So I led the Cat C field after the first lap and managed to get 4th overall at Stafford Lake. I know what you’re thinking – “How is that possible? Aren’t you slow?” That’s what I thought too, but with just the right conditions strange things can happen: even I can be a sandbagger.
If you’re going to be a sandbagger, make sure it looks like you’re working hard (photo by Veronika Lenzi)
Stafford Lake was a new course this year, so going in it was an unknown entity. The storm that rolled through the night before added to the mystery. The course effectively split in two. Long relatively flat sections on gravel and grass accounted for much of the course, and a stair run up punctuated the start of the more “technical” portion. Not really technical, but with some mud and a few whoops. So you know, stuff that crashed me out of races two years ago.
Pretty good start position (courtesy of peter_r)
Since I have a habit of blowing myself up in the first lap of races (often followed by a crash), I told myself I wasn’t going to go out too fast in the first lap. Lining up for the race was totally scattered so I managed a middle first row position. Going into the first pinch point I was probably 8th and held that up to the run up. A little gassed from the run up, I got gaped slightly going to the first ditch – this actually helped. A couple people successfully rode it and the others ahead sputtered and dismounted. If I had been on someone’s wheel, I would have had the same issue. Because I was a little back, things were clear, and I mashed past probably 4 or 5 racers. Riding the higher grassy line instead of the muddy single track let me pass a couple more. All of a sudden I realize it is only the leader in front of me. Heart rate at 180+ it literally takes me 30 seconds to convince myself I am actually in the position I think I am.
At the second ditch, I take the inside line and almost find a way to cut off the leader before the flats. Once we hit the flats, I realize I can push the pace and lead the race. Forget the plan, let’s blow up on lap one! I hold my lead through the first set of barriers, but after a spectator yells something to the effect of “he’s looking weak”, I start to loose ground and get passed. Until this happens:
I’m on your wheel sucka!
Boom goes the dynamite (both courtesy of Nick Gaetano)
This picture is so priceless. Not only did I get past this guy, but look at his face. Amazing. Shortly after I crossed the line as the race leader. I came into this race with the goal of a top 10 finish. Even so, this was not in the realm of possibility. The rest of the race was not pretty. It mostly involved trying not to vomit and/or lose places. At one point I thought I’d slipped to 6th, but maybe a couple guys had mechanicals or crashed out. I don’t know. Their loss was my gain. At one point there was the 5th place finisher nipping at my heels, but for a change I got stronger instead of slower late in the race and put a bit of gap in between us. I am definitely getting to a point where I feel worse and worse physically after races, which is oddly a good thing. So I managed to hold onto 4th, my best finish (despite the fact that crossresults says my 10th at the Monkey Cross finale was better).
Either way, a few more strong finishes in the C’s and I think it’ll be time for me to start up-sucking full time.