Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Five-O report: 2010

Post race - looking pretty fresh

The Dakota Five-O is one of those races. More of a festival than a mountain bike race. It goes by the moniker, Race, Ride, Tour. Which is perfect. Hardly anyone walks away empty handed.

This year Nebraska had a huge showing, with riders appearing from every corner of the state. Friends also made the trip from Kansas, Iowa, and Montana. The event grew again in 2010 and filled the 500 rider limit a few weeks prior. Each year I've done it, it's grown by about a hundred people.

The campground is only about two hundred yards from the start, it's by far the nicest campground you'll ever stay at. The MC short bus headed out a half day earlier this year to assure we got our favorite spot. We arrived to the bustling Spearfish City Campground and claimed our spot along the ice cold, spring fed stream that meanders through the site.

The afternoon and following day were spent pre-riding the course, registering, and goofing around the campground. Temps were perfect, we were all ready.

Leading the second group into the single-track
I awoke before my alarm at 5:15 and rode into town with Jeremy and Mike to Common Grounds for a breakfast bagel and coffee. These guys have never let down yet and it's been the perfect fuel for 4 years running. We got back to camp with just enough time to kit up, fill the bottles and do a quick spin. Temp was ideal, in the low the 50's.

The start is one of the more hectic ones. With 4 miles of uphill gravel road it's a study in conservancy. Too fast and you may blow up later, too slow, and you'll enter the single-track too far back and play catch up all day. My plan, stay with the lead single-speeder and test the legs. That man was Dejay Birtch from the Niner / Ergon team. We were also joined by Aaron Elwell and Lucas, as well as a couple other guys. We were the second group on the road. Dejay was spending a fair amount of time out of the saddle which made me think maybe he was overgeared, so I spun by him and latched onto Aaron's wheel. As we neared the single-track I took the lead position in hopes of not getting bogged down behind guys riding in granny.

All alone at aid station #1
The opening climb went really smooth, passed a couple guys and rolled into aid station #1 in 7th overall, 1st single-speeder. The next hour was a blur. A mile or two after station one, Aaron came up to my wheel and passed along a flatter section stomping out a big gear. I would manage to pull him back on the following climb and this would be the trend for quite a while. I thanked him for being my pace moto as I new we were at pretty similar levels having raced together a few weeks before at Rapture in Misery.

We blasted through the Iron Creek Drainage and started some of the tougher climbs on the course. For the first time since I started riding this race, I rode the climb out of Iron Creek. I thought, legs must be good today. But, I soon had to dismount as we started the fall line up to the edge of the canyon rim.

The rim is my favorite part of the course, rolling, twisting with rock gardens and fast dirt singletrack. I followed Aaron most of the way until he blew a downhill corner. I lost him at some point after and rolled into aid station #2 all alone again.

Best support crew on the planet
I rode through the Old Baldy aid station scanning the crowd looking for Megan, Roxy and Sarah. They were right where I thought they'd be and Sarah had my bottles out and ready to go. I came to a slow roll, grabbed both fresh bottles and headed back out, no stopping. My first thought, I just made up 30 seconds on everyone behind me.

Feeling good at aid station #2
I rode the next hour solo. Eventually I was caught by Aaron, again, and a couple other geared guys, right before aid station #4. I'd ride with or around them until the Bacon Station. I was surprised to pass Kelly McGelky who was having a bad day (he'd ridden a 75 mile point-to-point the previous day in Park City.) I arrived at the bacon station and grabbed a beer, chugged it, grabbed a slice of bacon, smiled at the camera and was off. I started choking on my bacon almost immediately as bacon bits shot from my mouth, to bad nobody had a salad in the vicinity.

The new single-track was awesome. A rocky ridge with awesome views. I wasn't sure how big a lead I had but I was riding a little tentative so I wouldn't puncture on the jagged rocks that littered this section of the trail. By the bottom, we were back on familiar fire road and the last climb of the day. I'd been swapping positions with a couple geared guys but you can imagine my surprise when I topped out the final climb to see a single-speeder come by me.

Jake Kirkpatrick had been chasing me all day and with 9 miles to go had finally caught up. My mind immediately shifted to "how can I beat this guy" mode. The scenario was a tough one. From here on out the trail was almost all downhill. I stayed glued to his wheel and watched his style to see how he was riding. He looked comfortable, good enough, plenty of time left.

As we continued to descend he began looking a little more rattled. I had one opportunity to pass on the singletrack where it widened slightly. After that, was another mile of single-track before the final 4 mile blast down gravel back into town. The plan, take the lead, try and open a gap on the trail and then let my extra weight and momentum carry me away down the gravel.

I made the the pass as planned but what happened next washed it all away. I must have punctured when I went off-line to make the pass. At the next corner the front end felt soft. The next corner I almost ate it. I thought to myself this couldn't really be happening. After a couple more close calls, it was obvious I was going to have to just keep him behind me. The tire was holding but with only about 10 psi in it. I blew the last tight corner and he got by me, exiting the single-track about 5 seconds in front me. My only hope now, catch and pass him on the gravel. In a full aero tuck I caught and slingshoted by him but he was able to get sucked along and stay close in my draft. My final undoing would be a downhill 90 degree paved corner. I had to slow way down to not roll my tire and that was it, he was gone, game over. I'd roll in 31 seconds behind him in 4:00:19, 2nd place single-speed, 8th overall.

All in all, I'm super stoked. I rode as hard as I could and didn't show any signs of cramping until the very last paved climb heading across to the finish. I've flatted in my last two races now, something that is very out of the ordinary for me. So I still have some unfinished business at the Five-O, we'll have to see where things go next year. I have to say a big thank you to my sponsor/employer Midwest Cycling-Trek Bicycle Stores and to all my travel mates, it was easy rolling.

Post ride
Beers with Smokey


RD said...

great write up
great ride
i'm going to replace my 29-3 team issue with 29-2 team issue just to see what happens....

Endurosnob said...

" bad nobody had a salad in the vicinity." Excellent.

scott showen said...

happy for ya mark, you'll get 'em next year..

brady said...

Congratulations Mark.

Cornbread said...

Nice work Mark and Nebraska! Way to represent!