We loaded up the Trek Stores short bus and got on our way Saturday morning with Ryan and Anne racing marathon, Chris rocking out in the SS category and Kev and I looking for the W in Cat 1. The drive up was pretty chill until we got a call from Scott who's car broke down in Sioux City, problem was we were already outside SC on our way to Ponca and were already cutting it close to get RA and Anne to the line on time. He'd have to wait for Nate and Jesse.
We all worked together to get the marthoners setup before go time and sent them off with roaring cheers. Next, it was time to kit up and get a lap in. Conditions were perfect. The sections I expected to be greasy were, and my choice of 36x20 looked to be a good one. We rode the lap pretty chill, trying to soak in as much information and memorize the turns as much as possible.
The Cat 1 field was pretty small with a handful of no shows and a few others racing marathon. I was still expecting a brawl between myself, Cam Kirkpatrick and Kevin Limpach. Well, I hoped there'd be one. I was cautiously optimistic, legs were bad on Wednesday but felt good today. At the gun I took the whole shot and wound up the gear. I was fully expecting Kevin or Cam to come charging by on the downhill start straight but as we turned onto the course I heard pop and then felt no resistance on the pedals. Dropped chain.
Oh yeah, that's what I was going to do before Platte, add some tension to my chain. I thought to myself, stay calm, get the chain back on, this is a good thing. I could now ride my own pace, slowly bring guys back and not get caught up in the first lap testosterone challenge. Of course, I was dead pan last now and the course is about 90% singletrack. I was able to get on to the back of the group quicker than I expected, heart rate was good, legs were good, bike was rideable. Let's go.
Started picking guys off right away, everyone was more than helpful in letting me squeeze by and by the top of the second climb I was up to 6 place or so and could see the group of 5 leaders just a few seconds in front. Setback two happened just as we began the pool climb when I dropped my chain a second time. Jesse came back by and I rushed to get it back on before I lost another spot. Another 15 seconds of trailside repair passed and I jumped back on, joining the chase again. I would eventually get back to Jesse within the next half lap and soon Kevin and an 'on form' Matt Tillinghast were in sight. The problem, no Cam. By this time we were back around to the pool climb, 1 lap with no chain drop! I was excited.
Up ahead I could see Kevin lose Matt's wheel and he would let me by before the descent back to the pool. If the numbers were right in my head was now chasing Matt for 2nd place. It took me a while to get up to him and wouldn't you know it, just as I got onto his wheel my chain would drop for a third time. The problem with this whole situation was it significantly handicapped my riding style. No longer could attack the descents and wind up my pedal stroke out of the corners, I was going to have to do this on the hills. Ever rotation had to be down with care so the chain wouldn't jump.
It was at about this time Jesse had charged up to my back wheel and were now a three up train with a lap and half to go. I took the decision to come around Matt at the pool and try to control the tempo with my one gear. As we crossed over the start line to begin the last lap my plan was simple, take the heart rate up to the limit, stay smooth and attack the steep sections to keep my gear turning. I could slowly hear the two behind falling off my wheel and as we hit the base of the pool climb I could see Matt and Jesse 10-15 seconds back. If I could keep my chain on, I knew I could hold the gap. All was good on the climb, I kept the pedal stroke smooth on descent and rolled across the line in 2nd for what was one of my more challenging hard fought races, it felt awesome to be battling all day.
I never did see Cam you rolled through 2 minutes up. Good job to RF and Rafal who pulled 1st and 2nd in the marathon. Team Velogear / Midwest Wheelmasters is off to a roaring start, now that we have jerseys. Matt 4th, me 2nd, Craig Schmidt 3rd in Cat. 2. Things are looking good with CX season on the horizon.
I'm pretty sure this drops me into the lead of the Nebraska Mountain Bike Series, a position I never thought I'd find myself in, at least not this season. I may need to adjust the program a bit.
Team Velogear.com making it happen on dirt