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OK weekend-Part II-Red River Shoutout

April 29, 2009

…Continued

img_09891The soft light filtering through my tent and the sound of chirping birds gently welcomed me to a new day. A good night’s sleeps was well appreciated after a hard race the day before. Even well rested and well re-fueled though, my body was aching. The knee swelling had gone done a bit and toe wasn’t bleeding anymore, but that certainly did not img_0995mean they hurt any less. Doubt still loomed whether I would race that morning.
I was hanging out in the team area when I heard the announcement that registration was closing in 5 minutes. I was a bit more awake by now, and the decision was obvious. I did not drive all this way and hype up this weekend with Okie teammates to sit and watch the Sunday race, or even more shamefully, drive back home. Nope, I filled out the form and hopped in line.
I did bring my trusty single speed along, and in fact had a nice pre-ride on it Friday night, so I reserved the option of doing the SS category thereby saving me 8 extra miles of racing, an option that my knee would likely appreciate. I was even more tempted to do this as I saw a few familiar faces from the Texas pro scene show up and know I would have to contend with them by racing Cat 1.
img_0997Backing down from a challenge is not in my nature though, and I knew I could hold out for 3 laps of the 8 mile loop that day. Confidence overcame me, I told the registration lady to put me down for the Pro/Cat 1 race. I don’t know why, but my confidence continued to grow as I walked back to my campsite to get ready. Proud Mary had raced very well the day before and had a good setup for the course. But there was this little voice in my head: “less is more”
There was Rocky (the SS), leaning up against a tree, saying “Hey, let’s do this.” At first I said, “Alright, let’s do it, but how about swapping the rigid fork for some suspension?” But then Rocky was like “Gears and suspension make you weak. I will make you strong!” and then I was like “Hell yeah, let’s show these wimps how it’s done!”
So, I toed the line against high doller, high tech, geared, suspended, aluminum alloyed, carbon fiber-ed bikes on my $300* steel rigid singlespeed.
The other 12 or so racers did not seem very intimidated. They should have been though. This bike has the potential to really bring out the beast in me. Enough with the smack talk. The gun goes off and it’s on. I did not line up in a great spot, and ran out of gears on the sprint (the only time on the entire course I would do so), so I didn’t get a great spot heading into the singletrack, but I settled in behind Wink, who had also raced the day before. I think he was feeling a bit tired too because he didn’t get a great spot either. Things were going smoothly. I was keeping Wink right in front of me and occasionally we would pass a rider who couldn’t ride a technical section on his full suspension 29er. We had a good pace, and then poof. Came down a ledge, hit a rock at the bottom, tire blows of the rim.
I was running my new Panaracer rampage tires tubeless on the American classic wheels. They held up fine on the pre-ride, so I didn’t see any reason to not trust them for the race. Sadly, it was just like the incident at Moab all over again. This was the last race I will ever do in those American Classics (they are for sale if you’re interested!). They just don’t work for tubeless setups. A new set of Stan’s wheels were on order, but not due in til next week.
Back to the race though, I was determined to get that flat fixed fast so I didn’t get passed by the next age group and have to pass them back. Success! A pretty quick repair, and I was rolling again, with about 15 seconds on those 30-39 guys. The second half of the course had more climbing, and I was running a big gear, because running big gears is what I do, but man those climbs took a toll on my tired legs. The first and second 30-39 guys finally caught me in the feed zone. I felt dead at this point and let them go right by.
Having a nice flat stretch for a change allowed me to take in some water and fuel. It didn’t take but 2 minutes to kick in and I was going once again. I caught back up with the old guys and rode with them for all of lap 2. They rode well and tried to outgun this maverick on a rigid SS, but I was riding even better. We maybe passed 1 or 2 people in my category, not much cause for excitement, yet.
Lap 3 comes and I sense I have a chance to finally pass these old guys and catch a few more in my category. I get my chance when one of them takes a hard endo over his full suspension 26er on a ledge while I just roll on by (after asking if he was ok, of course). Well, the other rider, being a very fair sport, let up a little and let me pass so as to let the downed rider catch back up. Step 1 accomplished.
At this point, I had about 5 miles of trail left to reel in what fish I could. I set out like a bat out of hell and entered “the zone” Man and machine and determination became one. Just like the day before, I picked off my targets one by one, all the way to the finish line. The effort was good enough for 5th place, right behind Wink, right where I had left him before the flat.
I always try to judge my races not on the finish, but by the effort. I can say without a doubt this is one of my top 10 efforts. I had a lot of fun and felt a great sense of accomplishment having done that race on a SS rigid. Only one full suspension finished ahead of me. The other 3 were on 29er hardtails, go figure. Mad props to them all though, for they are all worthy opponents.
img_1004The drive back to Austin was long and uneventful. My time in Oklahoma was enjoyable but I was glad to see that Red River again, and even more so, fields of bluebonnets between Ft. Worth and Hillsboro. The body will take some time to heal, but I’m definitely getting stronger as the season nears an end. The next race up is this weekend in Coldspring, TX. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading.
Caveman

*Note on value of SS: i have since upgraded to race wheels, a rigid carbon front fork, and BB7 disc brakes, upping the cost to about $700, still a lot cheaper and simpler than the competition though!

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