Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swimmin' with Crocs

At the starting line of most mountain bike races, a guy can look around and usually pick out a few other guys that he knows he can beat. The pro men's race at the Hammer Nutrition Missoula XC is not one of those starting lines. There's barely 40 guys that are either fast, gutsy or just plain stupid enough to toe this line. When the gun blasts you're swimmin' upstream in a river of crocodiles. No matter what you do to prepare, you really just don't know what kind of day your going to have.

As I looked at the field from my starting spot in dead last (come on UCI, don't you know who I am?!?-kidding), I knew everyone was legit. But more importantly I knew it was time to take down some fools. After a string of good form and bad luck (aka bad riding), I really wanted a solid result at the Missoula XC. This race is far and away the most important day of my year. Most mountain bike races have 0 spectators, Missoula XC has over a thousand. And 2nd to Sam Schultz who's so hot right now, I seem to be the other crowd favorite. Not sure why, maybe I've got a good niche as the ex out of shape kid who shouldn't be in the pro race, and is still 20 pounds heavier than most everyone else. Regardless, can't thank everyone enough for cheering, it's helps more than a dozen interval workouts, which I'll probably never work up the motivation to do anyway!

So, back to the race report, gun goes off, everyone sprints like hell, course goes straight uphill, dudes blow up like Katy Perry... After about two minutes, you can tell who's gonna have a good ride. From my call up in  dead last (did I mention that?), I never really saw the top ten ride off, which is kind of a good thing for me cuz I''m prone to ride above my limit and blow up like I referenced in the condensed race report above.

The first couple laps went great. I was so glad that I put in the time at the Kettlehouse Beer Leagues to really get this course dialed. I also benefited huge from a recent upgrade to some XTR brakes courtesy of Shimano. The combo of infinite power and supreme modulation really helps a guy to get cryptic on the steep descents and insane switchbacks on this technical track, or out on your favorite Moses Ride. I would guess about a third of the amateur racers dumped it in some fashion earlier that day, they should give Shimano brakes a try! I weaved in and out of riders until I found myself in some decent company. When it comes to sponsorship, I'm a firm believer that all the wrong guys are getting all the free stuff, it should really be coming to me since I'm a really good guy (my mom thinks so too, and a huge thanks to all my current sponsors ). So this was my motivation for passing a bunch of dudes that get free junk in the mail and ride their bike way more than me. This worked for a couple laps, I made my way up to 14th place, at that point the riders I was with probably deserve said free stuff, so I stopped passing them and started thinking about how hard I had been riding-these are some of the worst type of thoughts you can have in a race!

I spent some time around laps 2.5-3. in the "Depths of Despair". There were a few spots on the course where I didn't see anyone (fans, riders, squirrels, nothin!), and it's really easy to let off the throttle when no one's watching. I dropped a couple spots which I wasn't too stoked about, and I don't think my fans were either!

At this point in the race a couple things happened:

-I realized that in about 30 minutes my "season" would be over and I could have a cold one, stop worrying about riding like the Raging Bull, and kick it with my buds.

-I also determined the remainder of the race would hurt pretty bad no matter how fast or slow I was riding, so I might as well ride fast.

-Everyone started cheering really loud, basically insisting that I sprint every climb out of saddle, in big ring.

The added power from the my amigos from The Cycling House cheering section helped me find a new gear towards the end. My lap times on laps 3,4 and 5 were all better than my 3rd lap at Beer Leagues the Wednesday prior, so I was really stoked to finish strong instead of sputtering in coyote style like I usually do. I cut my losses to this gifted group of riders in 17th place, my first top 20 at a US Pro XCT! My final lap slowed up a bit, but mainly cuz I kept looking back to see where my fellow Montanan/Working Man who also takes down pro's John Curry was at. He had a really bad ski crash late this spring so chapeau to him for pulling it back together for the big show.

I was so pumped at the finish line! For one my bad luck was over and I crossed the line ON my bicycle instead of jogging with it. And two, half of Missoula (best town ever) was hanging out, cheering, high fiving the Olympian Sam Schultz and having a good ol' Montana Time. The celebration continued well into the night, the dance party at the Stensrud Building was like something out of an 80's movie. Folks were getting wild! After the lights came on/we were told to leave for our loose behavior at the 'Lander, I shut er down at one of my favorite spots, street tacos at El Cazador. Luckily my Cannondale Flash 29 has a sweet auto-pilot function, I was so overloaded with positive vibes I don't necessarily recall the ride home!

I left Missoula super fired up about the future. Three minutes from tenth place is on my mind to say the least! Thanks everyone cheering, hell of a race!


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