The start is always the most interesting part for me as the single gear and 150 yard starting straight never quite get along. At the gun I managed to seat in 11th wheel as we sprinted into the singletrack. Up front it was the usual train of Cam Kirkpatrick leading Kent McNiell, Kevin Limpach and Nate Woodman. Further back a small group of us began getting held up as the front 6 rode away. Through the pine forest I finally began picking guys off. Jay Chesterman had a big slide out in front of me and went down. Hopefully I didn't jinx him as earlier we were talking tires and I voiced my concern that his choice for the day might not have enough side knob. My meaty Jones XR's were gripping quite nicely and I was able to move closer to the front with each passing corner.
By the end of the first 6+ mile loop I had worked my way to seventh and was chasing Aaron Elwell and Nate for a podium spot. I made the decsion to make the pass on Aaron and keep rolling forward so Nate and I could tag team it and try to get back to the front. Turned out Nate had caught a pedal in a corner and gone down, motivation lost. With Nate coming off my wheel I was back to going it alone and fighting the 30 mph winds on the prairie climbs. The front group was moving away but I had Jim Winklepleck and Jesse Peterson chasing me down. On the final climb of the lap I rolled by Kent as he stood on the side of the trail. Again, tires coming into play. I don't like taking risks when it comes to rubber and since going to tubeless on my Shimano XT 29er wheels I have yet to puncture. The combination of the big footprint of a 29er along with a UST tubeless wheelset and Stan's sealant is the golden ticket.
Now in fourth position, Cam, Kevin and Steve Jarret in front, Jim and Jesse behind the yoyo game commenced. Jim was going to catch me, I would gap him off a bit on the techy bits but his gains on the climbs were more than mine. The question was, how was Jesse. The last thing I wanted was to miss out on a podium spot. Jim came by me as I tried to match his tempo all the while keeping a loose eye on Jesse's progress behind. As I slowly lost Jim's wheel I noticed the yoyo effect was more pronounced with Jesse behind. He was giving it hard on the climbs but by the end of 3 he was by, fifth place gone, no podium.
Lap four and my 36x19 was feeling reeeeally heavy, big gaps back to 7th meant I could go into conservation mode as the 100 degree sun beat down on my back. Across the line and to my surprise I was called out 5th. Huh? Apparently Steve was struggling with the heat and pulled out at some point. I couldn't believe it, mission accomplished, another Cat 1 podium to match my Manawa finish two years ago. The long miles through June and July have paid off.
Elsewhere on the course...
- Corey "Cornbread" Godrey was absolutely killing it in the 3 hour marathon. He floated a tantalizing 15 seconds in front of me my 3rd lap, his 7th, and I couldn't real him in.
- Kevin Wilkins dropped in for a 6th place Cat 1 finish.
- Attrition in the heat was a major player, claiming more than a few souls.
Next up is the XC in Norfolk. This will be the second reschedule for this race, hopefully third times a charm. Course is similar to Tranquility, could be another fun one.
Not to let a good weekend go to waste, Nate and I got in a good 50 miler on Sunday to boot after a huge breakfast burrito at Louie M's. Dodged a few thunderstorms but it was a sweet ride on the CB hill loop.