So I guess I can retract my statement below that I sucked. I did fine, just again, not how I could have. It was another race filled with problems and in the end, a less than stellar result than what could have been. But damnit though, I'm learning! It's always something small that ends up costing me the results that I'm looking for, but when you're racing at the top end of the Cat 1 spectrum, small problems cost precious minutes that seperate the best of the best.
We decided to break the 10 hour drive from KC, MO to Oshkosh, WI up into two days because JP wanted to stop and pick his mom up in Burlington, IA to take her up to see some friends in Oshkosh. She was kind enough to house us on Thursday night, and we rolled the rest of the drive Friday to Oshkosh, and then eventually over to Mt. Morris where the race was being held.
Pre-ride commenced, we quickly realized that this wasn't going to be a cake walk course. The starting hill was a real hellava way to wake up the legs after driving for two days. It was the pretty intense way to start a race. After the lung and leg breaking climb, you had a short downhill into another short climb littered with rocks and roots that were slick like snot. The trail recieved a bunch of rain the days leading up to it, and so with that it lead to a pretty slick start of the loop. Luckily the trail seemed to get better the further into the loop it went.
There were some pretty cool features, with the big rock drop-in being my favorite. From the top coming in the first lap it looked like a straight drop off, so we took the sally line around it. Then I looked back and realized it was actually the A line and it could be rolled. Let me tell ya, that first time rolling it was almost a collar bone breaker. I got squirrely coming down off of it and almost got ejected but somehow managed to stay connected to the Epic for what was a pretty Epic moment. I hiked back up and hit it again, this time much cleaner. Sweet, a 5 second saver! Turns out everyone was taking this line, so there wasn't a real advantage.
The course also included some very sweeping uphill switchbacks, the Trek drop zone, and some other rock gardens that could be taken at crazy high speeds. Overall the Epic was loving the course, but there were a couple of tight tree's that challenged my bars each pass, and a tight twisty section close to the Start/Finish that wasn't condusive to the big wheels.
A nice rest Friday night, and then up and at it early to head to the course for our 11AM start. Pre-riding, I felt good. I was attacking the pedals nicely, and recovering quickly. I felt on. Fast forward to 25 minutes to race time, and I notice that a group of racers were already forming towards the Start/Finish.
Going off the Sport start, I figured they were going to stage us by age groups, and getting the the line super early wasn't going to really matter. Turns out I was wrong, but smart enough to notice the swelling crowds to jump in second line just on the outside. I wasn't used to a call up of over 100 riders, and once the cut the rope to make our way to the Start line, all hell broke loose. Luckily my long legs hobbled my way up to the start line, still maintaining my 2nd row postition. Travis wasn't so lucky, sitting 4 or so rows back, and JP Brockett was even more unlucky not showing up till the end and catching the back of the train.
The start was ridiculous. We were packed in like sardines. I had some CycleYouth kid asking me to get his bars in front of mine, to which I kindly replied no thanks, and told him that at this point, it was every man for himself. Normally I would give him the room, but at that moment there was absolutely no room to give. 5 seconds to go, and I wondering how the hell to survive this onslaught.
Luckily I manage to get out of the gates ok, and besides being pushed into the fence, managed to clip in and get going. I couldn't go for shit at the start. Not sure what the deal was, the whole start climb was a blurr. I just didn't have the gas to make it up to the leaders, and before I knew it I was coming into the single track 15th or so, in the line of guys who quickly had to dismount the wet rocks and roots to make it through. Luckily we made it back on our saddles fairly quickly, and the race was on. Apparently the group behind me wasn't so lucky, as the other 90+ riders all bunched up at the entrance of the singletrack, making a rather large group of pissed off Cat 1 racers wait for up to 3-4 minutes to get going. Travis was in the group, along with JP. Apparently some guy wrecked in front of Travis at the start, leaving him to resort to the back of the pack also. Bummer.
So anyways the first lap was going stellar for me. I had a game plan to start picking guys off one by one, and by time we hit the open road by the wake board lake, I had already passed 5 guys. By the end of the lap I had worked my way into top 10 and was feeling great.
That's when my lucky changed.
Coming into the wet rooty rocky section of the start of lap 2, I fell over, and in the process, dislodged my left shoes cleat bolts. I noticed it pretty much right away, and it almost felt like I had broke my pedal, but yet I noticed I was still clipped in.
Shit. Now what.
