Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012 Alterra Coffee Bean Classic

A female competitor finishes the last climb of her race as the Pro/Elite men grind up the gravel to begin a new lap.
A strong effort today resulted in a 3rd Place finish at the Alterra Coffee Bean Classic—race number six of the 12-race Wisconsin Off-Road Series—on the Crystal Ridge ski hill in Franklin.  My success began with good fitness, but also showed the value of good preparation.  I practiced on the trails after work on Friday and again on Saturday afternoon, so on the starting line today I was confident that I could survive the tight, twisty singletrack.  And I felt sure that I could outclimb my rivals, a huge advantage in this race.

The race began with a climb of the grassy ski hill and the Citizens 40-49 field split almost immediately.  Then came a long, flat section—not the sort of place you would expect crashes, but crashes came nonetheless.  I was up with the leaders, unaware of what was happening behind.  Brad Jorsch went down and lost what should have been a much better finish.  By taking 12th Place, Jorsch slipped behind me in the series standings.  Retaking 2nd Place in the series was my top goal today … but I had to finish well to secure it.

Things went well for me in the first section of singletrack, but soon I ran into slower riders from an earlier wave.  It took a while to get around them.  Fortunately for me, the other leaders in my age group were also detained.  We didn’t shake free until the “Craters of the Moon” climb.  Many of the slower riders from the earlier waves were walking the hill.  It’s a little grinder, but I had practiced it and knew where I could shift into a harder gear and still recover before the gravel road.  Once on the gravel road I went into my big chainring and just hammered.  That allowed me to get around a lot of riders before the next section of singletrack.  And there I was challenged, but I did enough to limit the damage and upon returning to the gravel road hammered again to the highest point of the course.  I negotiated the descending ski hill switchbacks carefully, got through a short section of singletrack at the bottom, then emerged into the full fury of a hot sun as I climbed another gravel road parallel to the grassy start.

Lap 1 was behind me.  So, too, were still more riders from the earlier waves, men I passed easily on the hill.  Lap 2 was nearly a carbon copy of Lap 1—I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that my split times were exactly the same.  I knew Ernie Huerta and series leader Jim Steig were still ahead of me, but I didn’t know how far.  All I could do was ride my own race and hope to catch them in sight of the finish.  But it was not to be: Huerta held off Steig up the grassy hill to the finish.  I came in next, 1:04.7 behind.

Steig now has 1,156 series points, I have 1,083 and Jorsch has 1,053.  I haven’t been able to beat Steig all year and the math is not in my favor as I look for ways to win the series title.  I’m 4-2 against Jorsch and will try to extend my advantage next Sunday in the Sunburst Showdown.  I didn’t see his climbing legs today due to his unfortunate crash, but mine were pretty good and in the week to come I will be able to practice at Sunburst on a few occasions.  Sunburst represents a critical point in the season: for most of the men in my category, it will be the seventh race of the season.  The way WORS determines its series champions, each race after the seventh either replaces an earlier one—if your new result is better—or adds 5 participation points to your total.  Steig would have to collapse to lose his lead and he has shown no weakness this season.  For me, taking 2nd Place would be a great way to finish my first year in the series ... and my friendly rivalry with Jorsch could come down to those participation points.  I’d like to build a safe lead before cyclocross season begins, but I may have to defend my WORS standing all the way through the season finale in Sheboygan on October 14.

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