This would be my debut XC race in the expert category. I wasn't sure what to expect. Coming off the previous day's disappointment, I was not really in the racing mood, but I had already registered, so why not.
Upon arrival, I got a parking spot close to the tent city. I guess racing expert has one benefit, I didn't have to park out in the back field for once. I set up camp, and lazily prepared for the race. I did a bit of spinning around to warm up. The weather was nicer than the previous day, so no arm/knee warmers were necessary.
The countdown completed, and it was our turn to go. The pack burst off the line pretty quickly, but as I was lined up in the second row, I settled into the middle of the pack by the time we hit the singletrack. We were all in a pretty tight group through the first sections, I could still see the leader from my position. The plan was to hang in until the trail widened and then try to move up.
A little ways into the lap, there was a somewhat loose climb that had a right turn at the top. As the group ascended the rider in front of me just kind of fell over. He was apologetic, and I was not concerned. It was still early in the race, so I move around him and gave chase back to the pack.
This was when I had my first blunder of the race. Remember back after Yankee when my chain broke? Well, my replacement had not yet arrived, so I was racing on a chain that was 2 links short. It worked fine at Pontiac, but I was not so fortunate at Custer. In my effort to stay on the back of the pack, I shifted too much in as we hit Grannies. It was a stupid mistake, but one that cost me. I immediately felt the chain start to bind, so I jumped off and move aside. I spent a bit of time working to get the chain shifted back down so I could pedal again.
Once back on the bike, I vowed to be extra careful, as long as the chain held out for the duration of the race. I have given up hope of a podium by that point, and just wanted to finish. The chain seemed OK, and I finished that lap in around 39 minutes. Slower than last year on the SS, but I had an extra lap to do.
|Completing lap 1|
Second lap was more of the same, riding my own race and trying not to screw up. Coming across the "roads" near the end of the course (before the trenches perhaps) I must have come off to hot or something, because at that point I dropped the chain. This seemed odd, as it was pretty short already, and wasn't a 1x10 or anything. It took me a few moments to get rolling again, but the race was shaping up to be non-spectacular. I hammered the flats, but still came through in a slower 41 minutes.
By the time the third lap cam around, I was just looking to finish. Shortly into the lap I realized I lost my bottle (turns out at the "incident" site the previous lap, I found it on lap 4). So, I am not sure what I need to do to modify these cages. The odd thing is I have the same type on my rigid SS, and on the Superfly 100 and never dropped one.
|Completing lap 2|
Third lap, cruising along, get to the top of the switchback climb, and I hear some clicking as I was pedaling along. That couldn't be good, and sure enough a short moment later I was pedaling in neutral. At least I had some practice at Yankee with my chain tool (which I still don't like and should replace) and took another couple of links out, and was back on my way.
My race goal at that point was to not walk out of the woods, so I was small ringing it the rest of the way. I ended up finishing that lap in 45 minutes. Overall, I came through 12 minutes behind the winner for an 11th place.
|Sprint to the finish|
Back at camp, I had a few minutes to eat something before heading out behind the kids race. Frosty and I had a sprint start to determine who would be the last one onto the trail. It was actually pretty close, since I was still in my small ring. A short ways in, we found a fallen teenager, and Frost stayed back to wait for help, and I continued behind the kids, collecting water bottles along the way.
|Sprint for sweeper!|
So, the weather was beautiful that day, my race, not so much. This was my 5th event this season, and I had yet to run a "clean" race. I am hoping my time would come. I guess what I don't get in quality wins, I will make up with the quantity of mid-pack finishes.