Thursday, October 01, 2009
2009 US Mountain Bike National Championships
Granby, Colorado —
No one could complain that the course wasn’t perfect for a national championship event…unless they had something against racing without oxygen. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) notwithstanding, the course had hard, intense climbs that included plenty of passing room; gnarly single track descents; rocky, technical climbs and (if one had time to look) a beautiful backdrop of the Colorado Rockies.
Lap times for the 9-mile loop were in the neighborhood of 55 minutes. The more experienced racers…well, okay “senior citizen racers” needed to do just two laps. Any of the Cat 1 racers under 50 years old had to add most of a third lap; I shutter at the thought…
The Cat 1, 50-54 race went off Saturday morning. The sky was clear and the temperature was fantastic for racing. We don’t know who designed the course but we were all in agreement that whoever it was had some serious issues they needed to work out with themselves. The course started on a steep incline that got even steeper within a couple dozen yards (that’s just plain mean). I attempted to keep my effort in check at the gun but a couple boys from CO jumped out and really pushed it so I jumped on. One of the guys blew while Henry Kramer (last year’s champ) and Keith Sanders hung back a little allowing the two of us to gain a small gap. I got into the lead at the top of the first climb but checked my effort again and allowed Thomas Hayles to pass and save some energy. With that reduction in effort Kramer soon got up with the two of us and all three gained even more time on the pack.
While pre riding with Gary Douville (who we later found was racing with pneumonia), we found a good fire road climb near the top that would offer a good place to put a good effort in. Hearing Henry and Thomas Hayles breathing hard I figured it was a good time to hit them and jumped out and gained a few second lead. My illusions of grandeur would soon be thwarted as they eventually reeled me in and then started to gap as we entered the rocky, technical climb. I did my best to work my tempo and not relent hoping for the two of them to wear themselves out. Then more trouble; the fourth place rider at the time, Keith Sanders, had bridged up and was now on my wheel. I did the honorable thing and gave him some room to get by. He mentioned that “he knew the trail” and to “hop on”. Nice dude but the pace he was running down the single track was faster than I cared to travel early in the event and he soon was out of site. I later learned he pulled up on Kramer and Hayles and went by them on the descent like they were going the other way.
Going into a section we were calling “the Waterfall” Hayles went over the bars giving me enough room to pass for third. Sanders was gone and Kramer had gained over a minute at the end of lap one. I accepted a water bottle from the very lovely Mrs. Langin (who also offered some good encouragement “I love you and pedal hard”—ain’t she special) and pushed hard the second lap but never saw Henry or Keith. The lap was uneventful except while entering the waterfall, there were bodies, bikes, photographers, and spectators everywhere. Unfortunately with the carnage, I had to dismount and enlist some ‘cross experience and run down the sucker. No time lost however and I was in the final 15-minutes of racing that was mostly downhill…downhill that left me questioning the wisdom of going with a hard-tail at my age; it was rough fo-sho!
Nearing the finish, I saw no one in front and no one behind and didn’t see Hayles fall so was thinking I had finished 4th or 5th (I also got passed by a 45-49 year old who had flatted and there were no leg markings so I didn’t know) but none of that mattered as anything less than a championship just didn’t taste well. Argh!
Platinum Products helped keep my energy levels high and the Specialized Stump Jumper S-Works with Crank Bros 4-ti pedals worked like a champ; the carbon, tubular wheel set I picked up at Bicycle Bob’s (sooo light) climbed well and handled the downhill better than expected. Without those elements, there is no doubt that things would not have gone as well. Thanks to all.
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