Sunday, May 3, 2015

Blue Ridge Mountain Bike Festival (4/26/15)

Not long after getting home from Sea Otter, I was packing my bags once again to get ready for another trip away from home to race. After the "short" 9-hour drive to North Carolina (to be fair, we broke it up into 2 segments), I stepped out of the car to see the beautiful, green, mountain scenery of the southeast that I love.

On the pre-ride, I found myself faced with a 2.5 mile climb up the mountain that led to a fast flowing downhill single-track that was broken up from time to time with short climbs. The course also had some fun rocky sections that felt amazing on the Epic. Because of complications involving not having a junior cat 1 class, I was forced into racing in the Pro/Cat 1 Men 19-29, and doing 3 laps of the fun but challenging course.

By the time my 1:30 start time rolled around, I was ready to race! I was on the front line for the start, and when the whistle was blown, I managed to be the first one off the line. Luckily for me, I was quickly passed by several people and hopped on the wheel of the third person to pass me.

On the grass road that led to the long climb, I started getting passed by almost all of the riders that were behind me, unable to keep up at the pace the leaders were going. When I hit the climb, I was sitting about 9th or 10th and slowly began dropping back from the lead group.

Lousy pic, but that's me hanging on the back
After the first 5 minutes up the climb, I could see several stragglers up ahead and made it my goal to chase them down. This gave me a boost of energy and I started powering up the climb. After passing several people just before the descent, I was sitting in 6th place and could see two other riders not far in front of me, further down on the switchbacks. I did everything I could to catch them, and by the time I came across the start/finish line to start my second lap, I was only a couple seconds away from them. Once I got to the start of the climb again, I had made it back up to them and hopped onto their wheels. At the top of the climb, one of the guys attacked and got away, leaving 5th place and me riding together. Unfortunately for him, he flatted coming down the descent at the end of the second lap, allowing us to pass him and move into 4th and 5th positions.

I knew at this point that all I had to do to keep a top 5 was to make it up the top of the mountain with the 4th place rider and make it down the descent safely. So when I started feeling my legs fade towards the top of the climb, I gave it everything I had to stay with 4th. Once we hit the top, I let him go on ahead, knowing that if I continued to go his pace I would end up blowing up. After about 10 minutes of recovery, my legs started feeling surprisingly good, so I started hammering again, and soon saw 4th only a couple of switchbacks ahead of me. Seeing him so close gave me even more motivation to push myself, and by the time I reached the stretch that led to the finish, I was only a few seconds behind him. I pushed myself as hard as I could to catch him, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and I finished 14 seconds behind him for 5th place.

I'm really happy with how I did in this race and I hope to keep improving and doing my best in races to come.