Jesse and I went up to Fairlee Vermont for the weekend so I could race at Coyote Hill on Sunday. We left on Saturday afternoon and made some stops along the way but with some planning I had Jesse drop me off at Coyote Hill so she could run to the store to get our food supplies for the weekend. It was getting dark and I was on the bike at 7:23pm to pre ride the course.
With the dry weather the past week the conditions were next to perfect. Super fast packed trails and dry roots. After being in the car for half a day and then suddenly drop in on some downhill single track action just made me smile the whole time. I was really having a blast rolling over the roots and rocks without any trouble at all. I was really looking forward to the race being in the same condition.
Rob Stine, single speed extraordinaire, was hanging out at the campfire with Matt Green and some other top notch racers. He told me to check out the hill climb course that they raced in earlier that day. I had never done a hill climb mountain bike course before and I imagined a single track going straight up a hill to the top of the climb. It was a cool single track trail that would go up but also have some switchbacks and flat sections. It didn't take long to climb but I'm sure if you were to race up the hill you would want it to be over very fast.
The Coyote Hills course is a real mountain bike course. It will beat you senseless if you let it, or just ride it ridged and all your body parts will writhe with pain. I would describe the course as lots of roots going every direction and short steeps that only with the small gear of 34x19 you will be able to climb. Slow uphill switchback grinds and fast descents that if you are geared and have full suspension you can really fly on. And mud. Lots of slippery roots and rocks. Holes of mud, and a long section of swamp with logs laying perpendicular. Going ridged on this course is like riding a fixed gear bike on a charity ride. You feel like you are doing the right thing but wonder if there is a better way. Except I didn't raise $17,000 for kids with cancer or get a massage after the race. And the yo-yo effect of being fast on the up hill but couldn't descend worth a darn.
The start of the race is what might have costed me some time. Last week at Winsted Woods I went out hard and the course beat me up bad and I was blown out by the 5 lap. So my approach this time was to hang back on the first lap and maintain a good pace for all 4 laps. It worked but my start sucked. Usually I try to get the hole shot but I was really intimidated by the 40 pro riders all around me. When we started we wound around a grassy field and straight into a single track bottle neck. It seemed like an eternity waiting for the guys to get going. Rob was behind me and said "Just another Sunday ride!" That's how I wanted the race to go. Just another Sunday ride that goes smooth and simple. So then we started up the grassy climb and onto the dirt road where I passed some guys but up ahead the pack was way ahead.
The dirt road climb was long and it finally popped out into a down hill single track. Followed some guys and realized that passing was going to be limited. Out of all the races this was the one to be out front. Like a cross race you don't want to be in the back of the pack. Like I said before the trail was brutally rough and with a ridged bike it made it tough to get any speed on the down hills. By the last lap my hands were blistered and sore. I really could not push it too much because then I would get sloppy and go off trail. I just had to keep it smooth and keep my bike upright. Big ups to all the single speeders that were ridged. Paul Simoes and Rob Stine. Especially Rob who still finished the race with only one cleat. Nice one Rob! Thom Parsons while being a single speed demon was not ridged. Maybe that's why he's so fast. Or is it he rides 50 times more then me and has years of experience. I think that's it.
The second lap I was going up against Mike Rowell. I remembered from last year that he would catch up to me and pass me all the way back from the 40 + group. With his full suspension bike he would dominate the down hills and hammer through the rooty sections. Keeping up with him was a battle. I was able to pass him on lap 2 and 3 on the long dirt road uphill but he would catch me and I would let him go. I did pass some really good riders. A couple of IF riders and some guy with a Kona kit on. Really strong riders, but I think because I was keeping a good pace for myself I was able to out last them somehow.
I felt strong all the way to the end of the race where I would pass Matt O'keefe who was blown out and didn't even try to catch me to the line. Alot of really good riders dropped out because of the course, even with full suspension.
Overall I was happy with my race and felt like I couldn't have done any better. I got 16th out of at least 40 guys. So again somewhere in the middle.
I went to meet up with Josh for a Mt bike ride last night and saw that my chain had blown 5 or 6 roundy things in the links. During the race I kept hearing a ping and thinking it was my cog out of alignment. But halfway though our ride last night the pings kept coming until I was free wheeling both ways. I guess my freewheel was on it's last legs, our pawls. So I'm happy that it lasted me the whole race. I was able to make it back home because the last pawls would hold until I freewheeled. Then it would be spin and bounce my back wheel until it cought again.