We knew the gap was around 6 minutes, and with Keith, our fastest rider, out on course, we were confident we would stop bleeding time. But then Keith flatted on that lap, and suddenly we were only 2 minutes up after 10 hours of racing at the 2015 Bakers Dozen. There is a special kind of panic that comes over you when you begin to see lots of hard work melting away. For the past 2 hours, our lead of 10 minutes had shrunk to 2 minutes. Everything we did in the beginning of the race to get a solid lead was gone and now we sat on the razors edge of losing the lead. 2 minutes at Bakers Dozen is nothing. It’s a slow lap. It’s getting caught behind some slower lapped riders. It’s being a touch low on sugar. It can be easily closed in one lap. Or less. We were all but tied up now with Haymarket.
Rewind to 10 hours earlier and it was a beautiful warm day. The trails were a bit soft but with sun and wind, we were sure things would harden up for the 2015 edition of this great race. Joe’s Bike Shop had a ton of teams representing on course for the day, and I thankfully was on a 3 man team, versus the 2 man or even solo category options.
The race started fast and Keith Omundson ripped the first lap. We had hoped the course marking would be clear enough that he wouldn’t miss any turns (given he had never raced Bakers before) but even after turning around on course twice and back tracking, he still managed a crazy fast lap to put us in the lead. I was next up, and Ethan Frey anchored. It was a fast bunch, and a lot of fun.
The first three laps were uneventful, just riding fast, learning the course (and the evolving conditions). Somewhere around lap 7, Keith went down and had to ride the last quarter of his lap with his bars at a 45 degree angle to his front wheel; that was impressive.
Everyone was riding very consistent laps and our lead was extending easily. By our 10th (of 21) laps we had 9:40 over our next competitor Haymarket, 12:54 over AFC, and 14:16 over Rocktown. These three teams were our rivals for the day, and all had very accomplished and speedy riders.
We had come to Bakers expecting a good battle with Haymarket who had beaten us last year, and I was a bit surprised they weren’t closer after the first half. But, we plugged on, happily ignorant to a few crashes they had suffered on course, setting them back a bit.
The fourth and fifth laps are tough. Your body has done 3 full out laps (approximately 37 minutes for a lap for me) and you’re getting tired. The legs are heavy, you need calories, and the constant starting and stopping of doing a relay isn’t something you ever train for. Not surprisingly, that’s right when it started to happen. Haymarket started taking time back. Up until lap 10, we had only given them 29 seconds all day. But between laps 11-16, we turned over 8:31. That’s when the panic set in. We were about to give them the race.
Keith came back after flatting and I was next out. I had been paired up against fast man Barry Croker of Haymarket all day, and sitting in transition with him for that lap, knowing he would be hunting me shortly, wasn’t very reassuring for my outlook of our chances. But, I didn’t want to lose.
It was my sixth lap and the sun was setting. It was a gorgeous day, and I was on my bike. Enjoying that lap would have been easy to do. Too bad. It was time to focus, and dig. I pulled out all the stops, took the risks through every turn and turned in my fastest lap of the day, by over 1:30. I was pleased with that as I collapsed at the team tent. I hadn’t put much time into Barry, in fact, despite my all-in effort, I only got us 44 more seconds of breathing room.
Next up was Ethan, he got a good chunk from Graham Smith and we had another 1:37. The last laps were being started as Keith set out again. This was it. Any more issues and the race could go either way. We still didn’t have enough time to protect us against a mechanical or crash. Thankfully, Keith did what he does well, and put in more time over Haymarket’s Jared Neiters.
The last laps are in the dark, and typically times slow down a good bit as riders navigate a bit more gingerly through the trails with lights on their bike. But we didn’t have time for that. Having ridden the course all day, it was time to play the memory game. What was around that next corner? Where was that rock and how do you have to jump it? How much can you lean through this turn before clipping your bar on that tree? It’s like doing complex math with your heart rate through the roof and your muscles screaming.
I burst out of the woods one last time, handed our marker off to Ethan, and then waited. I didn’t know what our gap was, I didn’t know how far back Haymarket was. We just had to wait. Keith and I made our way to the finish line and were relieved to see Ethan appear first. That was it, we took the win.
After 13 hours of racing, we had only beaten Haymarket by a meager 10:30. We were almost too tired to be happy, but a few smiles were shared. It was a truly awesome day for racing. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions, competitors, or team support. Racing is a group effort regardless of whether you’re solo or on a team. ESI Grips, SPY Optics, Infinit Nutrition and Joe’s Bike Shop got us over that line first, and we are very grateful. And of course, Go Time Racing, a big thanks to them for another great edition of Bakers Dozen.