I could still pedal, and I was still attached so I quickly grabbed my composure and told it to calm down and ride smart. I would just be easy on it. Unfortunatly that meant no pulling up with my left foot, as I didn't want to pull the bolts out completely leaving me unable to be clipped in at all. So basically I lost 25% of my power, on a course with a ton of climbing, and I was only 25% through the race.
It was pretty much downhill from there. Take it easy on the cleat, and try not to fall over.
I maintained position for the most part through lap 4. But then luck would leave me again. Coming off the three stair drop, I got squirrely on a rock and somehow tipped over, landing left side hard on a rock and twisting the bars over my top tube. This time it was the left brake, so now I have identical scratches on the top tube of my pretty flowyellow Epic. One from Mellow Johnny's, one from Subaru Cup. These ProXCT races haven't been nice to my frame.
I pick myself back up, but immediatly think I broke a rib. I'm still nursing a rib injury from Bump and Grind, and I landed on the exact same spot. The wind was nocked out of me, but I scurried to get back going. In the process I lost 4 or 5 more spots. I then procedded to jam the front end of my bike into a tree, causing a major tangle up of bike and wood, and again, lost another spot. I somehow brought myself back to center and finished off the race somewhat cleanly.
What was left of it anyway.
Some guy did pass me on the last hill, and even though I reattached myself to him, I couldn't get the inside line at the finish to sprint him. I tried hard though, and I'm confident I've never thrown my Epic that fast or hard into a 90 degree left hand grassy turn. I had that thing sideways and skidding like crazy. The guy was smart though, and without getting the inside line, finishing in front of him was impossible.
So that was my race.
K-Rocket blew the doors off and took 1st overall in the Cat 1 women. That was huge and she was glowing with excitement. I was wondering what the guy on the top of the hill was talking about when he told me my teamate was winning. I thought he meant Travis, and maybe I missed Travis getting in front of me at the start. Turns out it was our little gal K.
Travis came in 4 minutes behind me, and then JP about another 5 behind that. Oh, well, at least one of us won. That's two overall Cat 1 wins at a ProXCT this year for Ethos. That's pretty huge.
Also in the confusion that was yet another screwed up timing issue, our gal Sara W got pulled coming into the finish because they thought she was going out for her last lap. Turns out she was finishing, and even though she did finally finish, she lost quite a few minutes in the confusion. Apparently the other gals in her race were honest though, and she took 2nd in her Cat 1 age group.
At the end of the day I somehow ended up 3rd in the 24-34 age group, which made no sense at all. According the the results I was 19th overall out of 100+ experts, but not 3rd in the 24-34. I figured they were going to do awards for the Midwest Regional Championships though, which is the age group of 19-24. I was 2nd overall in that age group. So it was a surprise when they announced the 24-34 age group and I was 3rd.
They had the womens results all screwed up, with a ton of gals that were last in the race up in the top 10, and so I guess they also screwed up the mens. Who knows, but I'll take my 3rd. Still not sure if the overall changed though, although it must have, because I was 6th from my counting in the 24-34 group. Again, just screwed up results overall, which surprisingly doesn't change even at the top level events. Bump and Grind was about the same. Texas was however pretty smooth.
Ethos did fairly well though given our circumstances. 3 out of 5 podiums on the Cat 1 field for our crew.
I had a blast overall, and learned yet another valuable lesson. Check your cleat bolts! I think I had a very good chance at top 10, and maybe even that top 5. In the end it was the 17-18 year old juniors that took all the top spots, killing it with their youngness. I was back 6 minutes, which is alot, but not really considering how my race went. My climbing really suffered on the last 3/4th of the race due to the cleat issue. The cleat was moving freely from front to back and side to side, and I don't know how it even stayed on.
But I finished damnit. And I got my medal.
I'm happy. Last year I would have been more than stoked for the same result. I just happen to have higher expectations this year. Although until this year I had never raced a major race like this, and now I have 3 under my belt. I could have of top 5'd the last two, but little mistakes make a world of difference when you're competing with the best.
I'm there. I just have to race clean.
It's a never ending process...
No pics yet, but here's the Trek Drop Zone as the lead pack of Pro's came through. Sorry for the nothingness at the start. I was really drunk by this point, and I wasn't focused too well. The after race beer never tasted so good.
Go to Subaru Cup next year... It's a blast. Huge crowds, a great course, and some awesome cheese curds!