Monday, April 26, 2010

Rocked by the one cog--Single speed polooza race report

What a weekend! After 9 hours in the car on Saturday, I got home in time to take the new climbing bike for a quick spin before total darkness. I finally collapsed in bed at 11 after packing for Sunday's race. 4 am came around rather quickly. At 4:42, I went out to the car and felt a bit of optimism as the forecasted rain had not yet appeared. I headed back inside to brew a cup for the road. When I returned outside at 4:49, it had started to alternate between drizzle and light rain, which continued until about an hour and a half into the race.

When we got to Stewart State Forest, it was obvious that the SB8's were not going to work, so I put on a set of Kenda Karmas, which was a wise decision--as even the Karmas were caked with mud and sliding all over the place. The other equipment decision that was questionable was my choice of gearing. I have raced at Stewart twice before and both times the singletrack was hard and fast. I decided to go with a 32-17 on the 29er after hearing from the awesome folks down at Dark Horse Cycles that after the big climb, the trail was relatively flat and even if it did rain, the course would hold water well.


So how did the race go? After a brief and inadequate warm up which left me wet and covered in mud, I got to the start line and waited as my group started last. I started on the front line and managed to make the turn into the singletrack in the top three. Feeling pretty good, it did not take long to realize it was going to be a long day with a 17T on the back. I popped out of the first singletrack loop in 7th or 8th and headed for the climb, which started on the road and after a very short flat section turned into the woods and started up on the single track--not fun on 2 inches of thick slippery mud on a over-geared SS. I was able to ride the climb but it was taking way too much effort and very slow-going. I felt like I was turning the pedals over at about 30 rpm--just crushed my knees.

Popping out on the road to start the road climb.

After getting over the top, the descent was a host of sharp off-camber turns again with the thick mud and now the wet roots were making their presence known--did I mention my SS has a rigid fork--reconsidered that choice all day! The hill, both up and down, killed my hopes of a top ten finish as it seemed like I must have lost 10-15 places--mostly on the descent. As I was told, after the descent, the trail was relatively flat with nice manageable rollers--the gearing felt much better and I just tried to be efficient and choose the best lines. The trail was still very wet and slippery but more of a watery mud, not the super thick stuff that sucks the power out of you, so I felt like I was going good. Towards the end of the first lap, the course detoured through a old building which was pretty cool--would love to see those pictures. By this point, I had been riding by myself for half an hour or so and was guessing I was in about 20th place.

Somewhere on the flat part of the course getting killed by the rocks and my rigid front end.

As I finished the first loop, I was still feeling really good all things considered and my goal for the second lap was to pass 10 people--I managed to get by 4 by the top of the road climb and I held them off through the singletrack climb which was now totally trashed after 250 people had ridden over it--that hurt! I got 2 more before the trail spit out on the next road section where I got on more that was number 7. Back on the singletrack, the guy I passed on the road passed me, so I was at 6 and he seemed to ride away on a little downhill through tight trees. I did not see him or anyone else for that matter for a long while. On the other road sections, I could see people up the road but could not close on them. It was not until the last mile that I caught him and 2 others--there was a steep little rock face that we all came into and I ran up, getting ahead and managed to hold them off for the last couple of minutes. I ended up passing 9, which was nice--unfortunately they were not all from my group. I finished in 2:31 which was a lot slower than I had planned--of course, my planning was based on the dry super-fast singletrack I rode at the 40 2 years ago.

The steep little rock face that I mentioned--got by 3 on foot.

In retrospect, with the 17t, I felt like I definitely had an advantage on the road sections and probably passed a dozen or so people; however, I got killed on the wet, muddy hills. My goal was to get in a 2.5 ish hour hard training ride and have fun doing something different,which I did. This was my first SS race and I must admit I greatly under-estimated single speeding as a specialty--I have a lot to learn. Will it be my last? Not sure, but safe to say it was my last for a while because the one cog killed my legs and the rigid fork beat the piss out of the rest of my geriatric body--man am I sore today! No wonder I've been loving the road bike. In all seriousness, I did this race to break up the monotony of training and that was accomplished, but I'm so sore I'm not sure I could get on a bike today if I had to and tomorrow's intensity may be out the window as well.
It's worth mentioning that I think Stewart State Forest as a race venue isn't the greatest--i.e., very limited resources/parking--which always makes it hard on the family, but with that said, the singletrack rocks and the folks at Darkhorse Cycles have always put on great events--they did not disappoint with the 2010 SSAP.

Just before the finish--still love to play in the mud--man were my legs cooked.

About the cleanest my glasses were all day-- During the race I had to spray them with my water bottle every chance I got just so I could see.

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