Our November cx project has me thinking all about dirt. So much so that when I went out on the road bike on Friday it felt really weird. We'd done a bunch of road riding on the long weekend thanks to the rain, but then it was straight back onto the mountain bike. Friday was more of a check in on fitness, with a 1x40' interval at about 95% of what I hoped my FTP still was, and was extremely pleasantly surprised. But I'd had big plans to do tons of mtb riding and racing this year and I just went cold on it. Did the one Wakefield and was like "this is senseless on this bike" and got the new one and have been making up for lost time since. But it's well over a year since I did a non-Wakefield mtb race.
The Wakefield races have been helpful. Time on the bike, especially at speed, is great. Even though I'm still losing a lot of time in tight turns, I clear everything with aplomb and am able to go very fast whenever things open up. Plus that shit is fun.
So today was Fair Hill, 18 miles focused on my weaknesses (as per the intel). On the (freaking wicked early) ride up, I was in a great state of mind, a good sign. My newly embraced and scientifically-backed tendency to hate warmups, I love. A quick spin pre-race, that's it. I no longer feel guilty for hating warmups, which is very liberating.
Unlike Wakefield, Fair Hill had a roadie friendly start - a quick blast on a fire road. I passed a few guys straight away to be in the group of 5 that was pulling away smartly. Then the woods came and the twists and turns started and oh did they twist and turn. Mama! Well, it was a lot better than it had been, but I was slipping back to the group behind. Then a bobble in a turn and I'm back in the fray. Lots of passing and being passed (more the latter) and then an open section and brrrrrrrrrraaaaaahhhhhhppppp back to the front group. Then, seriously, an hour and 12 minutes of tight tight tight single track. At some point my mood began to sour and I was like "seriously, we need a freaking fire road right about now, bishes". Guys would pass me just by being good at leaning into the turns and then whenever it would be straight for half a second I'd be thinking "now would be a great time to pedal faster, there, guy who just passed me".
Two guys were super aggressive about passing and were pretty obnoxious about it, which in all my (4 races, 2 of them Wakefields) previous races I'd never experienced. So my goal was to beat them. It was pretty interesting, since I was always able to keep them close enough that I'd either pass them or be right behind them every time the route opened up for 2 seconds. The first not that cool guy was riding another guys bumper and smacked into a tree. He was fine so I didn't feel bad having a chuckle at that. Then we had an open climb and I actually lost time to some guys and got passed by one or two. Then the climb continued and guys blew up, which I did not. I got enough gap to give myself some comfort zone through the next tight section. I still got passed, but it was at the end of the section. We got onto a fire road and I did my standard shift to the big ring and slam it deal, passed d-bag #2, and then we made a left onto road. Road? I didn't think we were finishing yet. Lock the fork and WAIL on it. Passed a group,who knows who was in what group, and one guy comes by into the finishing chute. Wow, done already?
11th out of 50 something starters. I'll take it, mostly because I rode really darn hard and had a ball.
Things that rule:
- 29ers. Totally sold. I'm working on totally fundamental drills and once I shore up some bad turning technique severe enough to be categorized as a character flaw, it's totally game on. I can win sport races when there's any amount of rouleur-type stuff. Downhills are so darn much faster on that thing, and on fast sections it's not even fair.
- Photochromatic glasses. One time I got a full blinding shot of sunlight in the forest and almost went off course. Apart from that, the things are totally ninja. They adjust instantly. Mine are Rudy Magsters. I love them.
- Chip timing. Results within 10 minutes of finishing.
- The on course shower. The water feeds were money but fornthe price of one "yes please" you could get soaked with a cold blast at the top of a climb. Aww yeah.
- Delaware Trail Spinners. Their race promotion game is TIGHT. Thanks everyone.
- The guy who won, he pantsed second by like a minute.
- Not warming up. Totally over that farce.
So, seriously, my goal has become to win one of these things. There's plenty of low hanging fruit in just growing balls and getting technique to lean into the corners. The effort profile matches my ability perfectly - you go rather uncomfortably to quite painfully hard for awhile and then recover. It feels like riding in a break. I love it.
Now we race on the road for the next month or so.