I started the morning out like any other: attempting to follow the car with the cross bikes strapped to the Yakima roof rack. Its just easier to assume you know where other racers are going than to keep checking Google Maps' directions on your smart phone. It seemed like the guy I was following was onto me, because he pulled into a 7-11 parking lot off of Riggs Rd to make a u-turn onto Ager, giving him enough time to lose me as I got caught at a red light.
Once there, I went through the usual routine of gearing up, checking in, and riding the course. I didn't come up with much of a strategy during my test ride with the exception of take it easy on the 180s and sweep the outside if opportunity allowed. I tried riding over the second set of barriers to no avail. Noted the uphill u-turn, spiral of death, sandpit, etc, and decided one ride-through was enough. I was disappointed at the lack of hills.
9 o'clock rolls around and I find myself fortunate enough to be on the front line. By now, I was so used starting towards the back of the field that I didn't know what to expect as soon as the whistle sounded. Within seconds of the races start I thought I had moved from the first line to the third. I stuck with my strategy of not expending all my gas in the first lap, striving to move up one spot just to lose two spots on the fourth or fifth lap. I marked a District Velocity racer and hung onto his wheel for as long as I could. As I approached the second set of barriers, which were not but around 6 or 7 inches high, but started and ended a turn, an older gentleman attempted to roll over the logs, but fell. I couldn't help but think how he probably didn't ride the course.
By the end of the first lap, the pack was completely broke up. Matt yelled that I was within the top 25 as I passed all the TOMS B crew. Due to the absence of my Garmin, I spent the entire second lap wondering how many laps we would end up doing. This might have been the reason I took a tumble as I entered the sandpit, taking out two riders behind me. I rebounded quickly. As I approached the finish line for the second time, the lap counter read "3." I was relieved, as my mouth was already parched.
By the third lap, I was feeling like a champ on the barriers. I might have a little to do with the fact that I finally dialed my SPDs, unlike the past three races. I spent the entirety of the third and fourth laps maintaing position. Gaining a spot and losing a spot. I played yo-yo with an NCVC rider for a while. As I exited the spiral of death for the fourth time, I looked back and noticed a Route 1 Velo rider on a 29er about four or five spots back. By the end of the fourth lap, this was reduced to three.
I started burning the last of my fuel as I entered the fifth and final lap. Passing a few riders who clearly had nothing left to give. I made it past the second barrier set, and looked back to see the rider on the 29er rolling over the barriers with ease. I jokingly yelled, "that's cheating," to which he mischievously grinned at. By the spiral, he was one spot behind me. Thinking about how devastating it would be to my self esteem to let some guy on a mountain bike beat me, I tried putting as much distance between us as I could muster, but he was too strong to make up any more time on. I split my attention between the 29er behind me and two riders about 10 yards ahead of me that I hoped to catch up to. I screwed up a turn after the sandpit, costing me a few seconds and crushing my hopes of catching the two riders ahead of me. I managed to pass one rider on a Fuji, who seemed to have completely given up, during my last trip through the baseball field. With the 29er only a few yards behind me, I went all out as soon as I hit the pavement, sprinting as hard as I could as I passed the line by myself. You would have thought I was sprinting against myself.
This was the first race that I didn't immediately collapse after. The posted results said I finished 27th out of 72 finishers. My best result yet. I ended the race with a little more confidence, despite my end goal being to not get beat by a guy on a mountain bike.
–Report by Patrick Peoples