Sitting in second and third is fine by me. Snake 2 is in the bag, and that's it for me. March is off the schedule, I'll just get to watch. And after this past weeks shake up, I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes out. Great race for the SS riders, some lousy performances, some great ones, and it's all gonna get interesting in March. Race promoters take note.
The race opened up in mid fifty degree temperatures, in February, and pretty darn good trail conditions. It was either a childlike reaction to the weather or Shane Schriehart in my start group that made for a fast start. Very Fast. And Shane, the only competition I had in my radar, got all Nicholas Cage on me and was Gone in Sixty seconds. Maybe I hung with him a little longer, but he was a few bike lengths ahead of me by the time we hit the creek crossing.
I chased down a handful of other Dedicated Athletes, a Krystal rider who wasn't Jamie Pillsbury, and a Terrapin guy or two, including Mike Stanley. After my fast start cum lose-the-lead-anyway morning, I just got through those guys and settled in, assuming Mr. Schriehart was long gone. He drug me around the Firewater 50 course (plus 17 miles) last summer, stretched his legs and wanted to keep going. The guy can ride.
The sunny temps and lackluster desire to make a move had me feeling pretty good; riding well within a pace I could hold all day and still look around and enjoy things. Somewhere after the pine tree climb I came across a Krystal rider who was in fact Jamie Pillsbury, who was feeling the effects of a busy work schedule crossed with an early season race. He wasn't going to make it to the finish today. That oughtta motivate him enough that he'll be back in March with guns drawn. Good luck to him.
I made the parking lot, dropped the arm warmers, switched flavors of Rapidade at the SAG station, and got a pat on the back from Sideshow Bob himself. While all the other pro guys get private shuttles up to the start to make sure they can start off the front, Garth was trying a new strategy; start in the back and fight through slow traffic all day in an effort to..uh...I don't know. Maybe saying "on your left" 100 times makes him feel fast. We talked eachother through the climb at 17 miles. He was saying how I was killing it on a single speed, and then justifying it away with some jaded geared rider math. PPHHH...i made sure to point out that he was only 4 minutes ahead of me, had gears, and was a quasi sponsered überpro. We had a good laugh and I wished him well as he climbed out of site.
Lucky for me I had a new rabbit on the horizon. Chasing Garth to chew the fat for a bit pulled me back to Shane, whom I figured was done with the race already, breaking a new SS land speed record. It seemed Shane wasn't feeling all that well, and was cramping up in the technical sections when he lost momentum. And that's just how it went. He'd pull a way on the easier terrain, and I'd get him back when the rocks gaves his legs fits. We had a great internal race going for a while, sharing lines and catching up, but eventually it was his time, and he wished me luck and told me to get on with it.
I felt really smooth going through the last few miles of singletrack. The last 3 miles were littered with the walking dead as usual. I give the beginning to novice folks who do the 17 mile version of this race a lot of credit. When I was down in that part of the curve, fitness and technical riding ability were pretty well related. When I only had the fitness to race 17 miles, my technical riding ability matched it, and I stayed away from courses the like of the Snake Creek Gap. This is a huge race for some of those guys and girls, and they all push through to the end. Good to see for the sport, and for this race.
I crossed the finish line at 3:29:something. Roughly 2 minutes slower than last month. While I had a great day, the comfort level and control of riding over the last 6 miles was definitely a product of dogging it through the first half. Either my head wasn't in it, or I just didn't have any good pace riders. That's the one drawback this year compared to last. Last year I had some people who I knew were fast, and they made me faster. This year those folks are either missing completely, or haven't hit their stride yet. With Jamie and Shane having bad days, Chip missing out, and some of the way faster than me talent that shows up later in the year not quite ready for a trip to Georgia; I was in no man's land all day. I knew where all those folks were, and I had no reason to look ahead, let alone over my shoulder.
And that's why my hat's off to Doug Frederick, aka Dougie Fresh in some circles, for his performance over the weekend. He's been lurking around the top of the race for last 2 years, and over the weekend had a day where it all felt good. He cut over 30 minutes of his January time. I didn't even realize it in the parking lot afterward. Congrats to Doug, let him hear it if you ride with him.
Best to all you the guys in March. If everyone gets there shit together and has a good day, the race should be on some half assed cable network like VS., I'd rather watch that than 6 hours of world championship poker. Place your bets now. Who's going to take the SS podium this year?