This report will be somewhat short, as I did not have my photographer with me this weekend, so without pictures, I will try to limit the length
Saturday: West Branch Classic Road Race
This race was added to my schedule last minute. I was always planning on heading North for the Hanson Hills XC race, but was looking for something to fill in that Saturday, making the trip a two-for-one. I was mostly looking into the Boyne Grind, but I could not find a partner, and I was not feeling like riding up the mountain for 6 hours, I can do that in July. So, that left the West Branch Race.
5:30 in the morning was the departure time. Weekends like this make me thankful for the work work, where I can sleep in a little bit. It was misting a little bit, and cold, but I was hoping for the best. This was one of those mornings where the only reason I was heading out was due to the fact I had per-registered.
As I drove the 3 hours north towards West Branch (figure that one out), the weather only got rainier and colder. We arrived at the parking area with plenty of time to spare. My initial concern was to NOT have to park 2 miles away at the soccer complex. I went to registrations and they were still unloading, but I was able to get my number and head back to the warmth of the truck. Huddling in your car seemed to be the norm, as riders were trying to avoid the wind and the rain.
I did wander a bit, and chatted up some folks. That was when I spoke with a grizzled old veteran Cat.4 that told me to try something else that day. I had already won the previous week, so work on some other techniques. Who was I to argue with my elders?
Shortly before 10 am, I decided it was no longer worth delaying the inevitable, and exited the truck to begin to warm up. Really, there was no warming involved. It was more like "slowly pedal around to delay the convulsive shivering"
10:30, and it was out time to go. 50 cat.5 riders, standing in the cold waiting to ride in the mist. There were 3 Einstein Racing members in the pack, counting myself. We too off, and I could say the pace was anything but frantic. Riders were fanning out, trying to avoid the tire spray to no avail. The wind was blowing pretty good from the west, and we were headed north.
We made the first right turn and the pace picked up a little bit. That is picked up until we reached a downhill section then it was time to ride the brakes. I got into a slight tuck position and shot to the front. I figured it wasn't wasted energy if I lead the group simply by coasting without riding the brakes.
First turn South and our groups first encounter with some climbing. The first little rollers we slowly ground over, but at the first larger uphill, I broke off the front and put some space between myself and the group. I made it over the next two climbs before being reeled in. But once back together, the pace slowed again, basically eliminating any thinning of the group I may have caused.
About this time, Einstein Ben pulled off to the side, I thought it was a shifting issue, but later found out it was a flat. I wasn't sure whether to stay back with him and help him regroup, or stay with the pack. I chose the latter.
Headed west, and into the wind, we slowly ground through this stretch before turning right yet again and hitting "the climb" for the first time. The group strung out, and I spun up the right side making my way through the pack. At the top there again was a slowing of the pace, allowing a regroup. Maybe I should have gone here, but I didn't have the legs.
Right turn, headed East, I pulled alongside Ryan and asked how he was feeling. "Pretty good" was the response, so we quickly devised that I would apply some pressure where I could, and he would come around on the last climb to win. Seemed easy enough.
On the trip south, towards the second half, I once again went to the front. I wasn't trying to start anything, but pick up the pace a bit. I spun a good cadence up the final climb and made the right turn around the corner. I sat up to let the next guy pull through, but nothing. I looked back and had a ~20 second gap on the group. Now, running through my head was "7 miles left, 20 MPH headwind, and a ~1 mile climb" and I knew staying off the front was futile. Instead I pedaled along with a purpose, but not excessively hard. This made 3 Hagerty riders come to the front and chase me down. Once back in the group I rode in 5th position, with Ryan right behind me, and let Hagerty work into the wind.
We made the last turn and were on the flat to the finish. 2 of the Hagerty riders had popped, so I again went to the front and lifted the pace. Part of that reason was I though I saw Ben ahead, but it was actually a CFT rider. But this strung out the group again. When we hit the bottom of the climb, I tried to give it all, but was spent.
A Bissell guy game around me with Ryan on his tail. A few pedal strokes later and Ryan was around and in the lead. He charged up that hill fresh as a daisy, and I was working to just keep the pedals turning. I ended up finishing 7th, but was happy that Ryan got the win, his first, and another for Einstein. He definitely was the strongest rider that day.
After chatting a bit, I loaded up, and headed to Grayling for some lunch, a hot shower and dry clothes.
EDITED TO ADD: I don't mean to make it sound like Ryan couldn't have won without me.he was awesome out there and could have won that race with one crank tied behind his back.
Sunday: Hanson Hills XC
Sunday was the annual Hanson race. This would be my first year using gears here, and my first time riding multiple laps. The funny thing about that is the 2 guys who I battled with at Addison (Lako and Bonnell) were there to ride SS, and not gears. In addition, Bonnell stated after the West Branch race that he wasn't feeling like racing today, so there was a fair chance I could do well.
Staying in a nearby hotel, I was able to sleep in until about 7, and the drive to the trail was about 8 minutes. The weather was cool and cloudy, but at least no rain. It had stopped a couple hours before, and things were shaping up to be a decent day.
I rode a bit of the beginning trail during my warm-up, and felt like I had no power in my legs. Thank goodness for gears, as it would be a spinning day. Our start time was 10 am, and there were 17 riders in our group. This is a pretty decent size compared to previous years (last year there were 4 in my group).
As we shuffled forward to the line, I was in the second row at the start. We took off and a bunch of riders hammered to the front, and I was probably in 8 - 10th place going into the singletrack. There wasn't much shuffling going on, but our line of riders began to string out. I knew there were 2 Cross Country Cycle and one other rider off the front.
I made a couple of passes, and by halfway through the first lap I was at the back of the first chase group, but they had no sense of urgency, and passing was tight. The 40-49 leaders caught up to us, and as they were making their aggressive passes, I would jump on their wheel and go. The course was in fantastic shape after the rain, and there were areas
that could be called "too fast" where you could easily get into trouble
if you weren't paying attention.
I stayed amongst them for the remainder of the first lap. The next two laps were almost like time trials. I had no idea what position I was in, who was in front of me, or who was closing in. At this point, it was a race of attrition. I just kept whatever pace I could hold (read: decreasing) and reeled in riders when I could.
The third lap I was actually starting to feel better, but looking at the race data it was most likely do to my slowing pace and decreasing heart rate. I crossed the line tired, but not suffering. I raced with what I had, and finished.
When I crossed the line, the announcer stated I was in 4th place. That was better than I expected, and by other accounts was correct. I was sore, tired, and playing catch-up for a long time. After changing, I went to look at the posted results, which again showed me in 4th. The odd thing was that the times were off, like showing my total as 1h13m and 3rd as 1h8m, but I just assumed they were off by an hour for some reason.
I stayed around to cheer on the sport (and Expert SS riders) after their first lap, but intended on making the trip home as early as possible after a long weekend. The began awards and when they got to opur group, I heard my name called as 3rd. Totally surprised I sprinted (the best I could) across the parking area to the podium. Brent handed me $30 and asked for my autograph on some form. That was better than any medal.
In all it was a good weekend. I am looking forward to a good rest before Mount Pleasant this weekend, after which I intent to apply for my Cat.4 upgrade. I am not looking forward to tonight's TNR, as my legs still feel pretty dead. Hopefully I can just hang at the back.