I felt good going in, a morning rain shower tamped down what had otherwise been very dry and loose conditions, and despite smoke drifting through town from the nearby McHugh fire, air quality was good.
After the DDXC disappointment, I was as angry as the residents of the dozen or so yellow jacket nests that lined this course.
The two ~5-minute climbs, and the short steep uphill punches found on the descent, suited my strength. In pre-riding, I felt like I could hit the two climbs at near-full strength, without worry of blowing up, and that I should hammer every little steep punch. Also, this time, I was going to stick with the sprint. Period.
We lined up, the lead group took off, and I tagged on and held their pace until we rounded the first switchback on Drone.
I’d built a small gap in front of the second pack, didn’t feel too bad, and was ready to detach, but not let up.
I kept the power on high through the first climb and at the least sustained or slightly built a gap. As I expected, the flowy break allowed the group to just about catch me before we began part two of the climb up Hornets Nest.
Again, I dug deep.
I didn’t feel like I had a big lead at the top, but I think I may have put some distance between myself and the rest of the group in the final part of the Hornets Nest climb. Despite my fears that I would get caught on the descent down the Gorge Trail, when I glanced back heading up the straightaway on Wall Street on Spencer to see if I was getting chased down, I didn’t see anyone.
I think the group probably began to fracture on the climb and ensuing rooty descent, but a smaller group did make some progress on the rest of the descent, as coming through the start area, I looked back and saw a few people pursuing. I quickly ratcheted up the pace back to Drone.
I used a cheering spectator at the top of Drone to mark a 20-second gap for whoever was behind me, and realized, with plenty of climbing left in the lap and the race, I was going to really build a lead if I drilled the climbs again, which I definitely did.
Lap 2 was my strongest run. About halfway up Hornets Nest I caught sight of a rider ahead. I didn’t recognize him, but I knew he was not someone I usually saw in these races, and it lit the fire in me. I had to catch him.
Near the top I caught the rider and he promptly let me by.
The rider, Mark Iverson, would later tell me he’d gone out too hard and dropped from the lead pack. He latched onto my wheel as I passed and held on through the rest of the run.
I didn’t think much of it, it’s easy to hold someone on a descent, but having Mark behind me lead to my best descent for sure. I figured if he was hurting on the lap 2 climb, he would probably drop once we started climbing again.
Back through the start, I threw a few glances back, but this time, didn’t see anyone chasing.
Mark came around as we headed up Drone, which confused me a tad. Not knowing who he was, I wondered if he’d blow up in front of me or what. I never saw him again as he built an ~30-second lead by the finish.
Meanwhile, my pace was beginning to show for the effort. I wasn’t tanking by any stretch, but I definitely didn’t have the same kick I’d had in the previous 2 laps.
Headed up Hornets, I saw Megan briefly on the switch backs below. To my relief, she wasn’t towing any of the boys. As it turned out, Megan was basically going the same pace the whole race, but just couldn’t close the 10-20 second gap to my wheel.
The lap closed out without event, easily one of my best races, ever.
This race came after a block of high-mileage riding, and I knew it would be my last race for a while. I’d felt good on the previous Hillside race, but was disappointed and confused that when I finished I still felt strong, indicating I didn’t really dig deep enough; I didn’t have that feeling this time, there was no question, I used a lot of matches the first two laps and was glad to have built a nice lead for the final lap.
After getting completely dropped in DDXC and never having a chance to chase back on, I went back to my old strategy sprinting off the start and chasing the lead group. I was glad to see my lungs were there for the effort, as much as it sucks. I spent a lot of the race by myself in no man’s land, well behind the lead group, and just a short ways in front of the second pack. Chasing Mark and then having him on my wheel through the second decent was a huge boost, but throughout the whole race, I was aggravated as hell, and might as well have had 5 people on my wheel along with a pack of wasps. Every time I heard a bell it lit me up, even though I think sometimes that damn bell was just my own!