Monday, May 11, 2009

Attempted Orchard Assault

This is a little race put on by the guys from UMASS. It's not a collegiate race and it's not a part of any series but it fell on a weekend when nothing else was going on and in the middle of a two- week-no-racing-vacuum. And I, like nature, and most cats, abhor a vacuum. I had read varying reports about this one, but that did not dissuade M and I from loading up the car for the weekend and heading out to Amherst.

The plan was to get Miriam there in time for the Sport race, giving me three hours to exhaust myself pre-riding the course in different gears...wait that wasn't the plan at all. The first part, yes, the second, that's just something that happened. We got there with what I thought was twelve minutes to spare, rolling rapidly past The Butterfield dorm, where I spent quite a few crazy nights hanging out with my buddy Seth "Back In The Day". Yes, it was technically back in the day. We're talking fifteen or so years ago, does that qualify? I think so.

Miriam headed out for her race, I hadn't pre-ridden at that point so I didn't realize that her tires were going to be a horrible joke on this course. If I only had a brain I would have been able to extrapolate from the NEBC reports and the weather over the days preceding the race that the trails would be slick and muddy. Oops. She wasn't able to finish the race (opting to "relax" and run a couple laps of the course) due to the fact that every time she came into a corner she went straight. Sounds like she wasn't having much trouble hopping the many slick logs...a better pair of tires and I think she'll be all set for The Glocester Grind next week.

I did my first pre-ride in a 34 X 18, found it nearly impossible to torque up some of the steep, greasy pitches and chose to swap out to a 34 x 19. Nice thing about the that gear combo is that I end up with the absolute, shortest possible wheelbase (wheel all the way forward in the dropouts), I like that. Great for whipping around tight uphill switchbacks and the hopping of logs. The lower gearing wasn't going to be a problem, the course was brutally honest, just straight up and down, hardly a stretch of flat ground to be found. I was amazed at what those guys packed into that tiny space, right there on campus. I'd never been on race course so labyrinthine, it was difficult to figure out gaps to riders ahead or behind, it was so easy to lose track of which corner you or they were in.

The hole shot was uphill on a gravel road, and it was that, a hole shot, one man enters...a whole bunch of guys get stuck behind him for the first five or so minutes. I didn't get it, I was actually spun out going uphill they guys took off so damn fast. I was maybe sixth or seventh, cutting off BrentMellen pretty bad (for the first time) as we hit the woods. Form there it was an anaerobic conga line through the switchbacked singletrack . The only pass I made was on the most terrifying portion of the course, right at the bottom of the first descent was this off-camber, I mean really off-camber grassy slope you had to traverse. This guy got knocked off and went for a little slide, he tried to hop back in, but it was back of the train for him after that.

Part way through the first lap Nate Ringquist made what would be his decisive move, breaking away and just plain climbing faster and smoother than anyone else. When I talk about Nate, I always describe him was an incredibly graceful and efficient climber. Quite a contrast to my lurching, ogreish, single-speedy style. He would use his ascending prowess to put a huge gap in early on. I counted it at a 1:40 not too far into the race, it held for a couple laps, then increased to what had to be over two minutes somewhere. I would see him going the opposite direction in the grassy field above the parking lot, an easy place to time a gap.That's what we call "Running a clinic".

The whole race I was chasing Seamus Powell and Brent Mellen. I closed it down on both of them only to have Seamus re-accelerate, gapping me and Brent, I'd never come close to catching him again. Brent I did catch and pass at one point, taking an obnoxiously dumb line through the steep center of a corner, thinking he was fading and that I had him. Wrong. He passed me back on the soggy grassy climb up to the finish then proceeded to build on that gap for the latter half of the race, I was just too cooked to chase him down. I would land in 4th place for the day.

I'm going to keep this one short and race reporty for now, I may have more obtuse thoughts (including the explanation for the sushi triptych) on the subject tomorrow or later in the week, but I gotta get to work now.

Have to say thanks to Mike and Uri and the guys that put this cool, little race together. Nice work, definitely worth the trip.

Above, top to bottom left to right: Seamus Powell looks down at me thinking "My powers were diminished but they have been fully restored, today I will crush you, you silly little man". The uphill wet log hop was tricky while torquing on the SS. As was the mossy uphill ledge thing. As I became more tired, even the wet little bridge thing got technical. "That was hard, really hard". There were two sections I had to a mosquito-legged chimpanzee.


mkr said...

Wow, looks like the course was exactly the same as last year :)

rick is! said...

the maine mountain bike race this weekend is excactly like that. a ton of trail in 10 acres. it's super fun too.