Sunday, 29 April 2012

2012 Greenbrier Challenge

Interesting runup to Greenbrier, a race in which I really wanted do well. Who knows what's going on with my fitness, sometimes I feel really good but mostly it's been pretty bleh lately. Thursday's workout was just shite, could barely get out of my own way. When you hang out your shingle to build wheels and sell bikes, and it's springtime, you'll probably be busy. Add putting the car away and going pretty much all on bike to the tune of about 13 hours a week, well, I don't really know what's going on.

Just like the cobbler always has the most neglected shoes, my mountain bike has needed a bit of attention for a little bit. The bottom bracket's been making funny noises, and lately the cranks, well, they really don't turn. Due to a "special edition" bottom bracket in this bike, there's no direct replacement available in... the United States. Awesome. The one I got hoping it would adapt or whatever was fail. (brief clarification edit here - The "old" bike in question is a 2010 Stumpjumper Expert Carbon HT, which I bought last summer. Bearings fail, especially when you use them on mountain bikes and ride through mud and puddles and such. The bottom bracket needed is listed as "Custom BB91" on Specialized's site. I bought a BB91, which sadly was not custom enough. SM-BB91-42 is needed. They make yeti sightings look like every day occurrences. The bike had some substantive initial issues - look for any reviews of the wheels that came with it - but apart from those it's been a great bike. No sour grapes here. The bike helped me improve a SHIT TON as a rider and shrugged off some pretty questionable riding over my time with it. If the cranks showed any inclination even to turn I would NO WAY have had any inclination to build up the new frame - it cost me a ton of time and riding a brand new build in a race is stupid, much less a bike with different handling characteristics than the one you're used to. In road, you might notice a few subtle differences. On a mountain bike, it's a WHOLE different deal). Luckily, we have the most bitchin' toolbox in history which contains such items as Dura Ace bottom brackets and a new 29er frame. Were it not for the impossibility of changing the cable in an X-9 front shifter, building the new bike would have been a snap. Gnashing of teeth about that one. When I awoke this morning I had operative rear shifting, good brakes, something resembling my old position, and no front shifting.
(pretty sexy beast then, eh?)

Since I'm a genius, I got the front shifting working once I got to the race, and then set about getting it to a point where I felt I could race it without worry. The geometry on this bike is really different to my Stumpjumper. The front is more slack and the back is really tight. After one ride I think I really dig it, but of course riding a brand new mtb (like that had never been pedaled until like 90' before the start) in an important race is phenomenally stupid. Fortunately, every phenomenally stupid thing doesn't turn into a cautionary tale.

Since I'd tried to wreck my bike prior to today (and succeeded, at that), I figured I may as well try to wreck myself for good measure and flipped over while trying to get used to the bike. So while everyone else was staging in the pen, I was sitting on the bumper of an ambulance getting this nice tape job done. Quality shin hamburger underneath here.

Starting last is both an honor and a challenge, but then I was like "hey, I really want to win this race" and went BWAAAAAAH and got close to the front on the opening climb. Despite a VERY DIFFERENT steering feel to this bike, I did a really nice job on the first descent and bang wouldn't you know it I'm like third. Pass one dude, get by another when he bobbles, and the sweet sweet smell of leading the race. The thing about mountain biking is that when you pass a dude, he should have the common decency to play dead for a while. Well, I guess Rob from Gripped played dead for a little while and then passed me on a descent like he was on an ACME rocket. Going through the start/finish pen, I was disheartened to see that dudes behind still had every intention of trying to beat me. The thing was, our first lap was like 2:00 faster than the lap times that the dude who won - BY A LOT - laid down two years ago. Soon we would blow up, right? Hmmmmm.

So I kept Rob close and got within feet of him at times, and knew that Luke was still close behind. Up the hills, I was the freaking man. Down the hills, I was not as fast as I sometimes have been. On the fast sort of straight flowy stuff, this new frame is a freaking sled. Like sit back and open it WIDE OPEN and just go. I love that. The tighter turns will take a couple of rides.

In the end, Rob and Luke both rode better than me and beat me. My lap times this year averaged like 6' faster than two years ago. It's a fool's errand to try and compare lap times too much but today was fast and psycho amounts of fun. Definitely have the hunger. The next two races are a little bit more about twisting the throttle. To have come out 27 seconds short after 90' is a bit of chewing on chalk, but I got beaten by good riders. Fire in the gut for the next few.


Mike. said...

I was wondering about the bandage...and it is plain evil to post a picture of a bike that some of us have been lusting for yet cannot obtain :(

Chuck Wagon said...

I'm evil, what can I say. Got a couple more hours on it last night and made a ton of progress on handling. That bike likes to be LEANED OVER.