It has been a rough Monday.... Got home from Steamboat Springs at about midnight last night, was in bed by 12:45 AM, then 6AM wakeup. I'm not moving very fast today, feel a bit dehydrated, and am sleepy and grouchy. These are all signs of the kick ass weekend I had!
The weekend started on Friday late afternoon. One of the guys on the team, Brian Sells, has a ranch outside of Steamboat that he offered to let the team stay. Many of us took him up on it, including myself. I arrived Friday evening before the sun had completely set and was amazed at the views. This was seriously the land of where the antelope roam, and elk, foxes, coyotes, porcupines, mountain lions, and other Colorado creatures.
I felt like forgetting the real reason I was in Steamboat Springs just to hang out and explore the 68 acres of my friends land. At night it was so quiet except for the coyotes, the sky was so dark and clear the Milky Way could be seen. It was awesome!
Saturday several of us from the team did a preride of the Steamboat Stinger's first ten miles or so. We started from Brian's ranch which gave us a nice 30 minute warmup. Then we hit the start of the race course. There did not seem to be much run out for the start, within about the first couple hundred meters the course was on the mountain headed straight up to the first small section of singletrack. I'm glad I got to ride this section because being on the left or right side of the trail made a difference to make the first sharp turn.
For the next ten minutes or so we climbed doubletrack trail, crossed a meadow, then dove into the trees. Most of the forested parts seemed to be comprised of scrub oak and ferns, separated by sections of meadows of grasses and wildflower. It was an amazing place to ride! The trail switched back and forth sometimes nearly doubling back on itself. Another ten or fifteen minutes later the trees seemed taller and the trail once again turned to doubletrack, it also pitched up a few degrees. We occasionally stopped to rest, this was the preride, no need to burn any matches. However, soon the trail turned back to singletrack and pitched up even steeper winding through thicker forest until it was so steep it was nearly impossible to ride. In fact most of us walked the last few hundered feet to the top of the climb.
At the top the course took us a little higher on doubletrack, then a slight descent into the first singletrack descent. This part was wicked! Much of the singletrack was narrower than handlebars and we were more or less bicycled powered weed whackers! Right up to the edge of the trail was thick scrub brush, trees, and wildflower. Much of the descent switched back and forth on itself again, and since the vegetation was so thick and tall it was usually only possible to see about the next five feet of trail. I must admit, this descent was a bit stressful.
I had noticed that my new Niner Jet 9 RDO rides a bit taller on the front than the previous Jet 9. So using the same bar and stem setup from my Jet 9 leads to the handlebars being higher than my seat when set up on the RDO. So I did not have my body weight well balanced over the RDO, and I think this added to my uneasiness with coming down the fast switchbacks. Although this is mostly a guess. Since wrenching on a bike just before a race is bad juju, I decided to leave it as it was.
So we made it to the bottom of the first descent during our preride, which spit us out about a quarter mile from the ranch. We headed back to the ranch, showered and then headed to town to run errands and grab lunch. Much of the day involved bike cleaning, errands, then more eating. I was thinking maybe I should sit down and rest more but instead after dinner I managed to get in a tour of part of the ranch, some photos can be seen here. The sun was setting and made the views even more beautiful.
Race day was a 5AM wakeup to eat and get the final prep done before riding to the start. We all agreed riding to the start would help us loosen the legs since we wouldn't have any of that during the first miles of the course. Finally the 7:45AM lineup was called. The team all signed up for the Pro/Open category, there was only two other categories of Citizen then Duo. Many of the faces I recognized as the well known local pros, I lined up a few rows back so I wouldn't be in the way!
As expected the start was a little sketch, 100 feet of pavement, very loose gravel, 100 meters of gravel pitching up to eroded gravel/rock then a right turn onto singletrack. It all was happening fast, and it was crowded. I was glad I had the RDO. I left ProPedal turned off and opened the gate on the fork so I was ready for the rough. The RDO climbs like a mountain goat, never once did I get wheel spin, even the few times I was in a bad gear and standing up flogging the cranks as hard as I could, every pedal stroke sent me forward. As we got back to double track I settled in, a few people passed me and I passed a few, finally getting to single track again that dove across a meadow then twisted back up into the trees.
When I got the the singletrack crossing the meadow it was a straight shot, and since there were no curves handling my unbalanced bike setup wasn't an issue and I was able to stay on the wheels of the guys in front of me and open a gap behind me. For the next 20 minutes or so I climb the first climb that we prerode the day before without much incident aside from the bottleneck at the steep section at the top.
