Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Dakota 5-Oh so fun

Okay, first let me apologize for being a little delinquent over the summer. Blog posts have been few and far between and lacking content. I found myself caught up in the micro-blog world of Tweeter and Bookface. But I promise, I'll do better. How can I not, cross season is literally less than a week away and there is tons to talk about. But first...there's this little matter of closing out the Ballooner season. There's no better way to do that than at the Dakota 5-O.

Anne and I first made the trek to Spearfish, SD back in 2007. We continued to return until the 2011 edition when I tried my hand at Gateway Cup and a four pack of crit races. But in 2012, it was time to return to the Black Hills, this time with gears. My previous 4 attempts at Singlespeed were very rewarding. I slowly worked my way up to the front of the group, only to lose in 2010 by 30 seconds and a flat front tire. Disheartening to say the least. So in 2012 I was back with a vengeance, this time with gears and gunning for the overall win.

We (Anne, Gus and I) hit the road Thursday night and met up with Megan and Rafal in Ainsworth for the night. Driving with an 11 week old puppy is slow going at times. The stops are longer and more frequent. We managed however to roll into the Spearfish City Campground just past noon on Friday and got a nice ride in. The same would be done the following day and with Gus finally sleeping through the night I felt like I was fully (mostly) rested and ready to go.

On race morning the routine from my previous four years fell right into place. Up at 5am, roll to Common Grounds for a breakfast bagel and mocha latte, then back to the campground to prepare bottles and kit up.

Although 50 miles doesn't quite warrant a warm-up, the start is strenuous enough you want to have the option to 'go' if needed.

Gettin' the fist bump from Smokey

My hopes of victory and my plan of leading into the opening singletrack were squelched almost immediately when I met up with Cameron Chambers at the start line. I figured I could race with everybody else but Cameron is in a whole different league. And this season he's riding better than ever. To put that in perspective, he's a former National Solo 24 Hour Champion.

Best of the rest holeshot into the singletrack

Sure enough, as Perry dropped his arm after the neutral roll out, Cameron stood up on a bigger gear than the rest of us and it was quite obvious the race was for second. Initially, local boy Dave Olson and I responded until Cameron stood up again, I let him go, Dave followed, only to sit up another half mile up the opening gravel road. As Dave drifted away from Cameron's wheel, I decided to bring him back with hopes of still being the first to singletrack in our best of the rest group. Dave gave me a slight challenge but I eventually went through and took the lead.

This is where it gets fuzzy. Dave and Dan Methaney were on my wheel, pretty sure it was just the three of us. By half climb Dan skirted by me as well as Dave. The two pulled out a 30 second gap on me with the gap behind to the rest about the same. I was fine with this as we still had over 40 miles to go.

Over the cattle ramp early on
I managed to keep the two in sight for quite awhile but it was clear they were both climbing faster than me. My real hope now was to settle into 4th place and hold it to the finish. By checkpoint 2 I could hear somebody stalking me, Anne gave me my final two bottles and minute thirty time split to the two in front. To my surprise, as I rolled through checkpoint 3 I saw Dave in front of me. My decision to ease up early seemed to be paying off. But my hopes of a top three were short lived. By the time I passed checkpoint 4 I had Jim Mayer, Mr. Quarq, breathing down my back. He must have been the one that had been stalking me all day. Back to 4th place.

Jim too was just straight out-climbing me. With nobody in sight behind me I put it in cruise mode, downed some more Skratch Labs and heading into the finish. The final descent was uneventful, I rolled in 18 some minutes down on Cameron who set a new course record at 3:27. I would better my time by 15 minutes over my singlespeed time two years ago, finishing in 3:45. Big props to 5-O first timer Brad Auen for bringing in a top 10 at 3:54.

Finally on the top step at the 5-O

My 4th place overall was good enough to win the 40-49 age group and I finished knowing that I couldn't have done any better on the day. I gave everything I had on the climbs, descended strong and just barely held off cramping.

It's been a great mountain bike season, 4 wins and a second place. Hard to not be happy with those kinds of results. Now on to cross season, but more on that later.

Best one woman support show in the biz, I owe it all to her

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