(Thanks to Phil D for the below thoughts on racing from a C-Grader’s perspective)
So this is what yesterday’s race looks like when you are not competing for podium places, but just for the satisfaction of making the usual suspects you are usually semi competitive with have to work a little harder than they otherwise would. Note to oneself, having the neighbours over the previous evening for tachos, beer and red wine may not be the optimum pre-race preparation.
After a socially distanced group start through the carpark, you place yourself in 10th or 12th, far enough down the pack to still be able to see the Steve P, Steve M & Dean (the usual suspects), but not so far up the pecking order where you will worry about giving yourself a coronary keeping in front of the really fast guys and girls.
Everybody forms a pretty uniformly spaced and paced congo line, although the strong field of female riders seem to be able to pull away anytime the track heads uphill. Some people pass me when the opportunity arises and others let me pass as we all settle down into whatever rhythm each thinks they can hold for the duration of the race.
Dean has already told us that we only go half way up the Camelback at the pre-race brief, so I hook into the bottom half in a higher gear, manage to pass him, but then find myself having to work as hard as I can ever remember to get up the hill, being so out of breath that I can’t fully enjoy going back down the straw.
At the transition, a shout of encouragement from Clint pushes me back out for the second lap. Heading down from Mawkes bridge, I discover that a previously cut tree branch from years ago has now slipped down the vines far enough to clip your helmet hard as you lean into the termite nest corner. Reminder to yourself to cut wider on the next lap and remove it altogether after the race. Camelback is just as hard as the first lap, but I am thinking about the last lap by now, so I can start using energy I won’t have to rely on later on.
Back through transition and at the first switch back I see Steve P for the first time and know that I must have closed a little on him. He unfortunately sees me as well, so I now know he will be pushing on harder than ever. The gap between us closes achingly slowly and then just before Camel back again, I pick up a stick in my derailleur and have to stop to remove it and Steve M, whom I didn’t know was busy running me down flys on past as well. By the time I crest CB for the last time, I have decided Steve P is way too far gone to catch now, so I switch my efforts onto chasing Steve M. I catch up with some of the Hunter Schools MTB youth team, who are doing fantastically, and am reminded just what a great and inclusive sport MTB is! Three quarters of the way through the last lap, the front runners in A grade catch and pass me. Wickedly quick, polite as always and picking out lines through corners I never knew existed.
On the final climb to the downhill overpass, I push hard and bridge the gap to Steve M and discover Steve P is also just in front. Unfortunately, I may have pushed just a little too hard and they both slip away to finish in front of me. Out of breath, we all stop to congratulate each other and cheer on the other riders coming in behind us or continuing their laps in the higher grades. I am thankful to be able to part of such a welcoming sport, tough as it can be and get to rue the disappointment of the two Steves one more time……..
NOTE: – Results are still coming – the timing box has captured the data but there are 2 computer programs needed to bring it all together and they are currently not talking to each other – Clint is working on it and we will get them up ASAP
Reminder: BRING YOUR RACE PLATES to the next race – thanks.