Sunday, May 17, 2009
Cascade Classic, Granogue, and DSG
Just a quick update on these and maybe I'll get my act together with some up to date posts.
Also known as the CAT Classic, this race has been known for its abusive trails and high payout. The rock gardens, steep climbs and descents, and overall raw feeling of this course has made this race one of my local favorites over the past couple of years. I did not get to make it to the race last year, because of conflict with the Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour race, so I was really looking forward to doing it again. I rode up to the race with Ray and Nancy, stopping at the Selinsgrove Brewery for dinner the night before. The day of the race, I felt pretty good, but was disappointed to see a low turnout for the event. I guess with this being 1 of 3 races going on in PA and being located the farthest away for most people was a deterrent. Even with the low turnout it was still going to be a good race. I had figured that it would be a close race between myself, Ray, Martin, and TJ. Ray was a just a little to close for comfort the week before at Greenbrier, so a win for him would not have been out of the question. Martin finally got his new Scalpel and CFR kit, so this was going to be his first race on a geared bike for the season. TJ was lucky enough to have this course close to home. From the start, I sat in behind Ray, letting him set the tone through the first couple of rock gardens and down the decent to the bottom of the 8 mile course. I was feeling very relaxed and at some point or another on the climb back up, I decided to up the pace just a little bit, which allowed me to put a significant gap on everyone else. From that point on I continued to hold a high tempo on the climbs and kept smooth on the decents. I tried to remain as steady as possible, being careful not to go into overdrive so that I would still have some gas in the tank for Granogue on Sunday. This strategy worked out well and I was able to take the win with a couple minutes to spare. Ray was 2nd, Martin 3rd, and TJ 4th.
After the Cascade Classic, I drove back to H'burg with Ray and Nancy, then went to spend the night at Kyle's and drive to Delaware the next morning. The forecast was calling for heavy rain on Sunday and I couldn't wait. I didn't get to race in the mud for a long time. It rained just about the whole drive down, and stayed steady through the start of the race. Early on in the race I found it hard to keep towards the front, but as I calmed myself down I began to get back into my groove just in time to make another mistake in the mud. Even though I was moving back up to the front of the race, it felt like I was putting in much more effort than I should have had to. I bridged up to Rob and kid Jeff and rode with them for lap 2 as we chased after Wes off of the front. The rain had slowed and the mud had thickened. This in combination with a couple hundred racers navigating the course had made about half of the course unridable. It was half running and half riding, and in my case the riding was in the big ring as chain suck made the smaller ring on my 2X9 setup worthless. Rob and Jeff got away on lap three and were completely out of sight. I didn't see anyone behind me and being by myself started to forget that I was racing. Without being as frantic I finally was able to cut through the mud with ease. Halfway through the last lap I caught and passed Jeff, then began to hunt down Rob. Soon enough I caught back up to Rob through a running section before I made my last attempt at catching Wes. With less than a half a lap to go I made up 1.5 minutes on Wes, but never caught sight of him. By the end I was glad to be out of the mud, and 2nd place wasn't to bad in day 2 of racing for the weekend. Plus it gave me a little bit of practice for DSG which was the following weekend in Fayetteville, TN.
7 days of consecutive rain + 1 in. of rain each day + clay (not dirt or the promoter) = shitfest, not to be confused with the mudfest mentioned above. I went into this race with a great deal of optimism. It was my first big endurance event of the year, my legs have been feeling great, and I got to do this race last year in some pretty bad conditions where I placed 2nd to Tinker and took home a fat $1000 check. So yeah, I wasn't only optimistic, but I have been looking forward to doing this race again for a long time. With all of the rain that had come the week leading up to the race, I figured it would be just like last year (walk the bike on the climbs, clean it at the top, and ride the decents and the flats like a mad man). The morning of the race I felt great despite the 12 hour drive 2 nights before and was ready to take care of business. A lot of big names had shown up once again including Josh Tostado, Ernesto Marenchin, Evan Plews, Harlan, and Jeremiah Bishop who was competing in his first 12 hour race. Besides the competition, I had a bit of extra motivation to do well. Though it was nothing personal against me, after hearing and witnessing a bit of arrogance displayed by another racer I was even more ready to go out there and win it. The start of the race greeted us with a heavy thunderstorm which thinned out the mud and made almost everything ridable for the first lap. At the end of that lap things were looking good. I was in 3rd place behind Josh and Jeremiah, and felt like I was riding effortlessly. It was going to be a great day. On lap 2 I caught and passed Josh with ease, but knew it would be some time before I would catch up to Jeremiah who was pinning it early on as if the race was going to be over within just a few hours. The rain had stopped on this lap and the mud quickly began to thicken up making a significant part of the course unridable. With lap 2 being 30 minutes slower than lap 1, I began to realize that the fun was about to end unless we got another storm to thin out the mud. Lap 3 started off ok. I traded in my muddy 29er for a clean Scalpel, strapped on a fresh Hydrapak, and put a clean bottle with a GU attached in my cage. After disappearing from the pit area into the singletrack the mud began to pile up as I waked the first climb. At the top I quickly cleaned it off and rode down the following decent to only stop at the bottom and clean the bike once again as the wheels would completely lock up from mud build up. Soon enough pushing became the only option left as climbs, decents, and flats were all unridable, and pushing even became difficult as the mud piled up on my bike, adding an additional 25 or so lbs to its weight. As I was pushing I ran into Colt from cyclingdirt.com and was interviewed mid race about how shitty the conditions were. Keeping a positive demeanor during the interview was easy, but as soon as I was out of sight it was back to grumbling and hating my walk. I was about 3/4 of the way through the lap and 2 hours in (lap 1 took only an hour) when I found a short cut back to the pits. I felt like a quitter making my retreat, but this was no longer a bike race. It was a foot race through the most disgusting mud I have ever come across. My attitude changed when I made it back to the pits and saw Ernesto laughing while I was walking back. He had quit after lap 2 as he had already trashed 3 bikes! We joked about the whole situation and he told me that just about everyone else had counted their losses and dropped out. Only 3 guys were left in the solo pro category; Jeremiah, Harlan, and Andy. They each completed 4 laps and fought heavily for the title of "I can walk faster than you". I was happy that I did not enter that contest. I had a lot more fun in the pit area with my parents and the other racers who had dropped out. It was a shame that the conditions were as bad as they were. Hopefully this doesn't keep people from coming back next year, because Grant and Clay know how to put on an awesome race. I have been told that they will even have a 3 mile backup course in the surrounding fields if the singletrack becomes a disaster again in the future, so at least everyone will be able to ride their bikes. ....Or maybe they could go out and drain the puddles, or pave the singletrack, or maybe even go as far as laying out a red carpet so that the leaders dont get all muddy. Regardless, I'll be back again next year. Grant and Clay, thanks again for putting on a great race even though the conditions were probably the worst ever.