaping up nicely, the new setup felt good, legs felt ok and seemed like I was remembering how this all worked again.
This was my first race in sport class, so not really knowing any of the other riders I lined up in order and prepared to get rolling. With the course being only a short 7 miles, I knew that I would be able to go pretty hard the whole time without burning out, and that the first section was very fast, so my plan was to start fast, but ease up a little after that to make sure I saved something for the more tech sections and the fireroad sprint at the end. Within the first 10 min. of the race I had already picked off the 2 racers in front of me and was feeling pretty good. I dropped one of them like a fly, but the other kept sticking around, and stayed pretty close on my tail. Probably close enough to hear me laughing as I came around a corner and saw the “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign before the small lake we had to ride through.
About two thirds of the way through, I managed to get my foot wedged between my pedal and one of Freetown’s many rocks. I caught the rock at just the right angle that my foot did not unclip, which just led to some awkward balancing act, and allowed the guy who had been following me to pass me and open up a gap. I knew that he had started in front of me, so my goal at that point was to make sure I kept him within the 30 seconds he had started ahead of me. Another rider passed me from behind and now I was right on his tail through the big rock garden. I knew we were almost to the finish then so I tried to stay close and prepare to but the burners on once we reached the fire road at the end. That rider had opened up a pretty large gap before we reached the road, and I could see the guy who started in front of me just ahead of him, so when I reached the road I just went full out. About halfway to the finish line, all of a sudden a random jeep wandered out onto the fire road in front of me. He clearly saw me, but I think underestimated how fast I was going be quite a bit. I didn’t have to slow down at all, but there was sort of an awkward moment as we tried to figure out whether he was going to speed up and try to stay ahead of me, or slow down and let me go by. I eventually just decided I was going to crank it up and blow past him, which was probably the right decision because I ended up finishing only 1 second ahead of the guy I had been leapfrogging with all race.
I was happy with my 5th place finish, and all in all it was a great first day on the bike. The Rock Hard Racing guys put on a great event, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing how the legs hold up to some longer distances. Hoping to see some more black and green out there at the next races!