~3400' of elevation gain
2nd-place overall (There were a few SS riders, but not enough for our own division.)
2:06 to the finish
Finally, a race that felt like I could race! After my DNF at Pierre's Hole and a lackluster performance in New Hampshire my confidence was pretty low heading into the Park City Point2Point this coming weekend. I mean, I love competing in these long races, but if I'm unable to really compete for some reason then why bother?
Enter the Teton pASS Kicker: 25 miles of amazing singletrack racing.
Well, maybe 20 miles of amazing singletrack racing with 2.5 miles of pavement at the start and again at the finish. More on that later. I managed to get close to the front for the start this time. (Not terribly difficult with only 40 or so racers.) So, after the pack spin up Fish Creek Road to the trailhead the singletrack was just fast and fun--not fighting to pass other racers who I'd stuck myself behind.
I rode with fellow Fitzgerald's Bicycles teammate Gabe Klamer for the first half of the climb up Philips Ridge. (On the team he's known as Fiddee Cent--how do I get a nickname?) Gabe is riding super strong this year, and was actually able to carry on a conversation as he led me up the Ridge singletrack. Or, he was able to carry on his half of a conversation; I mostly just grunted.
About halfway up Philips Ridge I started feeling a bit spunky so I squeaked past Gabe on a short stretch of doubletrack, washed out on a switchback but recovered myself, and rode the rest of the climb in the front with Gabe as my shadow the whole way. Then we romped through the Ridge Trail-to-Arrow Trail stretch at the top. Rolling, winding, rocks here and there--ease off the brakes and let 'er rip. Muy bueno.
My high point of the race was riding through the Aid Station at the halfway point (run by Sarah--thanks!) and seeing Ben Aufderheide (the machine) about 50 yards ahead. I had been pushing the pace with the knowledge that Gabe was somewhere right behind me, but seeing Ben there gave me a short-lived extra bit of gas in my legs. Ben has been winning just about everything he's entered this year, and I've never even seen the back of his jersey. So to be within striking distance at the top of the big climb was shocking, but pretty exciting!
And that was the last I saw of him. Whether or not he even realized I was there is unknown, but he disappeared up the trail and my legs chose to temper the pace.
I managed to put a small gap on Gabe in the Arrow switchbacks, which helped me feel better about staying ahead of his full-suspension ride on the Philips Canyon descent. I've been warned for years about how rough and technical the Canyon is (I had never ridden it until the race.) Whatever! I had a blast! Sure, there are some technical, steep, rocky sections but they're all rideable and the rest is just roaring fast and way smoother than the Ridge trail. There are even a few log-rides over the creek to get the adrenaline pumping that extra bit. (They're all optional, but faster than the wet-crossing options. Sick.)
The singletrack ended with me having held my lead on Gabe and about 90 seconds back from Ben, according to some friendly spectators. I've been working this season on my mountain-bike-aero-bars-time-trial (MTB TT) position for pavement racing just like the 2.5 miles to the finish-line. I don't actually have aero-bars on my mountain bike, but the position makes a huge difference in my ability to spin/coast on smooth terrain. As I don't have an option to "shift up" on the singlespeed, and I fully spin out at around 20mph, being aerodynamic is key.
Regardless, Gabe calmly rode up next to me after about a mile on the pavement and without anybody threatening from behind we spun in together. He graciously sent me through the finish ahead of him, with some justification about me having ridden the mountain bike portion of the race ahead of him so it wouldn't be honorable to take the second-place finish away from me on account of my lack of a derailleur. What a guy!
We ended up 2:30 back from Ben, which felt pretty good given his performance this season.
With the exception of the pavement at the beginning and end of the course, this was a high-quality singlespeed race. Hell, I would rate it as a SICK new race all around. What a freaking blast! Great climbing, fun romping through the woods, and a ripping descent, all on phenomenal trails. Damn. Some of the most fun I've had racing all season. It was pretty fun to just open it up and go all out for a couple of hours without having to worry about saving some energy in the tank for 5 hours later. Might have to add a few cross-country races to the calendar next year.
And now I have some confidence heading into the P2P this weekend--I actually CAN race! Now if I can just keep my focus on having fun down there, and riding my own race...