Race # 1 Conyers - The first race of the season and my first in the Masters 45+ category. I thought the course was fantastic and flowed much better than last year's. The week prior to the race I converted my bike from an 8spd double ring setup to a 10spd single ring setup with 42x12-27 gearing so I was anxious to see how I would do with this in a race. I was surprised at how large the field (26) was; and did not have a good position at the start line. At the start I took a wide outside line on the first right hander and held my speed longer into the first barriers, this set me up well coming out of the barriers as I passed a number of people and came out in about 8th position. I held this comfortably until exiting the wooded section after the log run-up. I took a bad line over some roots there and dropped my chain; I was pretty disappointed in this since that was one of the reasons for the single ring setup and I had a third eye on the inside as well as a guard ring on the outside. Hopped off and got the chain back on pretty quickly but still got passed by a number of riders as everyone was still pretty close together at that point. Not sure if it was the fact that I had to dismount, stop and bend down to get the chain on or just that point in the course leading into the grass climb but after that my legs felt like they were swimming in latic acid so I immediately lost contact with the front of the race and felt like crap for a half lap. Still on the first lap coming down the grassy zig zag descent my rear tire slid out and I fell on the second zig; I was overly slow and cautious on that turn for the rest of the race. By the second lap the field had thinned out pretty much and it was me and a couple of GTC guys and another rider having our own little race, by the 4th lap I had a pretty good rhythm going and was able to distance myself from our little pack and then I could see another rider up ahead (Bobby Thrash) to try and chase down. I worked the last couple of laps and was finally able to get on his back wheel at the top of the grassy zig zag descent but he gapped me on that descent and I could not bring him back. I wound up in 11th place at the end.
Race # 2 Ft Yargo - Another beautiful day and another great course. I got my patented poor starting position and the rider in front of me had trouble clipping in at the start so I was stuck even further back. I have decided that starts are something I definitely need to work on; I tend to be conservative at the starts as I like to start slower physically and don't like jostling for position but poor starts consistently hurt me. I was able to pass a few riders on the pavement before we hit the twisty back section where things stayed pretty much single file and then I passed a couple more on the wooded section below the mini-golf course. I could see the guys in front just gradually distance themselves at the various points on the course where I could gauge my position. I settled into a pace I could hold and raced with those around me (Wojtek and another rider) for a while. On the 5th lap I was able to distance those guys as we seemed to be working our way through a steady trickle of the 35+ guys. Going into the last lap I saw Bobby Thrash ahead of me again so I worked to try and bring him back; close but no cigar, I finished about 10yds behind him in 8th place. Some thoughts from the Yargo race:
- I had decided to dismount early in the sand rather than later and risk loosing all momentum or falling I think this was the right choice for me as I don't trust my bike handling skills in sand.
- I think I did a surprised double take of the headless GTC rider on every lap not because he was headless but because I kept thinking it was a stopped rider.
- I had never had my triceps hurt like they did in this race; I know I'm just a little girly man but that was something new to me. Looking at the course there was a lot of re-accelerating from very slow speeds up an incline; more pulling on the bars than I'm used to.
- This course kind of scared me with my new single ring setup as I thought I might want my old bail out gears but I didn't miss them at all. The first lap I could have used a bigger gear on the paved descent but it was not really a factor and in general I am really happy with the single ring setup it just seems to make things simpler and no chain drop this race! I did adjust my third eye in closer and higher after the last race.
- The off camber turns kicked my butt; I just felt really sketchy in both of them and I came acorss a number of people taking them slower than I was.
- I felt pretty strong at the finish which makes me think that going out harder might help my placing, we'll see at Monroe.