Gerry won the race and the series, keeping me off the top step twice this year. For this, I jack your pic....Congrats!!
Bad Idea #1, 34x18...My memory must have been fogged from 2009. Winning a race can do that to you. I remember the downhills to be long and somewhat smooth, and a lot of flats. The downhills are really long and pretty darn techy and the flats are much shorter than I remembered. I was relieved to see that Gerry Pflug (Salsa Cycles) decided to run a rigid also but on the first descent realized I could have been going way faster. Gerry took the hole shot and I sucked wheel for quite a while. The opening climb I was quite comfortable keeping Gerry in sight, knowing that he wasn't going anywhere. Towards the top, the pace seemed to slow and I closed the 25 yards he had on me real quick. We entered the single track wheel to wheel and the whole first downhill I was relieved to see that I was in control with no danger of getting dropped. Matt Ferrari (Freeze Thaw/Hubcap Cycles) was close behind and closed the gap to us shortly after Aid station 1. Just as Matt got up to us, the pace lifted (thanks to the gearies), and Matt was dropped before the switchback climb section. Gerry lead into this section and even though I felt walking would have been faster and more efficient we stayed on the bikes for most of it. After a couple of technical bobbles I ended up in front of Gerry. We were all off and walking some of the steeper sections at this point and I managed to put a few riders in between me and him, mostly due to the steep pitches that the gearies were attempting to ride, and failing on. I got to the top just thinking of getting down the other side at my own pace. I thought Gerry would chase hard and possibly make a mistake or two. When I popped out on the road, I thought I would see him. He was not there. Instead two Trek 29er guys were trading pulls and I jumped on. We were flying, probably over 25mph and I was dangling, just hanging on. This would prove to be my undoing. I should have just soft pedaled and waited for Gerry and Matt. My race after all, was behind me. I showed I was strong proving to myself I could get away, all I needed was to play the game a little, bide my time. My head got the best of me and on what I would consider to be the hardest climb of the day, I began to feel the effects of the pace line to Aid station 2. Gerry caught and went by me near the top. I didn't chase. Actually, I had to walk a little just to compose myself. I figured I would catch him on the downhill and after reading his race report, I would have. If not for an unfortunate chain of events.
Bad Idea #2, Rigid fork...I felt the rim hit rock a couple times before it actually happened, the dreaded pinch flat. I stopped to put air in knowing that the sealant most likely won't work and continued on my way. What seemed like 20 seconds later I'm on the side of the trail and attempting to get the Stan's sealant (that shot off the tire and on my face) out of my eye. Back on the bike and 50 yards down the trail I realize I need more air so I stop and empty the rest of the cartridge into the tire. Back on the bike, 75 yards later, A yellow jacket, flew into my jersey and stings me under my armpit. I stop to kill the sucker and pull the stinger out. This is when Matt goes by like a freight train, I don't think he even saw me. I ride the rest of the downhill like a pansy with 7lbs of air in my tire knowing I have co2 cartridges waiting for me at the next Aid station. My race is gone, and I become depressed. So depressed that I considered quiting, instead I decide I'm just gonna ride to finish.
"My race is over", I thought. The next two hours I talked to people, rode with them, didn't pay any attention to heart rate zones or effort level and basically just tried to have fun. That's when Dylan Johnson (Oasis Bike Works) came up behind me at the base of the big climb. He asked me "how many are in front of us"? I thought the kid was crazy, we were in like 50th place. Until I realized he was talking about other SS'ers. Dylan and I rode together to bring back Matt at the top of the climb. Looking back, I should have attacked and put some daylight in between us but I was having fun riding with the 16 year old prodigy. He dropped me on the long loose downhill, I rode like a small child at this point. I made a feeble attempt to pull him back on the road before the final climb but never even caught view of him.
I was over-geared and under-forked, but managed to hit the podium anyway. My time of 8:31 was a full 29 minutes slower than when I won this race in 2009. Speaking of 2009, my course record of 8:02'02 was shattered by the three time single speed winner. Gerry Pflug.
Shortly after this race I decided that next year, I'll compete in the N.U.E. series. I'll be doing the required amount of races to qualify for the overall. Hopefully I'll be banging bars with all you guys again next year. The series is top notch and the competition is stacked. It's where I want to be...