If you visited MTBVT this weekend, you may have noticed that I’ve recently become a contributor to the site. My first article is a repost of the Gravel Grinder writeup from a couple of weeks back. This should be the first of many articles. I’m really looking forward to contributing more event reports, reviews and who knows what else, throughout the season. Not to fear, I fully intend to keep things going on this blog as well.
Just in case you missed it from my previous post, my daughter, Emma, has joined me on the NEMBA Racing team this year. She’s been pretty excited about it this spring while waiting for her jersey to arrive. Now we just need to work on getting her to finish a race without mechanical issues. She seems to be even more prone to that than I am.
The first race of the season. There’s always a bit of anticipation paired with a boat load of uncertainty. Am I ready for this? What kind of shape am I in compared with last year? Have I ridden enough? Has everyone else become faster than me while I was sitting at home watching Star Trek reruns on Netflix this winter? Questions like these get answered in the first race and often not with the answers I’d like.
My daughter and I really enjoyed the Weeping Willow last year, so we decided it was worth the trip down for some fun and suffering. Ipswitch, MA isn’t exactly nearby for us, especially since I live close enough to Canada that hearing conversations in French isn’t unusual. We made a long weekend of it by camping in the Salisbury State Reservation. It was a little too cold to get in the water, just like it is in July or August there; but we enjoyed the beach anyway. Having the race on a Saturday was great because that left Sunday for us to relax a bit before heading home.
I started the day on Saturday by waking up to the sound of rain on the roof of our camper. I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or not so I just mentally rolled with it. It turned out to be a non-issue anyway. We headed out a little on the early side since Emma’s race started at 9:30.
The single speed class was mostly filled with names that I didn’t recognize. My arch nemesis from the point series last year, Pete MacLeod, had moved up to Elite but Ryan Littlefield seems to have stepped back in to destroy my hopes in Pete’s absence. The field was a fair size with somewhere just shy of 20 riders on the line at the start. I learned that morning that the single-speed and expert classes would be racing two laps for a total distance of 16 miles. This was the same distance that the sport riders had done earlier and I wasn’t very happy about it. I count on those later miles to pick up some places. I like longer distances, but now I would be contending with a race that is more of a sprint in my mind.
As I expected, we started off hard and fast. I don’t spin high rpms well and spent the first three or four miles somewhere well over my anaerobic threshold. I really can’t spin. When we hit the single-track sections, I began to feel a little better and start gaining on other riders. Unfortunately, I had put myself back a way on the start and it was difficult to make a decent pass in the tight trail sections.
I didn’t get far into the first lap before noticing that my legs were feeling a bit on the heavy side. Not a good thing to notice. I knew my endurance would be suspect but I wasn’t expecting to lack my normal “kick” on the climbs. With only 12 miles or so to go, I knew I would have to just dig deeper and do what I could. There was nowhere to rest on this course.
Going into the second lap, I was somewhere around 6th place by my accounting. I continued to gain ground in the single-track and climbs and lose it on the double-track sections. I also had a couple of instances where I dropped my chain. That’s not a typical problem when riding on a bike that doesn’t have a derailleur. Two days prior, I had stayed up late rebuilding this bike up with parts from my original race bike (I had cracked the frame on Wednesday). I guess I should have taken the extra time to swap out the cranks and chainring from that bike as well since the one I was using was more worn than the chain and cogs. Now we’re just adding insult to injury.
My NEMBA teammate, Shawn Smith, caught me somewhere in the latter half of the second lap. I tried to hang with him but his ability to shift up on those road sections left my poor spinning skills in the dust. It just wasn’t going to happen. With him went the next single-speed racer I had in my sights. Not long after that, Carl DeVincent caught up with me. Carl knows these trails like I know the trails over in Burke. It was nice to follow his lines through the single-track sections. Unfortunately, when the trail opened up he, likewise, left me behind. I put out whatever remaining effort I had for the last mile or two and managed to avoid losing any places to my fellow single-speeders. I came in 5th place at 1:24:38. That wasn’t as far as I feared from Ryan Littlefield’s winning time of 1:21:05, but not as well as I had hoped for in terms of placing. It felt like I was a long way back at the time. I still wish the race had been another lap longer for us.
My daughter Emma raced as a junior novice again this year. She has joined me on the NEMBA team as well. Note the cool jersey in the photos. Unfortunately, she was the only girl in her class so her race was only against herself. Still, she went out to ride and race against others on the course. She managed to go over the bars a few miles into the race and bend her front wheel enough to make it impossible to ride. She was able, with some assistance, to get things working well enough to continue on. She walked quite a bit of the course and was not able to ride normally that parts that she didn’t walk. She did persist and that’s worth a lot in my book. We need to work on her propensity for mechanical problems. As lead mechanic at home, I know what we’ll be doing tomorrow evening.
The Riverside Cycle folks put on a great race just as they’ve done in previous years. The course was great (again) and everything was well organized. When all the races and awards were done, they had a raffle. I won some stuff that included a frame pump and some cycling socks with markings for left and right.