6 AM and like all mornings this time of year, it’s pitch black out. Some like this weather too. I’m not one of them. Sunny and 85 sounds way better than sunny, 60’s, and a 15 to 25 mile an hour breeze. Well it doesn’t make much of a difference what I like since I’m knee deep in this EFTA thing anyway. A current 5th place, and only 148 points from a 3rd overall In EV1, which is what would be on the line today. That wasn’t the real pressure though. The pressure would be from the rear with Rick Nelson just behind in the chase, just finishing would become nerve-racking enough. Finishing TVR is not trivial. It’s a tough course 18ish miles which should take 2 hours or more.
Got to drive in with my buddy George Gagnon, fellow Merrimack native and Expert Master. We drive in style too in the Livestrong yellow H3. George has been running and riding for years and currently rides for Blue Steel Cyclery. Great conversation to and from. Thanks George!
On arrival, our Co-Captain was there to greet us. I asked if Carl was there. Kevin said yes, and he even placed the tent in the sun. (bonus) It was cool in the AM and to make matters worse there was a brisk cold breeze blowing in of the pond. We had the full complement of our EFTA contingent ready to go. Kevin Orlowski, Carl Devincent, Al Gadway, Steve Crossley, Shaun Pinney, and Myself. Even Greg Katz chimed in with an email in the Early AM wishing me good luck. I know it’s like a broken record, but these guys have been the core of the team this year for our EFTA contingent. We represent all that a team stands for. Hard work, dedication, support, comedy, compassion, praise, and friendship. Those of you that know my story this year, know that if not for my teammates I would have folded it up in June after the Big Ring.
Warmed up with Steve (cause he’s wicked fast). We decided to stop at the first stream crossing since we didn’t want to get muddy. Andrew Gould (Blue Steel) had given us his pre-ride intel, and the intel was that there was a fair amount of mud. Steve and I turned around and headed back. I guess that was enough of warm up and once back to the staging area they were already lining up the Elite field. It was a smaller field, but no lack of talent. Single speeds and Expert Vet I’s and II’s in five minutes.
Time to race: Lined up just behind Steve and Carl was just off to my rear left. This race felt different to me than the Horror. Sunday I was half way confident that I could hang at this venue. 5…4…3…2…1… GO! Right foot in the power position, left foot missed the pedal! DAMN! Once in the course starts on a grassy uphill, into a fire road designed to thin the herd. Once the long line of pain has been established it ducks into some decent single-track and down to the first of more than a few water crossings. Fifth to the first water crossing and I can still see Steve. (Anytime you can seen Steve it’s a good thing)
The Course. Team BUMS decided to switch things up a bit this year by adding some new sections and also I think added a very long climb. So after the stream crossing, the course just goes up steady for many painful minutes. Steve still leading and yep, he’s still in view. By now, I know I’m going pretty good sitting 4th wheel at the top of the first climb. On the descent I see Steve’s green jersey looking down at his bike and fiddling. Broken chain. I stop briefly to ask him if he wants my bike. He says no, keep going. Now i’m third and would be in and out of second for the entire first lap.
Lap Two. Oh man, I have to do this again? Not too many places to eat on course. Due to the technical nature of this XC course. I chose to go with the dreaded hydration pack, (good choice) and hammer gel packs (good choice). One I downed at the start of the race, one at the start of lap two, the other just before the start of the steep climb on lap two, and the fourth well, that stayed in the pocket. At the start of lap two I slowed just a bit to grab the gel. The second place rider I was following, just kept the hammer down and decided that he was done towing me around the course. Just about 30 seconds later a Bike Barn guy with big quads came through. I would do my best to keep him in site all the way till the final climb and then he rode away too. Prior to that I was being caught by another rider. C’mon Shawn! Are you kidding me! Broken chain repaired, Steve was back from the dead. Told you this kid is fast. It was nice to have a teammate along side for motivation. We crested the first hill and I let my Hi-Fi do the talking on the boney downhill. I would loose Steve, but he would re-aquire me a few minutes later at the start of the final climb. I said “go win this thing would ya” He then would do what he does best, climb! He was gone in 30 seconds on the steepest climb of the day. Once over the final and worst part of the climb, I knew as long as I didn’t flat or do something stupid I was home free.
4th Place 6th Overall. Steve would end up in Second, Carl in 9th. Let’s rewind though. How many points did I need at the start for a 2011 Podium spot? 148, and 4th place in EFTA nets you 164. Unoficially I take over 3rd place in Expert Vet I. In the end I’m not sure if Rick Nelson made the trek down, nor did the two gents that were tied for 3rd place.
Full Results to be posted this week.
Course was great, like in the flyer the sections had better flow this year, the added climb was a surprise, and the extra single-track was a nice touch. Hard as hell due to the technical nature and many rocks. Expert times were longer than last year, most likely due to the added climb?