After a long road season and a short (for me) cx season, I wanted to race a bit on the single track. So, this weekend I went down to Front Royal for the Wang Chung MTB race. It was a climbers race with 1,900 ft of climbing over the 12 mile, 2 lap course. 2 climbs and 2 descents made up the course per lap. Two weeks ago I switched to riding single speed on my MTB and realized that could've been disastrous given the grade of some of the climbs, but it turned out to be painfully perfect.
I hit the woods in 7th position after a short paved prologue and within the first minute of the initial climb I moved into the lead. On the backside of that mountain I crashed on a loose dirt/leafy turn and popped my rear wheel out of the dropouts. While struggling to get it back in and the chain-line normal, I lost 5 places. The rest of the descent I took a few risks to get a few riders back and at the beginning of the second climb I was back into 3rd, digging deep to pull back the 1,2 riders.
Redlining for over eight minutes got me back into the lead just before the second descent, where I was overtaken again by the former leader. Geared and with full suspension, he looked like a downhill guy, and quickly put 15 seconds into me. We hit the second lap and he was out of sight; the chase was on! I died a thousand deaths on the first climb reeling the leader back in, and trying to make my pass decisive. I also needed a lot of time as it was clear this guy could put over 30 seconds on me in the final descent.
I rode as hard as I could and did some serious self talk to get myself up to the peak of the final climb with enough margin to not lose the top spot on the descent. Back down and into the home stretch I was able to hold him off and take the overall win. It was a tough day but with a great course, in a beautiful venue, it was an awesome experience!