The day started with blueberry pancakes, eggs and coffee while talking riding with other B&B guests from Canada and Steam Boat. Sun poured in the windows from a cloudless sky. Morning doves sounded their love call. It was to be a great day for racing.
We got to the race course in Rabbit Valley a couple hours prior to start time. Which stretched into almost 3 hours after start delays. Whomever said mountain bikers are poor are liars. I've never seen so much carbon in one place. There wasn't a clunker in sight. If bikes were shoes, this was Italy, fine craftsmanship and all bling. I saw a few other Top Fuels.
Because of the delay, all Cat 1 junior women on up started together. Like ready, set, go. Not staged or anything, so when they announced that, everyone herded up to get prime positioning. The gun went off and the start was down a service road into a wash. We had ridden it before many times on our vacations and most recently we drove it on this trip to a lower campground so I knew what was coming. I stayed in pro-pedal in back and totally locked out in front. I was mid pack coming into a straightaway in the wash when I saw a large flat batch of slick rock to the right. Everyone stayed left in the sand so I stood up and hammered myself to 5th place (which was actually 7th overall b/c the leaders had already disappeared). But I didn't know that so I felt pretty good about myself but wondered if I hadn't hammered myself into the ground. These were Colorado racers I was up against. And sure enough I took a turn too wide that sent me into a sand trap while 3-4 racers went by. I knew we were coming close to the end of the wash to start climbing. I was behind a rather stocky junior so I knew I had to make a move. Well, she could climb too! So I sat in, all the while keeping an eye on the leaders. Nobody was making any drastic moves so I settled in and got my breath back.
Power climb after power climb were done easily thanks to the sweet Top Fuel. The pace was moderate at best. I'm not used to that as we tend to race at mach 1 in the midwest. So I was enjoying my zone 3 but soon the climbs were getting longer and more technical. My specialty so I jumped out of line and started moved in front of a couple racers at the first of several climbs. I was back in 3rd place in the chase group and there I stayed for most of the race.
Once up the first few climbs, I had to go down. Now this whole week on the TF has been great. I descended better, faster and more confidently than I ever have on this type of terrain. So here I was now racing it. Uh, yeah. Little different. Once you commit to a line, you go for it cuz you have many behind you going just as fast. And I payed. I picked a double drop. I bounced off the first drop and over the second, right onto my head. I was ok. I picked myself up and all seemed to be working. No big deal. I was off again, like a rabbit who had just escaped a trap.
About 6 miles in the terrain flattened out. I was a big ring grinnin idiot. See, I had ridden this area last year with our group and it was pretty familiar plus the TF was a dream. All locked out and efficient as a race car. I was thuroughly enjoying my race experience. The two leaders were within eyesight and nobody was on my tail. But frolicking through the flats turned into the climb from hell. Smallest in front, smallest in back, head down and pedal, pedal, pedal. The leader started the climb walking. I HATE walking my bike up hill. So much, that I will pedal til my lungs bleed before I put a foot down. I pedaled about half way. HRM said 180bpm. Okay, time to back off. I put a foot down on a rock to take a breather. I looked back, and saw the next woman in line. Time to go. Head down, pedal. 2nd place racer had started walking too. Ha! But as soon as I got close she pedaled on. Once at the top, there was a feed zone. Should have been a barf zone! I didn't need anything so I kept on. The sun was bright and hot and the sand was deep up there. I grabbed a goo and continued.
I had been up there last year as well and knew the area, which really helps the mental game. But holy crap, it was still hard work. We were racing slightly uphill on whoop-dee-doos created by motos. How does one ride those at 10mph? It was a total power suck. I was wasting way too much energy up there and i knew it but thought that I'd be able to recover on the way down. Well, that didn't happen for a while. Up and down roller coaster style and then power climb over slick rock and then more whoopties and sand and more rocks. My arms were starting to complain. So was my back. I really wanted off that mesa.
Finally I headed down. That was about mile 20. The descent was loose but rideable. I got passed by a rock star who deserved a good line. Once down, it was double track ATV trail to the Kokepelli and then back towards home. I had been on the exact section a few days earlier so the trail was fresh in my mind and I knew what I had to do. I had to be careful though because there were some big climbs at the end that I needed to store some power for once I got to them. So I rode at a moderate pace. I got passed once I got off the Kokepelli and onto trail 2, the ATV trail that would connect us back to the Kokepelli, which is more like a service road. I stayed with the rider. She didn't seem to be working too hard but I was. Grrrr. She tried to attack another rider(the rock star descender) who wanted nothing to do with us so she sped off. We didn't answer. I stayed with the girl in front of me all the way through the sandy road until the last nasty climb which she seemed to float over as I picked and poked at a line. Grrrr. Once at the top I put it in gear and sped off. I knew there was one more climb and once over that I tried to catch her but didn't. So there went my podium finish but I still had a great race despite crashing and having a potential wheel issue. On top of that, having ridden all week and eaten like the world was going to end. Seriously! So, 4th outta 8 isn't anything to complain about. It was after all, my first race of the season. The course was fun and challenging but well within my range of ability. I was worried that it would be a faster race considering it was all double track and service roads, accept for the moto trails on top of the mesa. I guess all my road riding paid off. It was a great way to cap off an amazing week of riding and a great way to start off a season. So to celebrate, Ryan (who didn't get last!) and I walked to town for dinner. Outside seating gave us a front row view of the setting sun. We clinked our beer glasses and quietly devoured an 18" pie.
Monday I leave for Wisconsin so I won't be posting for a few days. I'm going there to meet the rest of the Women Who Ride winners. Once I get back I'll fill you in and hopefully have some photos from this trip.
Thanks for reading!