Saturday was a 4 hour race at Stoudts brewery in PA. The course had been designed specifically for this race, and it was awesome. It reminded me of the World Cup XC races I watch that happen in Europe with courses that have everything. Switch back climbs, super rocky technical sections, tight off-camber downhill turns, rock bridges, steep climbs, shallow climbs, and even two ramps on the course. Midway through each lap they even had a section for specators to watch riders coming through one of the more difficult parts of the course, and much like a cyclocross race, they were heckling and cheering like mad. It was great. I elected to go solo for the 4 hours as opposed to doing a 2 or 4 man team. We lined up mid morning for a Le-Mans start (running to your bike) and I immediately learned I don't start very fast that way. I made up a few spots on the first climb but got stuck behind a few riders at some tight turns. Two riders jumped hard and I later learned it was Nick Sears who was leading. I chased furiously as I was not ok losing time to him on the very first lap. Going into the third or fourth lap, I was sitting on the wheel of second, still pushing a fast pace... thats when I learned Sears was apart of a duo, as was the guy in front of me; they would be trading out with their partners at the end of the lap.
Relieved I wouldn't be chasing Sears all day, but also worried now about all the matches I just burned, I dialed things back and kept on trucking. A last minute course change meant the course was only 1.3 miles as opposed to 2.4 miles, that meant we were in for a TON of laps over four hours. I tried not to think about it, put my head down, and pedaled.
I ended up doing 31 laps. 31 climbs up the totally exposed switchbacks, 31 trips through the rock gardens, 31 off-camber/loose dirt turns. It was a long 4 hours. Every minute that passed seemed to bring even more heat. I wasn't prepared, and by midway through the race, I was getting worried. I was drinking Infinit so my hydration was great, but more core temperature was still going up and there is only so much water you can take in before feeling sloshy. When I stopped for more bottles after 2 hours, I grabbed some ice from my cooler and placed it in as many places in my kit as possible to cool me down. That worked wonders and within 15 minutes, I was feeling good again!
But, the race went on. I had no idea where I was in the solo field, but I wasn't getting passed much, so I figured that was a good sign. As my endless laps went by, my mind slumped more and more. The heat was oppressive, and the course required maximum focus on the tricky sections of rocks and turns. I started focusing on the good things to keep my legs pushing.
Bike: I can't recall a more perfect race for the Specialized World Cup Epic. I needed a smooth locked out suspension for the climbs immediately after flying out of the rock gardens. But since the rocks were designed for the race, they made them tough! Rear suspension was a life saver as we tried all day to find some sort of efficient line through the various fields. The terrain went from packed gravel, to soft grass, loose dirt, and on to sharp rocks. People were flatting all day and shredding tires. But, as usual, the Specialized tires were flawless.
Nutrition: When you're starting to lose focus in a long race, nutrition is typically the first thing that suffers. Almost immediately after that, you begin to suffer more because you don't have the calories/liquids you need. I always use Infinit when I race. For Stoudts, I had 3 bottles of GoFar and 1 of Jet Fuel. It's so easy to take in, that it has become a mechanical part of my riding. I train with it, and make sure I'm used to always getting those calories in so that during races, I don't ever think about it. So when things start to slip, my nutrition stays completely rock solid with Infinit. I couldn't be happier with this stuff. Its just awesome.
Friends: There is nothing like have friends at a race cheering you on. There were a bunch of Twenty20 folks there racing and FatMarc Vanderbacon was kind enough to give me splits in the later half of the race so I knew what was happening behind me. Fellow Rare Disease Cycling teammate Kathleen Harding was also there racing and cheering hard for me! I got to ride with her for a brief bit when our laps coincided and wow, she sure can fly! Her husband, Ron Harding, was paired up with Nick Sears and they crushed the Duo category, and were even kind enough to give me water after I ran out! It was awesome seeing all of them there.
The day wore on and I was told I had over a lap on second place. That was great to hear, but one flat tire or broken chain, could have blown that lead. So I stayed steady, trying to shut the door, and leave it all out there. I managed to do just that and finished 31 laps in 4:07, good for 1st in the solo category!
The race production was exceptional and the course was really fun (albeit a bit short). Big thanks to the promotors, volunteers, photographers (Don Pagano) and the hecklers, it was awesome.