Mother Nature really tried to ruin the WORS season opener today at Iola, but I rode a strong race and now feel very confident that I’m making progress as a mountain biker. I took 4th place out of 17 men in the Citizens (Cat 3) 40-49 field, earned my first cycling award and got to share the podium with race winner Michael Cudahy and the rest of the Top 5.
Overall I was 28th of 109, and early in the race I knew I was having a good run because nobody was passing me and I was catching the younger guys who had started ahead of my age group. The start of the race was delayed for an hour by rain as an already-soft course became a quagmire. A couple of the steepest hills proved unrideable—not just for the Cat 3s, but also for the Pro/1/2 racers who competed later in the day. I was already mud-caked early in the first lap, but I wasn’t cold and I didn’t let the rain bother me. But I did let the rain influence my eyewear decision: I had to choose between glasses that would be streaked with rain throughout the race, or naked eyes that occasionally would take an uncomfortable mud bath. I hate to ride without eye protection but today it was the right call.
The course at Iola is an interesting mix of hills, technical singletrack, flowy singletrack and short open sections that connect the rest of the pieces. I did a pre-ride on Saturday evening to get acquainted with the course and I knew where I would be fast and where I would be challenged. Throughout the race I picked really good lines, particularly on the hills. I rode up several hills that forced other riders to walk. I felt strong all day, and there’s nothing like passing people for motivation. My biggest obstacle was mechanical: the mud took an awful toll on my drivetrain. Near the end of the first lap I had to get off the bike after dropping my chain. I dropped it 3-4 more times on the second (final) lap but was able to shift it back onto the little ring without dismounting.
I’m really pleased with my first race of the year but I can’t help but wonder how I might have performed if I had gotten adequate sleep on Saturday night. I spent the night in a tent just a few hundred yards from the finish line. It was my first camping experience in something like 25 years and I was uncomfortable. I maybe got four hours of sleep overnight … and not in one contiguous block. That’s something for me to sort out soon, as camping might be in my plans again if I go to Rhinelander for the next WORS race on May 20.
|Carpool partner Jeff Wren poses next to the muddy track that served the makeshift campground.|