The Winding Trails mountain bike race, which is part of the Root 66 series organized by two very nice folks, Chris and Jill, hold a special place for me. It was this race 3 years ago that marked our foray back into the world of racing our mountain bikes. We had taken a long, 9 year hiatus for competitive mountain biking. For many of those years we raced nothing at all but gradually made our way into time-trial, road and then cyclo-cross. All along I'd meant to go back and give MTB racing another go but it was just one more thing to do, any didn't seem to happen, until we set our minds and competed in this race a few years back.
I've always liked the race. The course consisted of some really fun, fast, tight and twisty singletrack as well as some super fast access road power sections. This played well to my strong points and historically, I have done fairly well at this course. This year there were significant changes to years past. There were far fewer extended open power sections in favor of shorter sections of access road connecting many new, fresh, tight singletrack sections. This made for a really great course to ride but a really challenging course to pass on. There was also an additional super crappy mud section in addition to the normal ultra crappy mud section. I hate mud. I really do. I dislike wet feet and swampy gloves and gritty chamois'.
Motivation wasn't super high to race I must admit but we made the trip anyhow, I because I thought Cathy really wanted to race and she thinking the same of me. Communication at it's finest. The Men's 40+ Cat1 field, my field, ended up being one of the biggest of the day. Unfortunately for me, I opted for one last trip to the restroom rather than getting extra early to staging. This resulted in a less that optimal starting multiple rows back from the front. The start was crucial at this race as you quickly hit singletrack where it was nearly impossible to pass. Directly in front of me at the start I had at least one person who wasn't interested in getting any kind of a holeshot and going really fast, he was just looking for a big wheel to ride around behind. Great. I know, it's my fault for not being more attentive and getting on the front line.
At the gun I did all that I could to move up and was able to get into about 7th wheel going into the initial singletrack. I could see however, that the person I'd pegged to win, the guy I battled with last year at this race, who was attentive and got into the front row and also got the holeshot, was riding away. This does not bode well for my chances, I thought to myself. Indeed, after spending the next couple miles making all sorts of crazy passes I got into second place and started chasing. For the entire lap I went as hard as I could, which in reality was actually a little harder than I could. The gap narrowed and coming around for the lap I was within maybe 10 yards, but suffering mightily. A surge from the leader going through the sandy uphill and it was all over. I faded into an oblivion of passing riders from other fields and noting the leader steadily increasing his lead on me. Of note was the fact that my own wife hosed me on a high speed catch and pass in a singletrack section. I clearly announced my presence and that I was coming by on the left. All she needed to do was stay as she was. Unfortunately, she she bobbled and swerved left, causing me to lock up the brakes and come to a stop, loosing all momentum on a spongy slightly uphill section. Too bad it made absolutely no difference in the long run, lest I could blame her :)
In the end, I finished up 2nd, down by a HUGE margin. Had not taken a beating like that in a while. I didn't much care for it. Cathy did a super job to finish up strongly in 2nd as well, missing only to her long term rival, Sue, a woman who is all legend. All in all, a good day for sure, except for the mud.