|Holding on for dear life!|
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
Keene, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- In my on again off again romance with mountain biking, the experience on my new GT Zaskar 9er Expert at last weekends Stonewall Farm Mountain Bike Race has 'spiced' things up a little...to say the least. Finally I don't need to eyeball the other rides on the rack. At the age of 43 I now own a certifiable rocket ship. The only thing holding this bike back is me. With the 24HoGG looming now less than a month away I've started to shift my training focus to the two-wheeled variety. I've been under prepared at the 24HoGG and it can be a miserable experience. So in an effort to get a little racing action on the new bike I talked my teammate and neighbor Timmy Lindsey into taking a trip to Keene (with the promise of a stop at the Elm City Brewery for a beer and a burger afterwards). Stonewall Farms Mountain Bike Race is part of the Root 66 Series. Having never raced here before I was drawn to it by the promise of new singletrack. It certainly delivered. Riding in the 40-49 yo Category 3 (Cat 3) class we would ride two laps of the 4.? mile course. My quick race plan (developed in the starting grid) was to go out conservatively on the first lap to see what I was up against and then hammer as hard as I could on Lap #2. Timmy and I lined up with the other 40-49 yo's in our group and were off. The lead couple of guys took it out hard. I held back and found myself nearly next to last within the first kilometer. The course was probably 90% smooth singletrack with almost zero flat sections. If you weren't going up, you were descending on tight and loose hairpin turns. The combination of the track being very new and the course being very dry there was an inch layer of very powdery dirt making some of the downhill turns a little tough (for me). Thankfully the second half of the loop climbed quite a bit and although not really trying I began to pick up places as riders were off bike and walking the climbs. My bike felt very comfortable and very capable of attacking these climbs and I alternated sitting and standing up as I climbed to the high point of the course. As I finished the first lap I peeked at my watch and it read :30 low which meant absolutely nothing. The objective now was to pick up as many spots as I could taking advantage of my climbing strength. As in the first lap I continued to consistently pick up places as riders who went out a little too hard for all the climbing started to fall back to me. Hard as I tried I could still tell I was too heavy on the brakes on the descents but I really thought I was riding it right on the edge. Keeping the rubber down and only dabbing a few times on some hairpin downs I eventually found myself on the back wheel of a 40-something rider from Cycle Loft as we climbed the final hill. Partly because I'm still not terribly confident in this sport and partly because I lack the killer instinct on the bike I stayed behind him DESPITE the fact he verbalized at least twice that he was cooked on the ups. We crested the final climb wheel to wheel and started a spine tingling dirt pump track descent to the gravel road. In less than a half a mile he put 21 seconds on me because of my lack of nerve and technical descending prowess. That 21 seconds was the difference between 1st, and in the immortal words of Ricky Bobby...last. Officially I finished in 1:02:42 which was "good enough" for 2nd place in the 40-49 yo Cat 3 class and 7th overall in Cat 3. A great beer and lunch after the race with the family capped off an amazing day of racing. I will most certinaly be back in 2013!
NEXT UP: Bradbury Breaker