I felt somewhat relieved to not go race the enduro. I’m sure it would have been awesome, but my race at Winter Park was pretty awesome as well. Friday, I went for a quick recovery/bike test ride before opening the shop. The Problem Solvers PF30 eccentric bottom bracket I’ve been using for singlespeeding purposes has been one of the most problematic pieces of bike equipment I’ve ever used. Not only is the tolerance to the frame so poor that it gets noisy at the first sign of any mud or water, it also requires the trial-and-error fitment of multiple spacers and crap on the crank spindle in order to work without either binding or having play in it. I worked on it for 45 minutes Thursday night, and found a combination that only had a tiny bit of play in it. One more tiny spacer on top of that, and the drag is terrible. I’m currently looking in to a replacement from either Niner, Wheels Manufacturing, or Team Beer.
I rode over to Golden Gate Canyon State Park and for a short climb to a section of trail that would give me a nice feel of the bike and wake my legs up a little (my ride Wednesday was 5 hours, so I took Thursday off). The only troubling thing about my 40 minute ride? I’m so used to descending on a 6″ bike now that I got myself in to a couple of hairy spots on the hardtail. That’ll take a little getting used to again. Everything else shaked out pretty well, though.
Saturday morning, I made the drive over to Winter Park. I was there pretty early, so I registered and then sat around in the car drinking my favorite pre-race mix of Blueberry Pomegranate Gu Brew and Pure Clean Beet Powder. I’ve only ever ridden the DH trails at Winter Park, so I wasn’t totally sure of what to expect. I didn’t ask anyone about singlespeed gearing, I just assumed that since there were a couple of climbs, I’d put a 32×21 on there and hope for the best.
Once I was dressed and rolling around, I found the course start and rode most of the first climb. My gearing felt good. I could stand and either cruise or hammer and still be in a comfortable cadence zone. I love that the race starts all of the pro, expert, and singlespeed women together. Unlike the last race I did, it meant that the SS women wouldn’t need to ride through large portions of the field ahead of us while on all of the climbs. We all gathered, and there were two other SS women and a host of experts and pros. I didn’t really know anyone, so I figured I’d just go my pace and see how it worked out.
We started, and immediately, one of the other SS women took off near the front group of geared riders. I just paced myself. We had about 10 minutes of climbing up a ski hill access road before getting in to the first singletrack. I quickly caught up to the lady ahead of me. She was sitting and looking comfortable, so I think she was on a slightly lower gear than me. I didn’t know for sure if that was a good thing, but I wasn’t going to stick around and ask.
After a little singletrack, we dumped out on to another access road. It was one of several ~1 mile pieces of road I have dubbed “Singlespeeder Purgatory” because of their slightly downhill gradient. Basically, in those spots, you’ll spin-coast your brains out while geared riders go flying past you in their biggest gear. Being conservative, there were at least 3 miles of singlespeeder purgatory on the race course. I used all of them for drinking and eating Roctane gels. After what seemed like forever, we took some more singletrack out of the ski area and did some nice, flowy stuff with intermittent gravel road climbs.
Every time I’d get on a road, I was looking over my shoulder and expecting to see the other singlespeeders behind me. It never happened, though. There were definitely some steep spots where my gearing wasn’t ideal, but there were more flat-ish spots where, if other ladies were on easier gears, I definitely had the advantage. I knew that as long as I didn’t blow myself up too much while climbing, I’d be golden. Soon enough, we were back in the ski area, and the course was mostly downhill to the finish. I was starting to get my hardtail mojo back a little (there wasn’t anything really techy about the course. It was mostly smooth with a few roots and rocks), so I cruised all the way down, zipped up my jersey, and saluted the finish. Dirty South, baby.
Second place had left already… the podiums were more than 3 hours after the race finished. When I stepped up there, the 3rd place lady asked, “Where did YOU come from?” That’ll make you feel pretty awesome.