Today I returned to New Fane to gain some more mountain biking experience in advance of Saturday’s race. I wore everything that I expect to wear during the race, so now I expect nothing but good performance from my clothing and shoes. The borrowed Trek Fuel 70 also performed well. Of my own performance I can say that I didn’t crash, that I rode cleanly through a couple of sections that gave me trouble last week, and that my Lap 2 time was more than 5 minutes faster than my Lap 1 time. I’m still nothing like “good,” but I’m getting better. Familiarity with the terrain is huge, so once Suamico is behind me I’ll be looking for some practice sessions at Greenbush in advance of the race there on May 28.
Eventually I would like to be better than other people, not just better than my novice self. Today I was clearly faster than a couple of people I encountered on the trails, but they weren’t the sorts of riders I expect to find at WEMS and WORS races. There were two riders who just flat rode away from me today: Patrick Brock—who placed 5th last year among the Cat 4 racers in the Wisconsin State Cyclocross Championships—and some dude on a gold GT. These guys were faster on every part of the trail but most noticeably faster on descents. They seemed not to need their brakes at all on sections that had me wondering whether mine were going to melt. That’s not fitness; it’s technique that I need to learn. I can accept that younger, lighter, fitter guys will out-climb me, but I’m in trouble when they can get a gap without even pedaling.
There's a lot to learn, but that's what my 2011 is going to be about. I think that by throwing myself into racing right away, I'll progress more quickly than I would outside of a competitive environment.