Wow! I actually won a race. It's been about 8 months since I last accomplished this goal. Now I can say i won a race every year for the past 6 years or so if I include some triathlon and duathlon races as well.
There is always something new that you can try or learn or rekindle a long lost interest in that makes you feel like a kid again. And for me it's riding in the dirt. Some of you know that when I was in my early 20's (10 + years ago) I was a crappy professional motocross racer, and I didn't think there was anything that could match the adrenaline of sailing a 100 foot jump or charging into the first corner w/ 39 other knuckleheads - elbow to elbow at a high rate of speed while trying to hold the throttle on for a nanosecond longer than anyone else. Well, I'm older, my hair that I have left is now a more normal color (does gray count as normal?), but I still listen to punk rock and love to play in the dirt.
Greenwater was a really cool race, and not just because I won. It started off perfectly for me as I was 2nd behind my teammate TMT going into the woods. I don't like to lead early because I have a tendency to go too hard too soon and burn out. So I followed TMT up the first single track climb that kept going up and up, then it was followed by some fun little single track switchback downhill. Then it opened up a little bit and we got to the bottom of a hill and the banner was broken and no one knew where to go. We kind of stopped and asked one another if anyone knew the right way to go. I had ridden this part earlier in the morning during the Sport race so I decided right was the correct way to go. Someone snuck in front of me (perfect!) and led but he was going pretty slow. It was fairly full of tree roots and very bumpy in this section, I passed him and we ended up on a short fire road section for about 200 yards. Someone snuck in front of me again (sweet!) and I followed him into the next single track section which turned out to be really short. We were then on the long climb which was anywhere from 4-6 miles, depending on who you asked. I followed the lead dude (from Sega I think) and the pace was fairly easy, I could feel the pack coming up from behind so I moved over and didn't really attack per se - but slowly upped the pace. I was then alone but I could see everyone behind me but no one looked too eager to jump ahead and join me. So I tried to keep a steady / hard but comfortable pace up the climb because I figured someone would catch me on the climb. Another 1/2 mile passes and Perry Roper and Matt Lynch catch me. I know these guys are both podium finishers in nationals so I just figured I would key off of them as for pace. I tried not to draft off them though as that's kind of shady as they are in their own race - and so I am. So anyway, to make a long and boring story a little more concise, I stayed about 20-30 feet behind Perry up the last 3 or so miles of the climb. A couple times I passed him but he shot right in front of me as I don't think he liked that much. Matt Lynch attacked with a mile left to climb but Perry didn't respond. We also caught some Open class guy at the top and he yielded to us before the crazy ass descent started, but not before yelling...
"I hope you guys can descend!" Well, I can on a road bike. So I moved over after a few switchbacks and tried to keep up with this dude for as long as I could. And then I wadded myself on a tricky little section. I didn't fall off the bike, but we (me and the bike) got tangled and I hit the wall of the trail, cut my shin and got a charley horse on my quad. Cool! Now I'm bleeding so I must be a real mountain biker! And the open class dude was gone so I just tried to go as fast as I could on the descent without losing any more blood! Man! That was so much fun. I was riding pretty aggressively because I DID NOT want to get caught from behind. I rode around the bumpy ass stuff on the bottom as fast as I could, kind of banzai'd the creek crossing without really picking a line, skirted up the the hill out of the water and kept charging. My legs were feeling pretty good- that's a good sign. Then I finished the little loop (but not without popping a wheelie for the drunk campers that were yelling "Pop a Wheelie!" all day long, and when you did they would scream and yell - it was so much fun!) and finished one lap and I saw lots of blue and black and heard my name yelled out a bunch! That was so cool! Thanks guys!
The course kind of meandered around the flats and then I noticed I was on the familiar trail again. I wasn't too sure how I got there. And then I was on the logging road climb again and all I could think of was a bear or a cougar ripping me off my bike and eating me for lunch. I had one Hammer Gel left and I think it was raspberry or something like that. That might work for a bear, but the cougar would have some fun shredding me like a BBQ pro sandwich. So that was my inspiration climbing the long climb the second time. And being able to lock out your forks is so cool! Thanks Bruce for teaching me that a couple races ago. I am so naive. When I got to the top of the climb I caught the same Open guy as the lap before and just rode with him for the last 200 yards or so to the descent, no sense in passing him before the free fall down the mountain. This time I made it down with no incidents and only a 1/2 dozen or so ""Oh shit!" incidents. But each one made the smile on my face bigger. I really cannot get over how much fun riding in the dirt is. With my background on MX bikes I should have assumed it would be, but still...mountain biking seriously is so much fun! Everyone should do it. C'mon!
Back on the flat bottom stuff I started making stupid mistakes though. I hit something in the middle of a little corner that popped my front end up in the air mid-lean. Yea, I crashed there and got another little raspberry on my other side. But I still had a smile on my face! I jumped back on my bike like a CX race and continued mashing gears until the finish. I ended up winning by 2 minutes or so. But I guarantee you if I would have finished 15th the smile on my face would have been just as big. This was awesome! Each course of the last 3 races I did were all fairly unique and were all so much fun. But Greenwater with the tacky dirt, fun descent, and the logging road climb (made me feel like I was on High Rock!) was probably tops. Not too mention the crazy airplane that was taking off and landing on some strip of pavement in the middle of the mountains.
And congrats to TMT for winning the title! We are going to have a lot of fun next year!