Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Catching Up Part II: Sugar Mt. Race Report (July 28-29)

Arriving at Sugar Mountain in the wee hours of Saturday morning Mike Joos and I were warmly welcomed by my good southern friends from The Hub(Maria, Jeff, Jim, Nick and Jittery Joe's very own Cesar Grajales). Together, the seven of us all crammed into our small little one bedroom condo and slept happily late into the day. I drifted in and out of consciousness as the sounds of the race announcer wafted in through the open window. Because the women's expert was not until Sunday, I had the entire day to pre-ride the course and relax.

It turns out that my memory of this course was quite accurate. It begins with an extraordinarily steep climb up the ski slope, which eventually turns onto a gravel road, and then onto pavement, and then back onto gravel, and then pavement, and then gravel, and then pavement....all the way to the summit. Yup, just one big ass boring climb.

Once at the top you are treated with a descent down the ski slope that happens to dip into small pockets of wooded single track sprinkled with big, round rocks and diagonal roots all covered with a nice film of slick mud. I enjoy a good descent as much as the next thrill seeker, but this one has always left me feeling a bit uneasy. It's not one of those slick descents on which you can trust in God's infinite love and let it rip. No, this is the kind of descent that calls into action one's inherent sense of self preservation, and mine was out in full force.

Race day came and the condo was alive with the bustle of deflating air mattresses, burning toast, brewing Jittery Joe's (insert commercial plug) coffee* and a scramble to bring some kind of order to our mess. Maria and I warmed up together and eventually found our way to the starting line. Mike(who had suffered a broken wheel during his race the previous day) was at the start/finish snapping photos and providing support. All nine women that made up the women's senior expert field lined up at the start/finish and made nervous, superficial conversation until we were finally ready to go.

I must say, I had a pretty good start. I plodded up the ski slope in 3rd place for the majority of the "steep ass" * section. Once the climb turned onto the gravel road I began to slip to 4th and then 5th and eventually to 6th place. On the first lap I was able to struggle back to 5th place as my descending skills were in good form. Beginning the 2nd lap (which also happened to be the final lap) I was struggling to stay ahead of the BMC girl. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep my position and eventually fell back to 6th on the final lap. I thought I would be able to bomb the descent and take her by surprise at the bottom, but these aspirations were not to come to fruition. I think I may have lost some valuable time trying to ride the tricky sections rather than just running.

All in all, it was a good race. The trails dried up more than I expected. I felt like I descended fairly well and was pleasantly surprised with my climbing on the first lap....now I just need to master the final lap and I'll be ready for the podium! My dear friend Maria was in position to finish in 7th; however, Deana Weber of College Station, TX cut her off on the final corner and finished just seconds ahead. Maria, next time you gotta be a little more scrappy!



* Jitter Joe's Coffee: http://blog.thebeanteam.com/

* steep ass = grades over 20%

Pro female XC winner = Georgia Gould
Pro male XC winner = Jeremiah Bishop

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