Sunday, June 7, 2009

Do You Like Apples?

I won. How ya like dem apples? And I’m not gonna lie, it feels gooooooood.

I was abnormally nervous this morning prior to the race. I have not raced a mountain bike in about 4 years and was unsure of what to expect. I decided my best race would be a tactical race. I was confident in my fitness so I took the beginning of the race to size up the competition.

I had great help from my teammate, Leah who took off from the start and got into the singletrack first. I was third into the forest, but having my teammate leading took a lot of pressure off me for the first part of the race. I really did need a little time to remember what this kind of racing was like. A couple of riders tried to overtake Leah, but she’s pretty quick up the hills so she was able to regain the front spot rather easily. I sat on her wheel and let her take me through the first part of the course. Her effort whittled down the field to 3 of us.

Now it was time for me to employ some tactics. I didn’t know the strength of the girl with us and so I had to test her. I came around Leah and made a small move on a downhill. I dropped the girl briefly but she fought her way back. Then I tried again on a steep uphill. Same thing, I temporarily dropped her but she fought her way back. I’ve always been a technical rider and so I decided to use that to my advantage.

When we got to the first technical section, I hammered it down the hill. At the bottom I looked behind me. I had opened up a pretty good gap. The problem was that the following section was flat and wide open. I didn’t want her to see me ahead of her cuz that causes a “chasing the rabbit” sequence that usually gives the chasing rider more motivation to ride harder. I attacked as hard as I could on a sprint hoping to get to the next curve before she could see how close she was to me. It mostly worked. I could still hear her in the distance though which kept my stomach uneasy.

The move that put the nail in the coffin for the rider behind me was a very technical, steep, rocky and root climb called the Billy Goat Trail. I knew this was where my big move would come. I killed that climb. I went up it so fast I surprised myself. By the time I hit the top, the girl chasing me was no where to be seen. And I saw no one (save for a bunch of guy racers that I was passing) for the rest of the race. I kept the pace steady, not overexerting myself. I felt no pressure on the second lap and once the win started to become inevitable in my head, I was extra cautious. No need to lose the race at this point because of a stupid crash or something of the like.

As I exited the singletrack into the grassy area that led to the finish, I took several looks behind me…just in case. One last look over my shoulder with the banner in sight and I let the elation overtake me. I threw both hands in the air (not necessarily an easy thing to do while riding in the bumpy grass), patted the logo on my chest to thank my sponsor and enjoyed the moment, as brief as it was.

Leah came across the line to snag 3rd overall and 1st in her age group.

I’ll be honest. I like winning. And I also happen to like apples. Especially when the apples come with a side of a first place Giordana-Clif Bar ass kickin’.

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