Sunday, November 8, 2009

Matt's Iceman Race Report

Ahhh...finally, Team Jackrabbit woke up on race day and the weather was beautiful! Though the forecast had been for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, we didn't believe it because of our previous bad luck and because it was 23 degrees when Big D arrived in Traverse City. Nonetheless, the mountain bike gods smiled upon us and treated us to a 60 degree, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky perfect racing day.

We knew from our pre-ride that the course was in beautiful shape. Given the warm weather, we were able to shed all extra clothing. We were feeling light and superfast.

Our support crew, however, was not feeling it the same way we were.

Due to the open registration, our wave had 218 racers, which was more than twice as many as last year. I personally thought this was going to be pretty exciting, but knew that it would call for a little different strategy. We planned to get to the start line early to ensure that we were up front. We wound up in the second line, which was perfect. The second part of the plan was to get out front as fast as we could, while we were still on the paved road. This actually went a lot better and faster than I thought it would. It didn't take long--just after I got myself clipped in, I looked up and saw Big Dave four bike lengths in front of everybody. I knew I had to hold up my end of the deal, so I got onto his wheel as quickly as I could, thinking, "Wow--this is really out of control!" I felt awesome, but realized I was churning out 575 watts, which, if I was lucky, would last about 30 seconds, so we dialed it down a bit. I tucked in behind the big man, who pulled me all the way to the first dirt road. A Herculean effort for him, who later told me that it took him 45 minutes to recover.

I needed to get to the singletrack up front, and as I counted, I was in seventh--thanks, Big Dave, or should I say, Big Diesel.

Big Dave sittin' up after his big effort. Cora said he went by, bitching about the cost of diesel fuel.
I settled into a pace that I could sustain for 2 hours and planned on picking off the riders ahead of me on the climbs, while also dodging the abundance of slower riders that started before us. I see-sawed with 2 of the riders in my wave for the first 13 miles and then finally got away from them at the Williamsburg Road crossing/aid station with a series of maneuvers that I'm sure looked to be reckless and out of control, or possibly like I was intoxicated. So I'm not quite sure whether I passed them because I was faster or because they backed off, not wanting to ride near a drunk cyclist. In my head, the spectators' cheers morphed into Johan screaming "Vollebak," so I went off--full gas over the small climb to the aid station--the only problem was the 15-20 folks going at no-gas pace, which left me shucking, diving and weaving while trying to get a cup of water from a terrified volunteer. I managed to get across 3 lanes of traffic to the deer-in-the-headlights volunteer and as I grabbed for the water, it exploded all over the both of us. As I disappeared into the woods, I was wrecked from the big effort, but looked over my shoulder and saw that I was free. By my count, I was now in fifth.

The second half of the course was just as crowded and other than a 2-minute standstill at a series of hairpin turns, the slower traffic was relatively negotiable. Although the second half of the course is a bit easier, there are a few short steep climbs that require big efforts. As I hit the first, I realized that everyone on the hill was walking, so I got way on the left side, which was lined with spectators going crazy. I cleaned the climb--the last thing I heard was someone screaming, "He did that in his middle ring!," which got me totally pumped.

With less than 2 miles to go, I could feel my legs starting to blow, and I knew that I had at least one climb left, but I wasn't sure what it was, as Dave and I had missed a turn during our pre-ride and missed the end of the course. As I passed Cora and the kids, she told me that I was in fifth. I finished up the last 2 minutes as fast as I could, with nobody in sight. It's a little deceiving, because the finish is quite narrow and full of turns, so there's no clear line of sight. As I turned the last 100 yards to the line, there was no one in front of me, so I missed out on a sprint finish. I felt great, later to find out that I missed third place by 10 seconds. Although that's frustrating because it would have been a fun finish had I known I was 10 seconds down, I'm so extremely happy with fourth out of 185 finishers. What a great way to end the season.

The Jackrabbit crew after a day of great racing.

An uneventful awards ceremony.

Bobby P with a little podium time.

Pretty sweet medal for fourth place and a big payday--check in hand.

Okay, so it wasn't that big of a payday--$35, which was quickly extorted from me by Phoebe, who demanded it in exchange for loaning Bella her geared bike for the SnoCone. She immediately deposited it in her money market fund and left a message for her broker. Just kidding, she bought everyone dessert at dinner--ice cream sundaes all around!

1 comment:

Bigdave said...

Strong post captain. I would like to request a few pics to add to my post...