These past couple of months have been extremely busy trying to get prepared to go back to school, which has involved several observation hours, doctor's appointments, and of course refreshing my brain , without neglecting my duties at work or on the bike. Following a lackluster performance at Lumberjack where both my bike and body were rejecting the idea of a decent finish I took a few weekends away from racing to get in some solid training in preparation for the last few NUE races of the season.
Two weeks before the Wilderness 101 I decided to test out my speed at the Bulldog Rump XC race in northern Jersey where I was able to take my first victory of the season, winning by a couple of minutes within an hour and a half race. Now that my anaerobic fitness was in check I was psyched to do the Curse of Dark Hollow 40 mile race the following weekend in my back yard in Michaux State Forest. Everything started out really well there. I was able to ride in the lead accompanied by Rob Spreng for the first 30 miles without riding much harder than tempo before my rear tire punctured. Normally this isn't a deal breaker at Michaux, but when your backup tube also has a hole in it the game is over. So my endurance felt great throughout the day and I took the flat tire as just a part of racing. Maybe it was for the better as I would feel just a little more rested for Wilderness.
A week later and I'm back on the starting line in Coburn, PA. The Wilderness 101 seems be be gathering a faster group of racers each and every year ant this time around was no exception. The start of the race was the same as usual, but before mile 40 hit I was already all alone chasing whoever was in front of me. Fortunately with a deep field of talented riders I spent the entire race battling back and forth with Garth Prosser, Rob Spreng, Jake Sitler, and Mike Simonson and was able to finish up with a solid 8th on the day, which wasn't bad considering the top 5 had finished all within 6:45:00!
With my confidence, endurance, and speed back where they should be I took the next couple of weeks to do a pair of XC races at Bear Creek to keep my speed in check and have some fun in the rocks. I finished 4th the first weekend and 3rd the following weekend and was 1st place working man both weekends, which was not too shabby. The following week would be another test of endurance with the next stop of the NUE series, the Hampshire 100.
Going into Hampshire I knew I would have a great race, but with another competitive field to race against I wasn't sure where I would end up. The start of this race was much like Wilderness with a large group taking the front of the race for the first 20 miles. After that was a series of steeeeep rollers that would just suck the power right out of you if you could not stay on top of a big gear. This is where the pack splintered into a small lead group and several small chase groups. I was in the first chase group with Rob Spreng and two others trying to track down the leaders (or not let them get too far away)! By mile 40 we caught and passed Jonathan Schlotter who had an impressive 2nd place at Wilderness two weeks prior along with Jeremiah Bishop who was repairing a tire at the moment. Once Jeremiah was back on the bike he flew by us all and most of the chase group followed trying to hold his wheel. Schlotter and I were left behind and soon I would drop Schlotter and eventually bridge back up to Spreng by mile 50. The two of us rode and worked together through the end of the first lap and all the way to the aid station at mile 90 where the course would enter one of the final singletrack sections. While on the second lap we were both surprisingly informed that we were in 4th and 5th place which was hard to believe and motivating at the same time. We would again catch and pass Bishop who was again having tire issues around mile 80. This is where I decided to pick it up a little without making an attack on Rob. I knew if we worked together we could probable hold of Jeremiah improving our positions as well as helping out Christian by giving him an edge over Jeremiah for the NUE Series overall standings. As we rolled into the aid station at mile 90 I attacked hard assuming we were much closer to the finish. After a few miles I realized my early move, but was able to continue my pace to the finish placing 3rd for the day! It looks like I'll be back in the running for a top 5 overall finish in the NUE Series, but only time will tell.