Thursday, May 28, 2009

Root 66 Coyote Hill Report

Here we go, another frantic, breathless (pointless) report with very little regard for punctuation, structure, or grammatical rules of any kind.

After Tremblant Linnea and I bolted down to Waitsfield, VT to stay with the The Whittinghams. Slept like absolute hell as per usual, but the coffee with real VT maple syrup was enough to crack me out of my sleep-deprived stupor. I needed all my mental alertness to survive the caravan following Jeff over to West Fairlee and Tom Masterson's Coyote Hill race. It got interesting when I didn't have cell reception or any way of communicating the fact that I needed to pee (those who know me, know I pee about nine times on the way to a race) I had Jeff back-tracking wondering where the hell we were.

It had rained pretty hard in the AM then become quite sunny, yet not hot, perfect conditions. Warm up didn't really happen, just rode up the opening climb a few times, chatting with people. Everyone was there, and then some. It was unbelievable, the parking situation was like nothing I'd seen at the race before, overflowing up the street.

Harry, the only person besides two year old Seneca who's butt is small enought to fit in this high chair. Party Girl. Jeff swaps tires ten minutes before we are about to leave for Coyote Hill. Breakfast at The Green Cup, so good. Harry Precourt makes me look like I pick at my food.

When we lined up, we had over thirty Pros. Not bad. Actually, the largest field I've seen at a regional race. This sport may be on the way back up. The first of the two hole shots wasn't as silly as some years, they backed us down the field a little ways so we didn't just take two pedal strokes, then run, ten abreast into a bridge wide enough for one rider. I didn't find myself so bad off coming over the bridge, made a few passes and found myself mid-pack going up the dirt road climb to the woods. I punched it a little bit, just catching the top ten train as we dropped over the edge of the road and into the singletrack.

The first section of singletrack is something I have good dreams about (on the rare occasions that sleep long enough to experience REM sleep). I was lucky enough to follow Nate Ringquist and Greg Carpenter down it during my warm up (the course was too muddy for an entire pre-ride). They showed me the way of The Brakeless Warrior...or something . If you ride that section right, you basically don't hit your brakes until the log-cross-hatched mud bog at the bottom. You get a euphoric, floaty feeling as you rail up over the couple little lumps and loft off the small kickers along the way. It's seems to go on forever, which is part of the reason that, although his course has a decent amount of climbing, it doesn't really feel like it. You lose all your elevation on the first decent, wind your way through a few miles of rooty, tight singeltrack,
then meander back up a slight grade along the river, go up a couple punchy little bastard climbs, then hit the road and gain most of the elevation back there.

The Whittibaby Show

First lap we had the requisite jockeying for position thing going on. Someone would bobble, I'd go by, I'd bobble someone else would go by. There were maybe three sections which were super-hard to clean on the single speed with the 34 X 19 gear, after I figured that out I chose to preemptively dismount and run them, instead of getting knocked off and having to awkwardly step off my bike and wrestle it up the hill from a standstill. The singletrack in this course has so many little wallows, and on a day like Sunday, when it's so wet and soft it really takes it out of you, it has you praying for the climbs...where you can recover.

As things sorted themselves out I found myself chasing John Foley, Seamus Powell, Matt O'Keefe, and Ben Silberfarb. I was being chased by Paul Simoes, I couldn't see anyone behind him. Paul is also a Single-Speeder and this year he has a real bike, a Fisher Rig with a rigid fork, he is now more dangerous than ever. I was definitely feeling a bit more ON than I was on Saturday, I was breathing hard, my legs were moving, both good signs. I was able to pass Matt at some point, I think on the road. Seamus and Foley had gapped me pretty bad, but Silberfarb was in site, I set to reeling him in.

We had the classic battle of the fit guy and the technical guy. I would close down through the singletrack only to have him blow the gap open again as soon as he could put two pedal strokes together on the open stuff. I caught up to him just before the singletrack decent off the road (the brakeless dreamy thing). There was no way to pass unless he pulled to the side completely gave it up. So I got right up on his ass and started sweating him, hoping he'd make a mistake. I realize that I have a (probably incredibly annoying) habit of exhaling through my nostrils loudly and repeatedly when I'm sitting in behind another rider. I'm really just clearing out the pipes and trying to recover a bit, but what it amounts to is me literally "breathing down their neck". I usually don't expel snot onto the rider which is nice. I finally made a bad pass and got around Ben on the outside of a corner.

On the third lap I felt my Mojo coming back, I felt like I maybe knew how to ride a bike. My performance on the descents of tremblant had left me broken and demoralized so this was good. I do recall thinking "This is nothin' compared to Tremblant, I'm gonna just let it rip....AAH-Crap!" as I slid out on some downhill-off-camber roots, hooked my bar on a tree, jack-knifed my bike, heard my tire double burp, and planted my hip on the ground, ripping a gaping hole in the side of my shorts. Oddly, after that, with my now perfect front tire pressure and my violently jogged mental alertness (the two bottles of Coke might have helped) I began riding way, way better.

Fourth lap I was seeing lines that weren't there before, carrying all sorts of speed through the corners, cleaning all but one section (the thing with the greasy ass mud leading up to the stream crossing), I felt great, like I knew what I was doing out there. My late surge brought me up right behin Greg Carpenter and within site of Nate Ringquist (same order as on the brief pre-ride, if I'd realized that was going to be a portent, I would have lead out the warm up). I could see Greg was scrambling to find every bit of strength he had left, but I was too, and there was no way I could close it down before the finish.

I came across the line 8th, which with a field of this size and caliber, I would take. Thanks to Jill and Chris Logan and Tom Masterson for putting this thing together, damn good race!

In other news, I kind of mentioned seeing Emily Batty suffering from chainsuck issues at Tremblant in my last post but neglected to mention that I took a break form being a total jerk for a minute to help her out with some mechanical advice:

"A man who was racing actually stopped to help me figure out what was going on. I never got his number plate but if reads this... thank you again :)"

For the whole story, check out her Blog.



Cathy said...

(the course was too muddy for an entire pre-ride)Too bad the Rowells didn't know this in advance of our pre-ride...

Thanks for helping me out of my pedal at the end. Stupid sprained ankle!

matty o said...

your blog is way cooler than my blog battle! comin to get you!

Raineman said...

I spent the day bobbling sans mojo with nearly 40lbs in the tires and a race day stiff SID. Thankfully, I can feign having done this purposely so you'd lap me and I would get to gape in awe at your mad skillz...which were indeed impressive as you climbed over some greasy mud much to my amazement.