Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fool's Gold Part 2

I left off with the start of the race so here we go. We headed up the gravel road climb to Cooper Gap, 4 miles or so to the top of the ridge, then another 7 miles across the ridge gradually climbing. I was on the front of the race riding tempo. Three guys were up the road with another dangling in no-man's land. By the time we past the Ranger Camp, there were only 10 or so guys left in my group. Only a mile in and the other 250 people that started with us were gone. Up and up we rode into the increasing rain. I backed off a tad approaching the steeper sections before the top and came onto the ridge in around 11th or 12 place. Feeling better up there I opened the throttle and rolled it pretty hard across the ridge immediately dropping 4 guys and catching another group of 3. Soon I caught Jeremy and told him to get on my wheel as we hit it really hard across the top- we could rest on the downhill. Soon we had moved into 3rd and 4th place and left everyone else for good.
The downhill coming off the ridge was gnarly. 40mph in the pouring rain! We passed a ton of the 100 milers here and shot onto Turner Creek Trail at full speed. It became quickly evident that we couldn't ride that trail at full speed as nasty as it was. Red clay and roots made for a slippery situation so we dialed it down to a conservative pace and pushed on. Soon we made it to the Bull Mountain Loop 20 miles in. Aid Station #2 had nothing but water at this point so I stopped to fill up both my bottles. Rain continued to fall as the conditions were deteriorating. Jeremy left before I did so I was pushing on solo now. After a long climb up a gravel road that felt like quicksand I made it onto the trail up Bear Hair Trail for the technical climb to the top. After some pushing I made it to the descent. Rain was pouring down now and there was a good 8-12 inches of water cascading down the trail. I hammered pretty hard down Bull Mtn. My brakes started fading here so I stopped using them in an effort to save the pads for later. Some sections I was going way too fast and out of control but managed to pull it off. I started aiming for puddles and mudholes to scrub speed without using the brakes. Soon I was done with the loop and at Aid Station #3. After another bottle fill (4 bottles so far) and some chain lube I was ready to roll. The scene there was not good. I saw probably 50 people scattered around, standing, working on bikes, confused looking people, all covered head to toe in red clay. After weaving through the piles of muddy bikes laying around I was rolling again. 18 miles to go.
After some quick, really muddy singletrack, I was back on gravel for awhile. I rolled up the gravel at a good pace, glad that my legs were still feeling good and that I could push it a bit. Soon, the left hander onto the next loop of trail came. I almost blew the turn as my brakes were really starting to lose effectiveness now. That loop of trail went by much quicker than I remembered from last year and I found myself at the next Aid station. 10 miles to go, and it was looking like I would finish in under 5 hrs. now for sure. I didn't stop here and rolled on to start the Black Creek trail. I had been dreading this part the whole race. It's a cool trail but has a ton of steep up and down and I remembered a lot of clay last year.It was sure to be destroyed this year. I was right. I almost died 10 times on that loop with the combination of no brakes, slippery clay, and steep hills. Soon enough though I was approaching the end of the loop. I had caught Jeremy on a climb near the end of that loop. He had less brakes than I did and was dragging a foot on his tire to slow down.
After a quick stop for a coke at Aid #5 I pushed on, passing the 2nd place guy as well. 5 miles to go as I rode through a steadily climbing double track section. It seemed as if the rain was done now. Soon, the turn onto the last section of trail approached. With less than 2 miles to go I knew the end was near. I had a few close calls but was out of the trail and descending the gravel road into the Ranger Camp quick enough. Picking up speed on the gravel I became worried as I remembered a creek coming up. I had no brakes and hit the creek crossing at fullspeed. Last year it was only a foot or so deep. Not so this time I thought as my bike stopped and I hastily "dismounted" into the creek that was uptomy waist. My bike was floating away and I quickly grabbed it and got out of the creek. At least I was clean for the first time in 4 1/2 hrs! Anyways- down the hill I went knowing I'd be done in 2 min. or so. I barely made the turn off the road onto the trail down to the 4-H camp. Again, no brakes led me to hit the turn full speed and launch up into the woods at 100 miles and hour. After regaining control just in time to blow another turn I was ready to be done. Soon I was exiting the woods and riding between cabins entering the finish area. One creek crossing to go and I'd be done. After swimming in the last creek, I was taking no chances with this one and dismounted. The Ukrainian judge gave me poor marks but I didn't care. I was done. 2nd place at the end of an epic day for everyone. I went straight back into the creek to wash off and clean the bike. I think I just now got 100% clean. Later-DH

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