Monday, April 13, 2009

Hop Brook...Damn

That's right, Big Bikes has toppled Big Bikes Parts Inc. from the top Google spot when you search "Big Bikes". Of course by the time you read this they will have knocked me back down where I belong. That didn't stop me from doing an obnoxious-logo-altering-victory-dance. In your face Big Bikes Parts Inc!

I've been doing this thing lately where I wake up way before I need to be up. When I awoke Saturday AM I felt like I was doing that thing, mainly because I felt like crap. I looked at my phone , it read 8:03. Huh? My alarm was set for 7:15, my IBC Teammate Kevin Sweeney was picking me up at 8, I was confused. It was either a.) Kevin never got my last email and he wasn't showing up at all, or b.) he had come and gone, or c.) he was running slightly late. Lucky for me it was C. I filled a coffee mug, threw my clothes on, Kevin knocked on the door, I handed him bike, and by the time he had it ready to put in the car I was ready to go. Eight minutes from the time I got out of bed, we were rolling. I hadn't brushed my teeth or "done my work" but we were rolling.

No work. I hate leaving the house without having done "My Work". The other day, I'm not kidding, I suited about, bibs, sweater, jacket, helmet on, ear buds in, glasses on, then I had to go back to do more work...three times. The suit up, un-suit-up process taking three minutes each time. Fucking Chipotle.

Hey! I'm talking about poop here, don't rush me. Do you actually think this post will get better than this? Keep smokin' kid, keep smokin'.

As much as I talk about my love of Dunkin Donuts, I nearly never eat the stuff before a race. I wasn't close to having enough time to make my oatmeal, so it was Egg & Cheese on an everything Bagel for breakfast. I'm definitely not complaining about that.

I've made a huge mistake. That's what I was thinking when Kevin and I headed out for a "warm up" lap on the course. No way to warm up really when it's sub-50° and pissing rain. The only purpose this pre-ride served was to strike terror into my legs as they backfired and sputtered while attempting to turn over my one dumb gear.

The first time I did this race was last year. It was a freakishly warm day, I got sun-burned. The course was fast and dry and lead me to believe that running a 34 X 17 this year would be a great freakin' idea. Oh what a difference 365 days make. I decided to go back to my single speedy roots and show up to the race with no box of tricks. No chain whip. No arsenal of cogs. Just show up and ride what I've got. Thing is, in the past I was perpetually under-geared. That was not my problem in Middlebury Saturday. I ran a 58" gear. A gear that has been fine in training for the past few weeks. But I haven't been training in greasy-ass mud. "Hey rear tire, what the hell's going on back there?". "Oh, don't mind me, I'm just slipping out with every over-torqued rotation of the cranks". "That's just great buddy, this is gonna be fun, can't wait".

Note: I'm trying to multi-task, watching Paris-Roubaix and writing. It's not working, this race is just too good.

OK, I'm back, you have my undivided attention. You and The Office.
Hey you guys want to hear about Hop Brook?
It was indescribable.
Actually it was describable.
I will now attempt to describable it. And I will try to make it short. Like Danny Devito. But I will try to make it less fat and hairy than Danny Devito.

There were a lot of guys in the field, I guess the whole category change thing is working. The start was muddy mayhem, my glasses useless within seconds. Being tired and utterly lacking high-end capabilities right now, I just let things sort themselves out. I wound up in a group with a guy on an IF 29er and the only other Pro, single-speedin' guy present, James Harmon. I would pull ahead here and there and then James would spin up the hills as I got bogged down and struggled. He was running a much more intelligent gear, a 34 X 19 on a 26er. Until half way through the race he was even keeping up on the flats. You know you've selected the wrong gear when you're running up the hills, attacking geared riders on the flats, and only getting spun out on paved downhills.

The course was slick, a whole lot more fun than last year. Lots of high-speed double-track, broken up by little technical sections which were sketchy if taken at full throttle. I was cold, wet, generally hurtin', but I was really having a great time. Eventually I found myself in no man's land, a couple riders shadowing me from behind, Mike Rowell ahead, dangling just out of reach, opening gaps imperceptibly. I've been spending a lot of time on the Mountain Bike, the skills are good, I was confident that I was closing through anything remotely hairy or technical, but Mike is a powerhouse and was laying it down through the open stuff. At one point I thought I had magically decimated the gap on the last steep pitch of the one major climb. But no, I had caught Cathy Rowell in her NEBC kit. I tried to get her to chase Mike with me, but when you have a Teammate/Husband in the break, you can't be expected to do any work.

After the first lap I was pretty much running all of the climbs. As conditions deteriorated, the geared guys were slipping and sliding so much that I was actually gaining ground in some spots. God, I hate running though.

Last lap, going into the final singletrack section I saw Mike closing on Nate Ringquist who was, in turn, closing on Gunther Hofer. That flipped the switch. I was looking right through Mike at Gunther, probably forty seconds ahead. I caught Mike, then dragged him up to Nate as we entered the last substantial climb, the kind of grassy thing, that turned into a mud-fest by the top. I went into the gravel road stuff alone, knowing that it was only a matter of time before Mike and Nate closed down the gap. I blasted up the pitch on the gravel road, coming up on Gunther.

Nate, Mike, and Gunther closed the gap on the pavement just before the entrance into the small, penultimate climb. Nate got the hole shot, Mike countered with a Jens Voigt-like attack of incredibly ferocity. "I do NOT have that!" I said to Nate. Nate chased, I followed, Gunther was still right there. Mike faded, I came around Nate and gasped my way to the top, pretty sure that if I got to the last stretch of rocky, muddy singletrack first, no matter how much I was vomitting on myself, I would likely hold it to the line. It's nice when you think about doing a thing and you can actually pull off the thing you are thinking of doing the way you imagined it. It was an awesome finish, like something out of a spring classic. Like we were duking it out on The Koppenberg.

I landed myself in 7th place. Behind 29er Crew Teammates Andrew Freye and John Foley (1st and 5th respectively), the always fast Matt O'keefe, Mike "I arrived ten minutes before the start and whupped major ass with no warm up whatsoever" Mooradian, an uncharacteristically geared Mike Montalbano, oh ya, and Tim Johnson (Andrew actually beat him...sick).

Super Army Soldiers Colin and Kevin (hey, Kevin, start a blog!) ripped it with matching 3rd places in the 19-29 and 30-39 Cat 1 races. And George Shaw pulled off a top ten in the Sport 30-39 race. It was also good to see IF rider Mark Elsasser out there. Hopefully I'll be visiting his neck of the woods for some Michaux stuff this summer.

OK, gotta crash. A wee bit too much celebrating last night with The Leg and The Todd Downs who (gasp!) updated his blog.



mkr said...

That last 10 minutes made the other 1:44 of misery all worth while. It was great to get to race the finish like that. Stellar job coming back around at the top of the final climb. It's going to be a fun season!

todddowns said...

Nice work, kedzo. And thanks for the (backhanded) plug. I 'ate that guy Thom from Well-es-ley!

Did you get up in time to tweak M's bike?

kevin said...

Until I start up a blog, just link to this anytime you mention me...

doug said...

Good job! 2007 was about like what you described 2009.. Except I remember getting so cold in '07 that It took me many long hours infront of the fireplace at the homestead to warm up.

I decided to stay at the gf's and sleep that jet lag off rather than follow you around a muddy course. oh, and my 29er was in pieces in the back of my jeep awaiting a full rebuild post-india. Yeah, that happened on Sunday....

Wheels said...

Gotta say I'm not sorry I missed it.

rick is! said...

nice report man and good race. why no interview with on on next time they interview andrew, jump in and start yammering.