Monday, November 24, 2008

Yes, That Was a Dead Rat on the Course: Kruger's 2008

Kruger's was pretty much a banner day for the Team Tedder crew. Blue skies, muddy without being sloppy and a slew of great finishes.

After the end of the Cross Crusade, race attendance drops off dramatically. Folks are shelving their cross bikes for the season or taking two weeks off to get ready for the USGP races during the first weekend in December.

Because D is taking the latter approach (rest, USGP), there was no reason to get out to Sauvie's Island at 8am. I was grateful for the extra hour sleep and the time to take a hot shower before heading out.

Tried a few new things for this race. First, the warmup. Beth and I did our usual set of 30 second sprints, but this time I tried to keep up my heart rate at around 85% between sets. I sweated through two t-shirts (it was an unseasonably mild day), but I felt nice and loose when we lined up to race.

Second, I raced the singlespeed for the first time. Although I rode it for SSCXWC, i don't really consider that a "race" as I was dead tired and pretty much getting my drunk on throughout the entire race. And finally, I pulled out the pink socks for this race.Photo Credit: Brujo

My field (Women's B) was only about 20 riders, down from about the 40-50 during the cross crusade. The 50% drop seemed to be consistent with all of the fields. Here is Sal pimping amongst the ladies before the start.

Heidi has been practicing her starts and it showed yesterday. She took off like her ass was on fire and got the hole shot into the first corner. I was right behind her, along with a gal I had never seen before, in a blue skinsuit.

Blue skinsuit and I snuck around Heidi in the singletrack and I didn't see another B rider (or at least I thought as much...) until the last lap. I also didn't see the carnage behind me as we worked our way through the back of the 35+ field. Awesome shot, K-man!

Blue skinsuit was fast and I had one gear and wasn't able to hold her wheel once we got to the gravel road. But I thought I saw her out of the corner of my eye at the first two-pack of barriers with a dropped chain.

Thus began my stint at the front of the race. I was so jacked up that I didn't even realize that I should be having my typical second lap slump until I started the third lap.

Riding the singlespeed was such a joy. Having one gear makes everything so much less complicated. No deciding whether to shift up or down, spin or stand up. You either push the gear, or you don't. There is also something about the geometry of that bike that is makes it easier to handle than the Kona and, after a season on some mediocre tubulars, I loved riding on the (pink!) IRD Crossfires.
Photo Credit: Brujo

I got into a great rhythm and every time I had a chance to peek behind me, no one was there. So I rode in no-man's land for 4 laps...not fast enough to catch the A's and building a comfortable gap behind me...or so I thought.

During the third lap, I really started to fell the burn and prayed for the bell at the finish line. No such luck. Two laps to go. That fourth lap was the hardest. I put my head down and screamed at myself to keep pushing. The lap was a blur of bad dismounts, near-misses on the barriers and the rush of blood and wind in my ear-aching ear. But I could win this race, maybe, if I just kept pushing.

Coming around for the fourth time, I thought I might get lucky and they'd end our race because the A's were about to finish. No such luck.

So the process repeated itself once more....mud, rotten goddamn pumpkin barrier, mud, road, bunny-hop dead rat, barrier, puddle, barriers, the tent, more barriers, gravel road incline, wind through trees, dismount, trudge uphill....and then, Jen caught me.

I had forgotten about Jen. No, actually, I hadn't even thought of her since the whistle, even though it was really odd that she hadn't passed me in the first lap. I saw her out of the corner of my eye and managed to eek out, "Jesus F-in Christ Jen."

For a split second, I though about just letting her go. Jen is a machine. But this was my race. Mine. And I might not be able to hold onto her wheel for a whole race, but I sure as hell could for 1/3 of a lap. So the chase was on.

Even though I was spinning as fast as I could, she got a pretty nice gap on me during the slight decline on a gravel road. But she struggled a bit trying to find a gear when we hit the mud and I closed quickly. She made it through the barriers first, but I was back on my bike quicker and back on her wheel within seconds.

The mud singletrack made it impossible to pass without risking a spill, so I concentrated on staying on her wheel, hoping that she would make a mistake on one of the three corners into the finish line and give me the inch or two that I would need to blow by on the inside.

But she didn't make any mistakes and I rolled through the finish line six inches behind.

Jen and I spent about 10 minutes thinking we had gone 1-2, as I was positive that no one else had caught me.
That's what I get for forgetting about blue skinsuit. I had remembered someone in the same kit passing me during the third lap, but she wore an 800 number (the B's wear 100 numbers) and, thinking that she was a really fast 45+ rider, I let her go. Yah, turns out she was a B. Meh.

But hell, third place on a bike with one gear? None too shabby.


MattD said...

woooo.. nice job

Mikey said...

The "carnage" shot is dabomb.

One of the first lessons of bike racing: sprint like hell when you hear a crash behind you!