Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Downieville: Classic for some

Early July sees one of the highlights of the summer: the Downieville Classic mountain bike race.

There are two parts, Saturday's cross country race and the downhill on Sunday. Mosty of us just do the cross country course, but a select few put together both days to challenge for the All Mountain title.

I did not have a classic Downieville. I managed to get sick in the days before the race, and went to bed Friday night convinced I was not going to race. On Saturday morning, however I woke up feeling somewhat less terrible, and figured. "to hell with it. I'm racing!" Racing might have been an overly dignified way to put what I ended up doing, but so it goes.

I started the big climb taking it easy. I was lined up pretty far back to start, so even at a very moderate pace I was passing quite a few people on the first segment. Any time I crossed the 85% effort threshold, though, I could feel my sickness lurking. So I continued to moderate my effort as I ground on up.

Maybe it was that I was not pushing it, or maybe it was the slightly cooler weather, or maybe I'm just in much better shape than last year, but the climb didn't seem as brutal this time as it has before. I got to the top in pretty good shape, having ridden every bit of the climb except when I was blocked by people walking.

Murphy and crew put together a pretty spectacular aid station at the top. I grabbed a margarita and some electrolyte drink and just headed on. As I left, Mat was pulling up to the top, and he'd shortly pass me on the way down the first stretch of trail. He and I diced back and forth until we hit the top of the Babyheads section of Pauly Creek pretty much simultaneously. I know where I stand with Mat on the downhills, so I got out of his way. He was out of sight within seconds, and I'd not see him again until the race was done.

In the meantime I was riding like I was drunk. Flailing all over, sliding around like crazy, I was pretty sure my two sips of margarita weren't enough to totally defeat my sense of balance, as dubious as it is in general. I was riding Carrie's dual-suspension bike rather than my trusty Pine Mountain, but I'd done enough miles on the former to know I could handle it better than that. Finally, after the creek crossing I went straight when I was trying to turn and finally realized that my front wheel was going flat. I hoped I'd just burped it, and not finding any obvious cuts, just dumped a CO2 cartridge in it and hoped it would hold. Pretty clearly, it wasn't working.

I then shoved a tube into it. Unfortunately, the tube I grabbed was apparently already holed. Fortunately, I'd brought two, so I was able to get a decent one in there and head on.

I had lost something like 50 places while changing my tire, so I was able to pass quite a few people over the next few miles. Everything went smoothly until Third Divide, when I came up on the Wall, a marginally ridable steep rock face that I've only ever cleared once before. I knew that I was risking another flat if I attacked the rock hard enough to make it over, so I dismounted (I've ridden enough cross now, that even in the offseason I can show some skills), and ran up the face of the rock. As I did, though, I heard "Pssssst." Dammit! Somehow my tire went flat as I was running! This time it was the rear, though, and I was out of tubes. I managed to bum a tube from someone coming by, and told him to find the Sheila Moon team after, and we'd feed him beer. I changed the tire and headed out, being pretty ginger, since I was out of tubes, out of cartridges, and generally pretty fed up.

When I finally got to the top of the very last climb on First Divide, I breathed a sigh of relief. Home free, it's all downhill from here!

Needless to say, roughly 45 seconds later, I flatted the front tire again.

At this point, I figured that since I was about a mile from the end of the course, I might as well just run it out. I started to run, and kind of slowed down to more of a walk once I hit the paved streets. Once I got almost within sight of the finish, though, I picked up the pace, and jogged in, crossing the finish line at 3:59:50.

Pretty clearly not the race I wanted, but I got to spend the rest of the weekend hanging out, drinking beer, and generally raising mayhem with the rest of the Moonie crew and our Mouse friends.

The team's best performance was by Carrie, who was just edged out for victory in Expert Women. Special mention should go to May and Ted, both of whom improved their times by over half an hour from last year. Mark Wheeler also improved by 15 minutes.

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