I am wrestling with the question of whether today’s Battle of CamRock were my worst race of the year. It is the only one of the four WORS races to date in which I crashed, and on the finish line I was just 9th out of 31 in my age group, my lowest placing. On the other hand, this race threw much more—and much more technically challenging—singletrack at me, and I survived it without any real damage to my body, my bike, or my place in the overall series standings.
The race began up a grassy hill, leveled out only briefly and then went uphill some more. Jim Steig, who leads my classification on points, crashed on the loose rocks of that second hill. With him behind me, I thought I might beat him for the first time to narrow or perhaps even to eliminate the 19-point gap between us. But Jim recovered quickly and caught me later in the first lap. He was going well and I was just hacking my way through the singletrack, so I let him pass and it wasn’t long before he was out of sight. His eventual third-place finish extended his series lead to 44 points.
I had gone into the race without a water bottle; the damned thing must have rattled out of my cage as I was riding from the parking lot to the starting line. Fortunately I got a hand-up of my other bottle near the end of the first lap.
As the second lap began I knew I had little chance of catching the leaders in my age group. I rode alone for long intervals, but near the end of the lap I knew I had age group rival Kevin Apodaca just behind. When my rear tire washed out on a fast corner, Kevin slipped past before I could resume. Within moments I was hot on his heels, but content to follow through the last section of technical singletrack. With just one more tough turn to negotiate, I narrowly avoided a second crash that likely would have allowed Kevin to slip away. A 16-year-old rider who never announced his presence slammed into my left side as I began the turn. He went down in a heap. I was thrown a little off-balance but was able to continue. I had debated letting Kevin go until the long set of switchbacks that climbed to the finishing straight—I was confident I could outclimb him again as I had done in Wausau—but after my near-miss I wasn’t going to fool around. The singletrack ended at a wide gravel trail and I dropped the hammer. Finishing 9th was worth 4 points more than finishing 10th, and I will need all the points I can get to overtake Jim Steig.
Brad Jorsch rode to a strong 6th place in Cat 3 (Citizens) 40-49 today, solidifying his position at No. 3 in the series and pulling within 8 points of me. Overall, I was 20th out of 157 today. But it was a good day to be a local: many of the top finishes across all categories went to racers who live close to CamRock. And the race proved popular with riders from Illinois, so there were lots of unfamiliar names in the results.
During the pre-ride on Saturday it was clear to me that the Battle of CamRock was a race I needed to get through rather than one in which I should expect a top finish. I have higher hopes for next Sunday’s Red Flint Firecracker in Eau Claire, where the course should be a better fit for me.