This past weekend Andy and I competed in the USA Cycling AMBC MTB Race at Greenbrier State Park in Boonsboro, MD. Andy raced in the semi-pro race, while I raced in my old man, masters 40-49 expert age class. Compared to last weekends 100 mile race, this race was much shorter at only 15 miles (3 loops of a five mile course). Doing a short race is completely different than doing a long race for many reasons. First off, a short race is all about speed, about not making any mistakes and about starting/finishing strong. Don't get me wrong, these are also important during an endurance race, but during a short race these factors are much more critical.
So, with that said, my game plan for the race was to start fast, hopefully get the hole shot leading into the single track and then riding strong and steady until the finish of the race. Well, the race did start like I wanted with me getting a hole shot and leading the first few miles of single track. I lost my lead after catching some of the slower riders in the age classes that started before our group. As many of you know, it can be difficult picking lines through lap traffic, especially on climbs and technical, rocky trails. I did feel like I was going through the traffic nicely, but at the same time I knew that if I made any mistakes the guy sitting on my wheel would capitalize on them. So, I did end up taking a couple of lines that slowed me down a little and that guy sitting on my wheel, Gunnar Shogren, made his move.
Once the move was made, the lap traffic actually became much heavier and more difficult to get through. This is not my excuse as to why I gave up my lead because I do think that riding through lap traffic is a learned skill, which Gunnar has seemed to master. Anyway, by the end of the first lap Gunnar had about 20 seconds on me, but he was in sight and so my motivation to catch him stayed consistent. Things stayed the same during the second lap, with Gunnar leading and me chasing. The lap traffic was also still heavy on the trails, so it was not real easy to make up time.
By the third lap, I felt like my legs were starting to wake up from my restful week of recovery riding and things started to flow for me again. I was easily moving through the lap traffic by this point and I definitely felt like I was strong enough to catch Gunnar. It was nice receiving time splits by other riders out on the course. Steve O, from the Indian Regional Hospital Team, told me when I caught him that I was only like 40 seconds down on Gunnar, with about a half lap to go. I put the hammer down and sure enough, there he was bouncing through the trails just in front of me. I put a lot into catching him and was then actually able to pass him pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I carried way too much speed into a sharp right downhill turn and had to unclip my foot from my pedal to stay upright. Gunnar ceased this opportunity to come around me again, which gave him the lead down the last technical down hill. I was able to follow Gunnar's line down the hill and was right on him leading into the last few straight aways up to the finish. As we came around the last bend, Gunnar started his sprint and I matched his move. I knew Gunnar was an accomplished sprinter, so I knew that I needed to put the power down. About 25 yards in front of the finish line, there was a lapped rider in the middle of the course. Gunnar had the high line leading to the finish, the lapped rider was right in the middle of the straightaway, and so I decided to take the low line to ensure that there was not a tangle-up at the finish. I put as much power as I could muster into my pedal strokes, but it was just not enough to come around the crafty old man. So, at the end, I was the first loser in the 40 plus race. All I can say now is that I am glad that very few mtb race come down to a sprint finish because sprinting is certainly not my strongest ability on the bike.
Andy finished out his race in 8th place, sorry I don't have too many more details about it than that. Additionally, our Ergon/Speedgoat sister teammate, Ernesto Marenchin won the marathon race. So, all in all, it was not a bad day for the Speedgoat Riders.