Monday, August 17, 2009

NOT Leadville, but......

This past weekend there were primarily two 100 mile mtb races from which to choose. A small, unknown race with some guy named Lance doing it being held in the mountains of Colorado (Leadville), if you couldn't guess. And, the other choice, the 6th stop of the NUE Series, the Fool's Gold 100, in Dongalonga, GA...the town was actually called Dahlonega, but Andy and I had some fun saying Dongalonga because we were not too sure how to actually pronounce the name of the small college town. Anyway, being the NUE Series Junkie that I am, I did the Fool's Gold Race instead of Leadville...not that I really even gave any real consideration to doing Leadville.

From what I can find on the internet, Leadville boasts approximately 14,000 feet of climbing. I do not use an altimeter or a GPS Unit on my bike, but I did find GPS information on the total of the Fool's Gold Race, which verified the climbing at just over 14,600 feet for the entire 100 mile, 2 loop race. So, even though I was not at the infamous Leadville 100, I actually got to do more climbing than if I was there anyway. Additionally, when compared to Leadville, Fool's is more of a true mountain bike course with many of the 100 miles coming from single track trails rather than dirt roads. I have never done Leadville, but my guess is that anyone who has done both races would probably say Fool's is tougher to do than Leadville. What do you think, Garth P.???

Well, enough comparison between the two races. Time to tell my story of Fool's and the fun I had doing it. Let me start by giving a description of the activities that occurred on the first climb, an eleven mile monster, which takes about an hour to climb. The race started in a flat grass field, then went for about two hundred yards, before pointing straight up. After the start, I immediately went to the front of the pack to set some good tempo up the climb. My new blogger friend, Rich Dillen, then rode up to me and introduced himself . We shook hands, said a few kind words and then continued with the racing. Anyway, my race plan up the climb was to keep a pretty fast pace at the front of the pack to lessen the occurrence of individual attacks, so that hopefully a group could form to set a steady, but fast pace up the rest of the climb. My strategy seemed to work and a few miles up the hill there was a group containing me and six other riders. We seemed to work well together up the climb and the pace was enough to create a pretty significant gap over the rest of the field. Gunnar S. was the only other singlespeeder in the lead group with me, so I was happy with how things were going.

I did the first climb with only one water bottle, since the first check point was on top of the 11 mile climb. I figured it would be better to climb light and then stop at the top of the climb to grab the rest of my hydration gear rather than carrying everything the whole way up. I figured that other racers would also have this plan in mind and that the climb would also split things up so much that a 20 second stop to grab my stuff would not be a problem. Well, I was wrong. As it turned out, I was the only one in the lead group to stop at the check point (and there was no way I could continue racing with only a quarter of a bottle left to drink until the next check point), so I had no choice but to watch the fast group roll away with Gunnar attached in their draft.

After grabbing my hydration gear and jumping back on my bike, I figured it was going to be a long day alone in the saddle, again, especially after I found that the descent had many fast, flatter sections, which seemed perfect for a singlespeeder to use for drafting. After the long, fast fire road descent, though, the single track started and to my surprise, I soon found Gunnar riding all alone. After catching him, I said "Man, I thought you were gone when you rode away with that group." He said, "Those guys are nuts on the descents!" I agreed with him and then we settled into a fast singlespeed pace, riding together for almost the entire first fifty mile lap.

It wasn't until the last climb before the end of the 1st lap that I was finally able to put about 20 seconds on Gunnar. I maintained this small gap going into the start/finish area of the first loop. I did a quick pit stop and like on the first lap grabbed only one water bottle for the long 11 mile climb, since I had my second camelbak and another bottle waiting on top of the mountain. When Gunnar came into the checkpoint he jokingly asked me to wait up for him, but knowing this was my chance to gain some valuable time, I pedaled away. From what Gunnar told me after the race, I put like ten minutes on him by the top of the big climb. But, not knowing where Gunnar was behind me, I pushed my pace until the end of the race. I also kept my pace high to accomplish a personal goal of finishing in the top five overall again at a NUE Series Race on a singlespeed, if I could.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly for me on the second lap, other than being stung repeatedly by a wasp on the temple area of my head, when it got stuck in between my face and helmet strap, at mile 67. Other than the pain from being stung, my bike was working flawlessly, the rest of my body felt great, my nutrition and hydration was going as planned, and I kept the rubber trail side down all day, too, so all was golden. It was so nice to do a race without having some major problem to tackle. I basically just got into my groove and enjoyed the trails and my ride.

By the end of the race, I had met my goal of being the first singlespeed racer to cross the line and the 5th rider overall to finish the 100 mile race, with a time of 8 hours and 15 minutes. Andy also had a great race, finishing 6th overall and as 5th in the open (geared) class, about fifteen minutes behind me. This was Andy's first time on a NUE Series Podium, so he was pretty excited about his finish. This win gave me a lock on the overall NUE Series Singlespeed Class Win. With now having four 1st places and one second place finish in the sereis, I can relax a bit and treat the Shenandoah 100 as a one day race instead of a meaningful part of a series.

I can't say enough good things about the Fool's Gold Race. The course was tough, but at the same time super fun to do. Eddy, the promoter, also did great job with all the logistical and event planning stuff required to make everything run smoothly. I would absolutely add this race on to a list of 100 mile races to do, even if doesn't have all the drama surrounding a guy named Lance doing the race. Happy Trails, Gerry


Wendy said...

Hey now, this sounds like something to plan for next year. Cool stuff!

b said...

Awesome! See you both (hopefully) at the S100.

Jason said...

Great job man. What a season! Keep it up. See you in VA.