I looked down at my heart rate readout a few minutes before the start. Over 100. I had been sitting for 30 minutes just prior to lining up. Anxiety much?
Actual distance of racing: 15km.
Nervous, I packed enough food for an overnighter. With no SRAM Neutral Support behind my field that day and no wheels to put in the truck thanks for the New Jersey Mishap, I even stuck a tube and CO2 in my pocket. After a long neutral rollout (begining with a 2km descent down a mountain), the lead moto pulled away and racing went live. A flurry of attacks littered the first klicks, but nobody got away. The KOM point came at about 17km in without any drama, but the pace stayed high as we routed down a kilometer and a half of gravel. Gaps opened everywhere in the field and I found myself behind a few bad wheels, bridging to groups up the road. The sprint point came on a very fast section, open section of road after 32km, then things settled down and everybody was together. Until Baby Gap, it would be like a Sunday group ride.
The race leader escaped the field with a few strongmen somwhere after Hinesburg, but there was no reaction in the field. Us also-rans were content to let the leaders duke it out and live fight another day.
I survived to Baby Gap feeling rather fresh, then slipped back little by little. I was okay with it, as I knew going over my limit would just slow me down on the terrain to come. Baby ended more quickly than I expected, and I almost immediately saw the 5km to go sign. It was a very nice surprise. If only I knew…
… Appalachian Gap got steeper little by little until 2km from the summit, where it turned in to a wall. At 500M, it somehow got steeper. Until then I had been concentrating on making the time cut, but with each pedal stroke the finish seemed farther away. I wondered if I could even keep the cranks turning. I saw James Wilson shooting pictures – he raised his camera and I told him that if he took one, I’d cut him. James, I’m pretty sure you laughed. Nothing personal! No need for all of MABRA to see what pasty white death looks like. Glad to see you there, though.
When the time sheets were posted, I was listed ten minutes behind the stage winner for 50th place. This one, I wasn’t actually disappointed with. Sure, nobody’s happy about 50th, but I was well within the time cut and knew that I’d left a lot of fuel in the tank for the crit. Mission accomplished. Kind of.
I got a ride back to base camp with Tom Buzas of XO Communications, did a short spin to get the crap out of my legs, and spent the rest of the day eating and relaxing. Ironically, it may have been one of the nicer days I spent up there.