the morning of the first of a series of rides by a group called Tail-Wind Racing and we have 8 races during the summer on all sorts of different mountain bike courses through the state of Michigan. This will be the 5th year of my doing this series and I made some great friends over the years in this series.
In the last 5 years of racing, I have tried many disciplines; Mountain Bike, Road, Criteriums, CycloCross, Time Trial, I was even put on the track on a ‘fixie’ here in eastern Michigan once….all disciplines are a lot of fun in different ways, but I have concluded that the one I like the best is MTB. So I have committed to this MTB racing series and it is off to the trail head at Pontiac Lake for the first MTB race of the season. Temperature is low 40s and the sun is trying hard to take a stand (no rain—thank you!).
Showed up at the state park and ran into Gary S. (an independent rider) and Edwin H. (rides with Wolverine) both of whom are solid riders and consistently kick my butt on any given day. The legendary (70 plus year old) Neil Sharphorne rides by, stops to say hi and tell us about his trip to California and doing the SeaOtter (sounds like a blast). I walk to the race organizers’ bus to pay for the season and get my number for my bike. Great to see everyone has wintered well.
The group lines up for the 2 lap 18 mile race , happy to get the ride underway since it is so cold and there is a brisk wind in the open field-encouraging us to get into the woods where we belong. It is 1pm, we launch. Criteriums teach you a lot about being in a group of type-A’s and keeping your cool, jostling for position and a couple riders cutting in front of my front wheel are all part of the race. There were a group of 5 of us who worked at a good pace up the first few hills, toward the back of the course, where it gets more wide open and more downhill, I was getting gapped. At about mile 7 of the first lap, Gary went by me-always the gentleman with his British accent. “Keep it up” he says.
I finished the first lap in just under 55 minutes and alone. On the second lap, I started to work the front third of the course knowing that it would be easy to blow up on the first few hills. On the back half of the course, I knew that if I wanted to podium at all this year, I needed to get used to- and get good at- the downhill flow of these courses…so I opened it up as much as I dare. I was pushing it hard, not 100 percent on the edge (but then I am getting older) and with about 4 miles left in our last lap, I had reeled in Gary. (Admittedly, he had done the rust shaker the day before, or I would never have caught him.) I was happy to see that my second efforts paid a small dividend before the race was over.
My second and final lap was 57 minutes and I finished 10th out of 12, so not a great top ten finish. But this series is an interesting format in that it is all about accumulating points. Racers will come and go, we will have ‘cycling snipers’ parachute in and walk away with all top three finishes on their home track, and then never see them again, so it is good to race the whole series. I raced today on my ‘old’ full suspension FuelEX even though my Superfly is ‘tied up in the barn’ just waiting to go get some! I am looking forward to being confident enough to let the hard tail do its work….soon. Trek is a great bike, the engine is the operator’s role. Go WSI Team Active!