Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012 Sunburst Showdown

Racers traverse the dusty ski hill at the 2012 Sunburst Showdown in Kewaskum.
Today’s Sunburst Showdown—the seventh race of the WORS mountain biking season—was hard, but I was pretty tough too and earned 3rd Place in the Citizens (Cat 3) 40-49 age group.  Series leader Jim Steig got off to a great start and never looked back, completing two laps on the Kewaskum ski hill in 58:48.4.  Mases “Mo” Movsessian took second in 1:00:59.1.  I finished in 1:01:32.0, followed by Brad Jorsch (1:03:18.4) and Rick Dwyer (1:03:22.6).

Early in the first lap the switchback climb up the south side of the hill separated the contenders from the rest of the field.  And by that time the leaders of the 40-49 group were already working their way through the back end of the 30-39 wave that had started a minute earlier.  One of the 30-39 age groupers went over his handlebar spectacularly on a high-speed gravel descent, his concentration broken when he dropped his water bottle.  I was immediately behind him but avoided bottle, bike and rider.  Reaching the bottom of the hill intact, I moved well through a tedious labyrinth of pine trees and tall prairie grasses.  But Steig was slipping away.  We saw each other briefly as we moved in opposite directions on parallel trails.  He encouraged me to get up to his wheel and I assured him I was trying, but I never made it.  I did, however, dispatch Dwyer at mid-lap.  By the end of the lap I was right on Movsessian’s wheel.

I probably should have passed Mo just before hitting the long switchback climb early in Lap 2.  On one of the wooded switchbacks I lost all my momentum and had to put a foot down.  That little mistake allowed him to open a gap that I just couldn’t close.  But at that moment there was nobody in sight on the hill below me.  I tried to relax and ride my own pace to the summit.  Mo dangled about 30 seconds in front of me for the remainder of the race.  I continued to pick off guys from the 30-39 age group and nobody was catching me from behind.  Back in the labyrinth, I could see that Jorsch had passed Dwyer and was coming after me, but I outclimbed him on the tubing hill and kept a safe gap to the end.

The racecourse was hot, dusty and offered almost no opportunity for rest.  What it lacked in technical singletrack it more than made up for with climbing.  The downhill sections were super fast—too fast to allow a rider to recover.  Flat sections were grassy, often bumpy, and punctuated by numerous sharp turns.  The entire course seemed intent on breaking a rider’s momentum whenever possible.  Today was all about sustaining a high aerobic effort … with occasional anaerobic bursts.  And I got through it better than most of my rivals.

Steig now has 1,356 series points, I have 1,269 and Jorsch has 1,234.  I concede that I can’t catch Steig, who has beaten me in all seven races so far.  Jorsch could catch me from behind but he can’t do it on participation points alone.  He intends to compete in all 12 races and will amass 25 participation points.  Of the five races that remain, I am committed only to the Aug. 26 Reforestation Ramble in Suamico.  A good performance there would replace my 9th Place finish at CamRock and virtually guarantee my 2nd Place standing in the series.  I may do additional races but at this time I am not certain.

Team Extreme’s John Norman—injured on June 2 during the pre-ride at Wausau—returned to the starting grid today and it was good to have him back.  And there were many familiar faces in the crowd as the West Bend cycling community came out to support its friends.  So, it turned into a good race for me, but I sure am glad it’s over.

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