|Don't worry, they're clean now.|
WORS returned to Franklin today for more great mountain bike racing. We used to know the venue as Crystal Ridge Ski Area, but under new management it now is called The Rock. We used to know the race as the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic, but now the name is the Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic. The new names may take some getting used to, but the new course was an instant hit.
I expected more climbing. After all, the hill is still there even if it now is used for downhill mountain biking instead of downhill skiing. What I got instead was a very balanced course where climbing was still important, but so was the ability to hammer over open terrain and to be smooth in the singletrack. After a good pre-ride on Saturday, today I felt very comfortable as I rode to 16th place out of 34 in my age group, 95th of 195 overall in the men’s Cat 2 (Sport) class.
In a large field of riders there was traffic congestion right from the start. Teammate Bob Zimmermann and I were bottled up behind several riders going into the first climb. On the loose and twisting descent that followed, Bob got free. I wasn’t able to follow but I was still in a pretty good position when we hit the first section of singletrack. The Alpha Trail was a real delight to ride today, so fast and flowy that even I was urging the guys in front of me to pick up the pace.
Running along the edge of the Root River, the Alpha Trail was the lowest part of the course. We climbed away from it with a succession of switchbacks. It was a completely different experience than last year’s Craters of the Moon climb, and one that suited me well. Soon thereafter came a mad dash across an open field toward O’Malley’s Woods. This was a popular place to get around slower riders or to grab a drink. O’Malley’s was tight and twisty but I handled it better this year than I did in 2012. Emerging from the woods meant another blast across the open field, then a gentle gravel road climb that eventually kicked up to the highest point on the course, very near the pinnacle of the old ski hill. On all three laps I grabbed places from riders who struggled on the steepest part of the climb.
The descent that followed was lightning fast. I passed no one on this section and was passed only once: a much younger rider with a shorter history of pain flew by on the last lap, but only after we had verbally negotiated exactly where and when. It was no place for impatience or foolish risk-taking. The traverse across the bottom of the hill included just enough elevation change to challenge tired legs. Riders were reluctant to hit it hard, knowing that they needed to save something for the tough climb that began each new lap.
I started Lap 2 hot on the heels of age group rival Ernie Huerta (Vision/Wheel & Sprocket). Staying with him seemed like a good idea. But as the fastest riders from later waves began to overtake us, they created gaps between us that eventually grew too large. I still had Ernie in sight early in Lap 3 and I had worked my way up to teammate Mike Laufenberg. I thought if I could pass Mike, then I could get up to Ernie again and try to drop him on the final trip back from O’Malley’s. I wouldn’t overtake him on the technical descent, and I certainly wouldn’t outclimb him to the finish line. But in the singletrack there were few opportunities to pass and I needed extra time to get around Mike. Ernie went on to finish in 12th place in our age group, just 40 seconds ahead of me and with Jody Arlen (Lucky Brake), Jeff Hatton (Titletown Flyers), and Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) sandwiched in between. I think I had Top 10 legs today, but it didn’t quite work out. That’s racing.
Chris Harold (Activator) was the age group winner and 7th overall in 1:16:56.6. Chicago’s Janusz Rajski, 36, had the fastest time overall at 1:14:45.2.
Larry Hipps was the top Team Pedal Moraine rider in Sport today, placing 5th in our age group and 27th overall with a time of 1:19:17.4. Zimmermann, 7th in our age group and 39th overall, finished in 1:20:20.3. Scott Palmersheim was 8th in the 50-54 age group and 82nd overall in 1:23:12.7. I finished in 1:23:58.1. Laufenberg was 15th in the 40-44 age group and 109th overall with a time of 1:25:11.8.
The series moves to Suamico next Sunday for the Reforestation Ramble on a course that has been good to me. I already feel well-prepared, but I won’t take my training lightly in the week to come.