Race Report: Escape de Granogue
My hate for mud and my distain for crashing was out weighed by my love for riding and my need for racing. Racing is a type of riding that gives me great joy. I enjoy the camaraderie and the competition. The way that the clock and the course force me to test my personal limits causes me to ask my body to deliver in ways that it will not operate when just riding with the fellas. Sure I have had epic moments and epic rides where I was performing on a level higher than normal that were not races, but racing is scripted to force me to answer to the clock. Sunday's event did not quite give me that high level of performance that I was seeking. The weather called for scattered thunderstorms and mother nature delivered. Racing on wet off camber roots with loose wet rocky climbs often causes me to step into CYCLOCROSS MODE. As I make my loop about the course I try to access what can be ridden and what must be walked. It is my contention that the larger/heavier rider is effected by the terrain differently than the smaller rider. The larger rider (and the larger they get the more effected they will be) will sink deeper in the mud, will slide more on the roots, and will skid out more on the climbs, thus causing me to feel that it is more energy efficient for me to leap from my bike like some sort of "jack be nimble....jack be quick character" and run like a pansy through the slippery technical sections. Then on the downhills I had to take it slow as the larger rider is forced to go wider on the turns and it is more difficult for the larger/heavier rider's tires to maintain traction on a turn, more weight forcing the bike to loose grip. This is a race and I want to make it around the loop as quickly as I can. In a situation like this I find it is cost effective for me to get off and walk rather than to peel out, rack my balls on the top tube, or find myself falling in the creek along side the trail. Efficiency is more effective than speed.
Here is how it all went.....
At the start I took off fast with a few other riders, as we made the first turn from the paved road onto a long stretch of jeep track I was in the lead, I pedaled with speed and intensity, trying to maintain some speed on the tight grassy turns without sliding into the freshly plowed field at my side. When we approached the single track I was in the lead, there were several racers right on my tail. We meander through the tight turning trail rapidly realizing that all the off camber obstacles were going to whip me off my bike and off the trail. After a few crashes, a few near crashes, some awkward slippage on some climbs, and some peeling out that sent my knee to the stem and my balls to the bar I fell back on that CYCLOCROSS MODE that I know so well. There was a Clydesdale right on my tail commenting on my cross style. We rode in tandem at a solid pace both of us dismounting and remounting our bikes at the same points in the race, occasionally he would complain that he anticipated the dismount and was left surprised if I rode a section. About 3/4 through the first lap we were cruising down an off camber section when we noticed another racer floundering in a ravine. He motioned us on and claimed to be okay. I proposed that we stop, stopped, and was pleased to see the other Clydesdale at my side to help the this injured racer up out of the ditch and back to the trail, where he could at least sit comfortably and not feel as lost and helpless. He had complaints of pain to the hip, claimed it was not dislocated, and we rode off... only after a few racers had passed us. We were not sure if we had lost any spots in our class. Mounted our bikes and rode on. Just as we finished the first lap I was passed by the second place rider, to think I thought he was my friend....and then shockingly I was passed by another Clydesdale....this one on a single speed. At the finish of lap one I was in third place. The three of us rode close together, the first place racer never more than 30 yards ahead of us, and the single speeder and I swapping spaces back and forth along with swapping conversation. It was good racing.
Into the second lap I tried to conserve energy. I had the two other Clydesdale racers in my sights, it seemed practical to maintain pace and make an attack later in the race instead of "busting nut early." As we came out of woods onto a wet winding grassy section I checked the distance between the leader and myself. I thought to myself "no races are won on the downhill...don't crash...try gain ground on the flats and if there is an opportunity to pass leading into the wooded section." Right then and there with my own words still fresh in my head the whole world slipped out from under me. I went down fast. No tumble, no roll, just a fast slick slide. I may not have lost any speed, but I definitely lost some confidence. It can be tough to regain speed without confidence. There was no injury to anything other than my ego. Over a short amount of time I was able to get back into the rhythm of things. This was lap two, the course was more familiar to me and I knew what I could ride and what I should not bother riding, efficiency was with me. By halfway through this second lap I had already eaten what Power Gels had not slipped out my pockets on the crashes, had slugged down my GATORAGE (Gatorade/Red Bull fuel mixture), and had given up on the drink valve on my camelback (it took too much oxygen for me to try and pull and water out, each time I used this new contraption) This new drink valve was a total hassle, each usage left me hypoxic, the effort alone was like trying to solve the RUBIX CUBE with my mouth, and that is no way to expend your energy when you are trying to stay vertical on two wheels when the earth is trying to throw you down on the matt.
With the loss of confidence was a loss of time. Eventually I was able to reel in the number two man. He greeted me kindly. Said that he had been awaiting my arrival and gave me room to pass. There was not enough mileage left for me to catch the lead racer of the Clydesdale class. The race was over and he had finished a minute 15 faster than me and the third place racer was 45 seconds back off me. Our stop to aid the fallen racer did not effect our placement in the finish and may have given us that added good Karma that kept each crash from being damage to the bike or injury to the body.
It was a good race. All of the competitors were forced to contend with the same conditions. My excuses are the same as all of the other racer's excuses, everyone was victim of the slick roots and the wet rocks. Many people crashed, a few people got hurt, and a lot of people complained, such is the nature of the beast. It was good to get out and race. It was good to get out and see some familiar faces and to make some new friends. It was also good not to give way to the excuses. There are always a thousand excuses not to race and seeing a little icon of a cloud blocking the sun on WEATHER.COM is not enough reason to dodge a race.