Coming down was a different story. The guy that was in front of me at first was even more sketchier that I was, and that freaked me out, then racers caught up to my wheel. I was hitting the brakes a lot harder than I had wanted since the guy in front of me was, then we came to the first blow out corner. I knew it was coming and let a little space open, but then came down too fast and missed the turn with four other racers following me. A couple of them got past me as we got going again. For the next bit I was trying to calm down and relax, but then I passed a racer who had flown off the trail and was practically hanging in a tree. After a short time more racers caught up with me, a couple on the team, and I squeezed over to let them by. I managed to make it down without loosing too much ground, but was quite frazzled. As I rolled through the first well stocked aid station I got a water bottle handup. This was really awesome, I never stopped for water the entire race, I was able to get a handup at every aid station, just tossed my empty bottles and grabbed fresh ones. Very awesome!
After about 2.5 miles of dirt road the course headed back to singletrack mostly under the cover of trees. I liked this second climb, it was the right grade for me to put the bike in a big gear and power up. It probably took about an hour to climb up through more forest, ferns, meadows, wildflower. The RDO was easy to pedal, it seemed much easier than the Jet 9 for some reason. I think a lot of that perception had to do with I knew it was only a 50 mile race, not a 100!
As I crested the top I got another handup of fresh water and got sort of stuck behind another racer who bobbled and slowed me down, kind of like one of those drivers that is driving their car slow and not using their signals and are wavering a bit in their lane, I just didn't know what they were going to do. Finally I went wide around them and started the descent back to the start/finish. This descent I started feeling a bit more confident with handling, and a new test of the RDO came up. A long rock garden of stair stepped broken up slickrock. It was bouncy but the wheels stayed on the ground and other than riding past my turnoff point I had no issues. Then we got back into tight swithbacks and trees. I biffed a tree with a handlebar, and confidence quickly went away. But finally made it to the bottom upright and feeling good.
At the bottom I grabbed a couple of my bottles of Carborocket 333 and headed back up. I figured the going up this side for the second time was going to hurt. I had no idea!
At this time of day, which was about 10:40AM, the warm temps started to kick in. Within minutes of climbing up the course I felt hot. I made sure I was drinking. Sweat was dripping from the front of my helmet and I noticed my arms were glistening wet with sweat. Wow I'm hot, I was thinking. Another teammate, Jim Fu, (my apparent identical twin to some) surprised me and came up and we rode together for a stretch. I was mentioning how uncomfortable I was feeling all of a sudden with the heat as well as unusual discomfort in my nether regions when suddenly my right quad froze in a complete lockout cramp. Holy crap went through my mind. I thought I had the cramping issues sorted out, holy crap this hurts! I was howling in pain, I couldn't keep quite it hurt so bad. Another teammate, Anothony Thorton rolled up and offered me some assistance with Enduralites. I downed a few and crawled to the shade to rest. Once it seemed I could flex my leg without it cramping again I was on my way again, I had been idle for almost five minutes it seemed.
Luckily my legs still felt strong. I grabbed water at the next aid and headed down the sketch singletrack. Other than blowing the corner I blew every other time I rode through it, I felt a bit more at ease this time. Maybe it was because I didn't have anyone riding my wheel down. I made it to the bottom, chugged my water and got more at the next aid. For the next climb I was on a mission to regain ground I lost when I stopped for my cramp. I caught back up to Jim near the bottom and since I did push a bit to catch him I rode with him for a bit to rest. I finally pressed on. As I got nearer the top I caught other racers and my progress slowed since there were not the greatest passing opportunities. Finally I crested the top, grabbed more water from the aid. As soon as the trail pitched downwards I realized I was in for a ride!
My hands and arms were tired, as was my back and shoulders, the descent was going to be super tricky! I should have gone a little slower but at least for the first part of the descent I opened a bit of a gap, then I hit a tree with the right end of my handlebar, and recovered just in time to hit another tree with the left end of the handlebar, which sent me sideways on the trail. I think I made couple of good thuds, as I was not real quick to get up! I gathered myself up and had the remaining four miles to the finish quite a sketchy slow scaredy cat descent. I was really feeling the hot weather and wanted some cold water.
Finally I crossed the line at about 5 hours 46 minutes. I was glad it was over, I wasn't going to be able to ride anymore. I had a bloody knee and elbow, and I noticed a lot of racers had bloody spots on them! This is how I felt when I finished:
Timing and results:
All timing and results:
Since the race I have made some setup adjustments that seem to sort out my body position over the handlebars. I've flipped the stem over giving about about 1cm of drop then I flipped my 9er carbon bars over to the 5mm drop setting. I feel like I'm on top of the bars a little better now. I just have to find the right trail to give it a proper test!