The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
This year has been different than I planned. Unavoidable circumstances sidelined me from racing for May and June just as the season was getting underway. Life shifted again, opening me back up to the opportunity to race. So last week I quickly found some races and got to planning how to get a few more races in before the season finished up. First up would be a 38 mile race in the steep mountains of WV.
I arrived at the race site about an hour before the start. My Specialized Epic WC was ready to roll compliments of Twenty20 with fresh ESI grips to ensure comfort. I mingled with some of the other racers to gauge who I should be watching for, as the only familiar face I saw was Gunnar Shogren. We set out from the staging area for a 40 minute neutral start to where the course began; at the edge of a 3 mile, 1,700’ climb.
The race began and it was immediately a hot pace. The field exploded immediately as we were pushing upwards of 450w for the first few minutes. As the pack thinned the leaders emerged in Bradley Schmalzer and Don Powers. Not being local I was happy to pace off of the guys who knew the climb and we settled into a healthy pace up the mountain. After a mile, I glanced over my shoulder and found that Brad had dropped back to a chasing pack and it was just Don and I about 5 seconds up. Don was single speed and climbing well doing the pacing. He looked over at me near the half way point so I took that as my cue to set the pace for a while. I went to the front and immediately heard him drop back a bit, so, I attacked. I got a few seconds on him immediately, but minutes later he was back.
The gap to the chasers was growing, and as we crested the top of the climb, we had about 20 seconds. We were gassed, 17 minutes of full on effort isn’t the easiest way to start a long race. When Don eased a bit to get a breather at the top, I saw my opportunity, and hit it hard. The reprieve of climbing was short, and the next few miles were a rolling gravel road with shorter climbs. Having no idea what the single track would be like, I wanted to ensure I arrived first. I tucked down, and kept the pressure on.
I pushed and pushed around every corner until Don was out of sight and at least a minute back. No chasers in sight. I was flying and my legs were feeling great. I got to the first single track and dropped into the mostly downhill trail. It was rocky, mushy, with tons of roots and moss. Very pacific northwest like. A few minutes from the next climb, plans shifted. A stick jumped into my drivetrain, breaking my rear derailleur, and ending my day.
Sitting in the mud trying to fix something (that can’t be fixed) watching your competitors ride by is demoralizing to say the least. In the first 9 miles I had put 2 minutes on two of the former winners, all for nothing.
The best laid plans of mice and men...
But, a week later, I would get my redemption.