Sitting on the can when the race is starting is not how I envisioned making my endurance debut. A misjudgement in time left me scattering to get dressed as I see a stream of riders heading up the hill out of the parking lot. Slice & dice traffic as I keep the rev limiter in check. Half way through the lap I catch Carlos and know the lead can't be too far up. Lack of warmup, the cool morning air and 5-hour nights of sleep before the race meant it was gonna take the legs awhile to come around. I caught Chris near the end of the first lap. I figured he was in the lead, which he confirmed. I was content to ride his pace for awhile but got a better run up a short steep climb in the beginning of the second lap and took the lead. I knew most of my time would be gained in the singletrack and the climbs, so I focused on staying smooth and maintaining a tempo on the hills. Chris was in sight for the first few laps, keeping me on it. After about 4 laps in I realized my seatpost was slipping(I swapped out the Ritchey Carbon for a Thomson the night before) and had to make an early pit.
I have to say, the crew that came together for me was amazing! This was Kelli's first mountainbike race she's ever been too and she was rockin' my hand ups like a pro! The Peters family(Expo Racing) and even the FDL guys next to us were great at flowing me any extras I demanded when her hands were full. They always kept a Hammer Gel and Clif bar in my back pockets and fresh bottles coming to me, so I was never on the bonk or thirsty.
Anyway, Theo got me a 4mm and I raised the seat back up. Took the wrench with in case I had to adjust on the trail. Giving up a little time to Chris. After a few more laps I was out of sight and could focus on my own groove. As things warmed up I felt better. Through the bulk of the day I didn't ask where Chris was. I just kept riding like he was 2 minutes behind. Throughout the day I made about 3 stops for Fritos & Mountain Dew, all under a minute each. Everything else was rolling(again, thanks to an awesome crew!)
Some time in the middle of the day I caught Chris's teammate Brad and I knew I was pretty deep into the field. He was riding pretty strong and we stayed together for about a lap. I was starting to ponder things: Am I slowing down? If I am will he relay this back to Chris? Where is Chris? What time is it? I'm out of Fritos.
I never once underestimated Chris's tenacity. I witnessed him take 8th at the nationals last year, keeping on it day and night. He was probably more organized than I was, has more experience and I knew he could ride consistent all day. For me, I was venturing into new territory and had no clue what to expect throughout the day. All I could do was use my skills to my advantage and listen carefully to my body. At 6:30pm I asked timing for a time split. 16 minutes. More than I expected and only 3 laps to go. For 2 I stayed on it, the last I savored and even stopped to pee for the first time in the race. Finishing the last lap as the sun was setting was absolutely amazing! I really wanted to win this race and can't thank the people enough who helped me do it. Kelli, the Peters, FDL guys, Hayes Bicycle Group, Ergon... To all the people who hung out all day and cheered me on, it meant alot!
Chris rolled in almost 10 minutes behind, proving he wasn't backing down until the end. I thank him and Brad for coming out and making the race hard and worth it. It's the only way we'll learn anything for the big one! Thanks to Brittany and the Pedal Moraine crew for spicing up the course this year and putting on an always fun event!