Aside from 2 short track races in March this was going to be my first real race effort for the year. It's been a busy few weeks so I wasn't quite sure what kind of form I'd be in when the horn went off. Also, this was going to be only my 3rd XC event ever (raced KVSP the past two years on a 26" sofa pillow with less than stellar results). Oh, and I rode a mountain bike maybe 5 times max during 2010 and 2011. Nonetheless I had set high expectations for myself. Like as high as you can set them. Probably not realistic but they say to visualize success, right?
So how'd it go? Honestly all I can remember is that I got on my bike, felt like I was going to hurl for an hour, got off my bike. Instead I'll just make up a totally fictitious recap.
Warmup looks something like this: Stand around shivering in spandex for about 2 hours pushing the stroller while Allison is out racing. Brad is kind enough to poke sticks into the child's eyes while I ride a few hundred feet to warm up. Allison finishes her race, congratulate her, hand off the child and go ride a few hundred more feet.
Knowing that I want to be the first wheel or two going into the singletrack I pick a great spot in the staging area right at the back of my field. Horn goes off a minute after the 30-34 guys and were off. Weave through the pack and hit the road section in 5th and the voice inside my head says: "go to the front Eric. Pull everybody up the road and burn yourself up." So I do. Dumb.
Hit the first climb in the lead with some guy right on my wheel. Figure it's a whole train. By this point we are deep into the 30-34 field and weaving through traffic like a truck driver high on a handful of cheap amphetamines. Finally look back and it's just one red dude and me and we've but a big dent into the field. Bobble a rocky section before the bog and red dude passes me then proceeds to go back to the future--full on 88mph-in-the-delorian style time warp. He puts about 20 seconds into me in as much time. At that point I know I'm racing for 2nd unless red dude ends up getting into a fight with Biff at the prom and his mom falls for him instead of for his dad.
Middle of the race is a complete blur and I feel like just getting off and going for a hike instead. Asian dude that I know is in my field passes me on the fireroad which lights a fire in me. Shaved legs + nice calves = Roadie. Murder. He's off his bike on the next technical section but passes me again on the next climb and I think he's gone. Now I'm hurting again. At this point Lance has made his way up to me as I'm fading. We trade places for the last 5 miles. I gap him then drop my chain. He gaps me and I burn a match to catch up and so forth. Good battle.
Utah said during our Tuesday pre-ride that it's not about riding the technical stuff fast, its about being smooth. In cross my mantra is slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Somewhere during the race I decided that sloppy and erratic would be a better strategy and I proceeded to crash in spectacular fashion at least 3 times on sitting bear. One of the crashes dislodged my rear wheel from the dropouts. Another crash stopped my bike dead and somehow I was able to eject and land on my feet running downhill for about 20 yards. Like I said, smooth is fast, right?
See Lance about 10-12 seconds ahead coming up on the last hill but I've got nothing left. I figured 4th place but Asian dude cramped somewhere and we passed him without knowing. 3rd. Podium. Not quite where I wanted to be but I'll take it.
Lessons learned. 1) Technical stuff looks a lot different at race pace. 2) Technical stuff is a lot harder when you can't see straight. 3) You need to ride a mountain bike on technical stuff if you want to be able to ride it fast. I feel like I have the fitness at this point but I really need to channel the flow.
I'm flying back from Japan the evening before Jungle which should put me in top form to crush it there.