Bike racing is a world of highs and lows.
Saturday morning, I had a kickass breakfast a the Pancake Shop and headed to Lake Leatherwood for the downhill competition. After registration, I had a couple more good practice runs. The race was supposed to start at 10:00, and I (along with the other 15 or so omnium competitors) was informed at approximately 9:15 that we could not race without a full-face helmet. That left a handful of about 10 of us frustrated and scrambling to borrow one. Luckily, one of the other women had an extra in her truck. Other competitors were told that they’d have to wait and possibly only take one run if they couldn’t work out a borrow/run/shuttle helmet situation with another competitor.
I was having a kickass first run. The course was slippery with loose rocks, but I was keeping generally smooth and just fast enough to feel like I wasn’t about to die. Then, about 3/4 of the way down, for reasons I can’t explain, I lost it coming down a small rock drop and went ass-over-tea-kettle. I knew as I came to a stop that I was fine, but at the same time, I watched my bike sail over my head. When I picked it up, the bars were crooked. With no way to fix it, I decided I’d ride it in like that. As I started to roll, I heard a distinctive “vrrrrrrp” noise coming from my front wheel. My tire was rubbing the fork. Crap.
My run a wash with extra fall time, I rolled in and went to the race mechanic to see if we could beat out some of the warp. He wailed it on the ground a few times, tightened a few spokes, and I made it back to the parking area in time with just in time to catch the next shuttle to the top of the hill. At that point I realized that I needed a clean run on my second try in order to retain a high placing in the omnium. Brian Fawley (pro from Orbea) was racing the omnium as well, and since he was in a category with some serious downhill guys, placing well in my category would allow me to get ahead of him in omnium points.
At that point, I also psyched myself out pretty bad thinking about not wrecking.
My second run prettymuch sucked. I didn’t have that awesome “edge of control” feeling from the first run because I was all over the brakes. I didn’t wreck, but my time was 3 seconds slower than Rachel’s (the gal that was 2nd in ST the night before). Crap.
The DH race ran really late. The trials competition was supposed to be starting at 3:00, and I didn’t leave the DH area until about 2:00. There was an awards ceremony at a nearby resort, but I figured the way everything else had been going, that I’d be incredibly late to trials if I stuck around for it. Instead, I went back to the motel, changed, ate, and cooled off a little.
Trials riding is pretty damn cool. There was a Czech dude in the cat I competition that looked as if he was defying the laws of physics. All of the omnium competitors competed in the cat III (beginner) class (no split for gender). Basically, the way it goes is that you and a small group of other people are placed with a judge. One at a time, each person in the group rides through a marked course. You get a point any time you put a foot down, and, if you put both feet down or an axle of one of your wheels passes over the marked course on the ground, you automatically have 5 points, which is the lowest score possible. There are 4 courses that you complete, you do each one 3 times, and your score is cumulative.
Essentially, it’s like golf for bikes.
After we made 1 round of the 4 courses, I realized something. I was not doing so hot. My usual approach to something technical is to pedal as hard as possible and blow through it with momentum. This required finesse. It was fun, and I definitely need to ride like that more often, but I wasn’t going to improve my omnium score with my performance, and I was looking at at least 2 more hours of standing around in the afternoon heat. So, I left and went back to the hotel. The judge of my group gave me a little grief about it, but I was at about this point…
I cooled off, relaxed, and looked at the internet before going to the XC registration & pool party. I don’t care who calls me a quitter… I’ve probably finished more races than them with more dislocated joints.