I didn't race last year and the Rim Nordic series was one that I missed sorely. The venue is cozy. The place just induces you to kick back and hang out. The picnic tables are scattered generously, under cool shady pines, right by the start/finish area and there's always something going on. Kerry and Bev, do such an excellent job at promoting this race and making it a very personal experience. Plus, Rim Nordic, just has to be one of the funnest race courses, I've ever raced. A ton of technical singletrack, with high-speed sections that demand the best out of you.
We stayed at a cabin in Twin Lakes about 40 minutes away and Saturday evening, found us at the race course, dialing in Deb's temporary replacement fork. I had my first ride on the 02' S-Works bike, just the evening before on Friday night and I was trying to learn more about it right there and then. The S-Works is a sweet ride and just kills the K2 Razorback on handling and capability. It is a fast, neutral handler, that is sensitive to body english. In the late twilight of Saturday, I found myself bombing down rocky chutes and being amazed at the bike.
Sunday morning and we're gathered under the pines for the start of the beginner race. FFW (Dave) and I are watching the various classes jetting out and waiting for the women's class to begin. Deb's lined up with the whole field and they're going to start them all together, regardless of age. They get the 'GO' and they're moving out to do the first loop. Up the canyon and then back down an adjacent canyon before heading out to the big singletrack climb. We're ringing the big cow bell as they roll by in a cloud of dust and move out.
A short while later, they're coming down and Deb is fourth as the group approaches the wide area before the long singletrack. She musta listened to us good, because she suddenly whipped a pass on the girl in front of her and then just hauled by all three of them and slammed the door on them, grabbing the singletrack ahead of all of them! The total demoralizing pass! She never saw any of them again. I wouldn't see her finish, as my start would be already on, by the time she was done, but I certainly thought of her out there, while I wondered how she did and if she made it ok.
I grouped it with the guys from my class. I love it, when you've got the 'race-face' guys there. Not a word, not an emotion crosses their faces. Ya ignore em and talk with the other friendlies. Hey, this isn't Iwo Jima, it's just an XC race. I did get to meet John Biron, the guy who's dominating the state series was there for the first time and it was good talking to him. He's a super-nice guy and FFW and I shot the breeze with him and other cool guys who were there.
OK, fifteen seconds to go. Clicked in and taking a deep breath. GO! I slam power to the cranks and get a wheelie out of my S-works, the front wheel slams back down as I try to click back in the pedals. I weave, I wander and try to click in while putting power to the bike. What an ugly start! But I've never launched the new bike. They started three classes together, so we've got the younger guys starting in front of us. We sail into the first turn in a big crowd and I jump in behind John Biron and just follow him.
The first right going up the canyon and suddenly a big clump of riders forms a giant sink-stopping hairball and comes to a stop right there in the middle of the trail, I whip around to the left and I count it as my luck as I just got a big jump on about ten or fifteen riders. We work the first loop and I'm descending the high speed rocky chute back to the start line. I launch the S-works off've a boulder jump and land in the loose stuff with ease. What a bike and I don't even know it that well yet!
We start working the long climb up to the fireroad and it is friggin' hot! THe sweat pours off've me as I work tough rocky section after tough section. At the top, I hook up with a younger rider and trail him, as we pass rider after rider on the first fast downhill section. We get to the second downhill singletrack. This section is an incredibly fast, roller coaster ride. I get in behind the young guy and he's got the total Top Gun action going and I'm right behind him. We're slamming turns, skimming boulders and sailing through deep sand in the corners. I hit one of the soft sections on a high-speed turn and the front wheel washes out very hard. I slam the handlebars, straight back into my solar plexus. I do this so hard, that I actually lose nearly all the air in my lungs for a brief second and grunt hard doing it. It was a 1/4 second move that saved my ass and sometimes, that's what it takes. But I know this course very well and I catch up with him again. We hit the bottom and work the downhill doubletrack, but then we do the long doubletrack climb back up the mountain. Gawd, what a steep beyatch you got to do, before you even get near the finish line.
At the start/finish, my sponsor, Rich Bartlett is doing the water bottle hand-off for me and Deb is there yelling "Go Regis". Rich tells me I'm in third. Gawd, here we go again. Up the canyon, down the canyon and now I'm grannying up the singletrack climb, aware that I've got to recover when I can and keep something for that ugly doubletrack climb near the end. I get to the fireroad and I'm rolling it as best I can. Suddenly, there's second place in my class. He's got the "P" on his leg, just like I do. I pull up alongside and slow my breathing and tell him, "Hey, isn't this a great day up here!". It's a total psych game, but it works as I pull away and start putting some time on him
I work the downhill with razor blades for eyeballs. There is no rock that my front wheel will hit to slow me down, even a tenth of a second. Everything is as super-smooth and super-fast as possible. I get a chance to look back and I don't see him near, but you can't take that for granted. I push and on the second super-fast S/T section, I'm working it. Only the third time, I've ever ridden this bike and there's still capabilities that I can see that I'm not exploiting.
I slam the downhill double track as if being pursued (which I am). Throw caution to the wind, toss out inhibition, just flog! Now the double-track uphill. What a thigh killer. My thighs burn and it just friggin' hurts. The air has been super-dry and my mouth is parched. Squeak a drink and push towards the top. Still have second place. Got to work it and I'm nearly barbequed, but can't take the guy behind me for granted, never. The last turn and I'm putting it to the pedals. Finally the finish and I give it one last push. Been passed at the finish before and there's no way it'll ever happen again. So I pulled off second place. I roll off the course, with that mixed feeling of elation and being absolutely wiped out at the same time. But I'm stoked and covered in dust and sweat. My new bike looks like hell as there's a mix of streaked Accelerade and dirt all over it. Me and the new bike pulled it off. It ain't the newest thing out there, but it's competitive enough and I'm looking forward to getting to know it much better.
James Cross did super well. He came in second, just ahead of a three-way dogfight right at the finish line, with my teammate Tony taking the third position. Deb won her class and was the fastest overall woman racer! Another team mate of mine, Richard took first place in beginner men. Just about all the Block Team were podium spots, with only 14 year old Luke, missing third by seconds. An excellent day, an excellent race and it was good to be back. FFW was with us all weekend and it was great having him there with us. I'm glad he's racing again! We missed the Papo brah out there!
Posted by STP a 48 year old Racer riding a 02' S-Works from P'Dale on 06/25/07