The Pinnacle is probably my favorite race of the season. The course is just plain fun to ride; the trails are the kind you’d pick if you were just going out to have some fun. The first 2-3 miles are uphill but it is broken up in steps with switchbacks and some minor technical terrain. The next 2-3 miles roll along with some small descents and climbs. This middle section finishes with what Team Pinnacle calls “the pump track in the sky.” While not a pump track, it does undulate along and you can keep up quite a bit of speed. The final couple of miles is just a fun single-track descent that ends with “the plummet:” a steep sandy pitch that dumps you out on the grass to start another lap. I hit about 35mph on the plummet. Fun stuff!
We had perfect weather for a perfect course. It was sunny and warm with a light wind. The trails were dry with almost no mud to be found anywhere. The turnout for the race was pretty good as a result. There were about 150 preregistered and maybe another 100 or so showed up in addition. We had a smallish single-speed class with ten of us on the line.
Our race started at high noon, along with the elite and expert classes. Our group didn’t go out that hard, and I found myself in 2nd place pretty quickly. I wasn’t comfortable with this since I knew I was risking giving too much effort early on. I let another rider pass me a little later in the climb since I didn’t want to spend that much effort at this point in the race. I hung onto 3rd place for much of the first lap. Kevin soon joined me for the descent where we traded places. He was riding really strong. I think we’re going to be seeing more NEMBA vs. NEMBA duels between Kevin and myself throughout the rest of the season.
Into my second lap, I was feeling really bad. I think some food I ate this morning wasn’t setting well on my stomach. Either that, or I had simply eaten too much too close to the start time. I should have known better. I normally have a portion of the race where I have this internal debate with myself about how much this hurts, how it isn’t fun, and I work to fend off excuses for just quitting. This debate went on much longer than usual in this race.
Once we hit the top of the climbing, I was starting to feel a little bit better. I caught back up with Kevin and was following him through the “pump track” section and the start of the descent. Just as we were getting up to speed, he caught a small tree on his left and stopped pretty much right on the spot. I was only a couple of feet behind him, so there was nothing else I could do but pile into him. We had a line of about six of us who were trucking along in that section, and I was fully expecting a grand pile-up right there. Thankfully, the collisions were limited to Kevin and I. Sadly, the reason Kevin caught the the tree was that he was distracted by some mechanical problem that ultimately took him out of the race. At first, I thought it was my fault that he had the mechanical; and I felt really bad about it. Regardless, he seemed to be having a good race; and it was a shame to see it cut short.
I bobbed between 3rd and 5th place throughout the second lap. At one point, we had another little NEMBA parade with Shawn Smith, Carl Devincent, Kevin Orlowski and myself climbing together for a short time. I passed a few riders and got swarmed by small packs of expert riders a couple of times. The final group of riders disintegrated just as we started the climb for the third lap. I was still hurting but was getting a little more “kick” back and was able to put a few additional riders behind me. I also lost track of where I was in the single-speed field.
On the final climb I heard a woman’s voice coming up behind me. My first thought was: “What?!?…..” It was Leah Davison on her way to winning the women’s elite race. She then passed me as we rode around the water tower at the start of the final leg of the climb. Her climbing was truly impressive. I never saw her again for the rest of the race. I did, however, start gaining ground on some other riders. I was able to pick off a few experts before hitting the descent for the final time. I had the course pretty much to myself for the last couple of miles. I let the bike go and had a blast with the final section of gravity-powered single-track.
For me, running a 32:18 gear ratio was not a great thing this year. I felt that maybe 32:20 would have been better for the climbing sections of the course. I have run this gearing here before, and I don’t recall having as much trouble on the steep pitches. I don’t know if I’m forgetting how hard the climbing was last year or if being 20+ pounds heavier than last seaon has an effect on my climbing. Maybe it was that second peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Surprisingly, I ended up finishing in second place with a time of 1:48:17 – almost eight minutes down from the leader. While I am very pleased with the result, I really didn’t feel like I raced very well. I spent a lot of my time out on the course just plain suffering and not feeling well. Still, it was a fun course and great day to hang out with friends and fellow racers. Besides, second place isn’t that bad…
- Kevin Orlowski already had a blog post up on the race before I got home.
- Ride Bully
- Jason Holm at NEMBA racing.
- Steve Crossley at Riverside Racing Team
- Shaun Pinney’s report.
- another one from Karina Assiter
- Rob Paton‘s blog
- Alby King‘s report
I’ve added more photos in this posting.