This is the first time I’ve ever done the Treasure Valley Rally race. It was originally scheduled for the last weekend in August but the remnants of Hurricane Irene messed up those plans. For mid-October we had pretty good weather. The temperatures were in the 50s and it wasn’t too cold even with a very stiff wind all day long. We had surprisingly good racing weather, especially compared with most of my rides over the past several weeks. The race was held at Treasure Valley, a Boy Scout camp somewhere in the woods around Rutland, MA. It was a rather nice location for the race other than the parking. There was one small lot right at the start/finish area. The next one was about 1/3 of mile away. If you got there late you, would have to park in the outer lot which was about half a mile from that. Fortunately, we were able to use the middle lot.
The start of my race was at 11am. I unintentionally missed the racers’ meeting as I usually do, but was filled in on the details by my wife. She’s great like that. The Elite category started off first. That left the Expert and Single-speed class riders milling around for a few minutes waiting for our race to start. While standing at the line waiting to figure out what the order would actually be, one of the volunteers called the single-speed riders to the front for our start. Starting out ahead of the Expert riders would be a nice change. (Getting stuck behind a geared rider as they slowly spin up a hill is a nightmare for single-speed riders.) As we were moving up to the front to line up they announced that our race would start in something like 45 seconds. Great. I fumbled around a bit getting in place and resetting my cycle computer. Not a bad sized group of single-speed racers.
Then we were off. The first part of the course wound along some small gravel roads that connect several camp buildings. I started off slow since I like to start that way and didn’t have a good warm up. I like to ease myself into the suffering gradually, like getting into a tub of water that’s just a bit too hot. I talked with Kevin Orlowski briefly on the first corner for a few seconds and then got down to business. The course started out with a long, very gradual climb. I picked off a few riders here figuring that it was better than trying to manage passing when the trail becomes too narrow. I felt pretty good at this point and spent a bit more energy than I would have normally at the start of a race. The course then descended with several stream crossings at the bottom of the hill. Following the stream crossing we started a much longer climb which seemed to gain more elevation than was possible in central Mass. At this point there were only a few riders ahead of me in my class. I settled in behind another rider up much of this climb. About 2/3 of the way up, I realized that I was resting more than racing so I decided to kick it up a notch and pass.
At the top of the long climb is a really big, house-sized boulder which marks the intersection of two loops on the course. The race was laid out like a giant figure-8. Well, more like a figure-8 that you might draw if you were holding the pencil left-handed, trying to draw in a moving car, on a dirt road, with your eyes closed, in the dark. I had no clue where I was on that course.
Beyond the boulder starts a very technical section with lots of rocks. These were not just rocks in the trail but rather the trail was made up of rocks. Not smooth stream bed type rocks but large, jagged, beds of rock that were greased down with mud in sections. Somehow these were each carefully positioned in the most inconvenient way in the trail so the slightest error would put you over the bars. Fun stuff. I caught up with a couple of the Elite riders here. After getting beat up descending this never-ending rock garden, the course levels out for a few hundred feet and then climbs right back up to the boulder only following a steeper route.
From this point on, I rode pretty much alone for the first lap only occasionally seeing another rider as they attempted to fix flat tires. Overall, the course was very rocky and probably the most demanding race I’ve done from a technical perspective. It just doesn’t let up. The last few miles at the end of the 9 mile lap are more forgiving with windy single-track through the woods. Somewhere in here I had three geared Expert riders catch me. We rode together for a little while and then they pulled away from me as we neared the start/finish area for our second lap.
As I started my second lap, I was surprised by how genuinely good I was feeling. I caught and passed one of the Experts that had just passed me a couple of miles back. I was now riding alone again. As I climbed up the long hill I caught a glimpse of another single-speed rider on a bright green bike (Daniel Barry). I recognized the bike but I normally only see this guy at the start of my races where he promptly pulls away never to be seen again by me. I pulled up behind him on the climb and followed him into the super-technical section beyond the boulder. On one of the rock gardens, I managed to get ahead of him. I decided that I would take off hard and see if I could put some distance on him, fully expecting him to catch me shortly.
I rode the remainder of the race alone. It was weird. There were tons of riders off the course dealing with flats or other mechanical problems this time around. I also started lapping some of the slower Sport and Novice riders. When I was about four miles from the finish, I figured I must be doing reasonably well so I decided I would hammer the rest of the course. I didn’t want anyone to catch me before the end.
About three miles from the finish I met my daughter, Emma, who was dealing with a flat tire of her own. I stopped to talk with her and see how she was doing. She was in good spirits so I decided to keep on going. I poured everything on for the last mile. This section rolls along the edge of the lake undulating up and down in short climbs. It was an absolute blast.
I pulled into the finish area and heard my time (2:05) over the scoring system PA and that I was “first in class.” Not believing that I heard things correctly I wheeled over to check the standings. Sure enough, 1st in the Single-speed category. Surprisingly, I felt really good. I managed to run the race without blowing up or cramping and was able to keep the power on full right up to the end. A great end to the season.
Update: official results are posted.