UT MTB Race Weekend
“Someone may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it.”
This last weekend, Texas Cycling was out near Comfort, Texas, for a great weekend of camping, mountain bike racing, and road riding. Some of the guys went out just to ride around the Texas hill country, but I was there to race mountain bike. I had never raced a lot of mountain bike, so this was my first real, full mountain bike race. For some reason, I wanted to win more than usual. At races, I always get a burning desire to completely demolish the field of riders that I am racing with. Now I really wanted to win!
This weekend there were three races, TimeTrial, Short Track XC, and XC. The first race was the time trial, which was a four mile loop around a mountain that you do by yourself. My goal was to catch at least two people in front of me. The officials let people go every 30 seconds, so that means that I would catch my 30 second man and my minute man. Ordinarily, I am pretty bad at time trialing. I worked pretty hard over the summer to try to get better at it (on road) so I was hoping that things would go pretty well. I knew that my weakness was going to be technical sections, because I am not as comfortable on a mountain bike as most of my competition. But, I had better lungs and stamina, so my plan was to go as fast as possible on the straight parts to make up for my lack of technical skill. It worked. I got first in the time trial by about 20 seconds! It was also some of the hardest riding I have ever done on a mountain bike. i was about ready to quit halfway through, but knew that I had to keep going. Andrew, a guy from Baylor got second, and I immediately knew that he would be my main competition for the weekend.
The second race was Saturday afternoon. After lounging and eating under the live oaks scattered around the ranch that we were racing at, I had to get back on the bike. To say that I didn’t want to race this afternoon would have been an understatement. But I was in first place for the overall competition, so I had to defend my title. The short track cross counntry (STXC) is a race that involves a very small loop that you go around many many times. It hurts. Bad. It was so cool to be the leader in points because I got to line up at the front and no one said anything. From the time the official blew the whistle until the end of the race, my legs were on fire. I started reasonably near the front, about five guys back. Andrew was second. I knew that at some point he would pass the weaker rider in front of him and then he would be gone. I had to stay on his wheel for that. Sure enough, about halfway into the race he ‘got on his horse’ and sprinted into the lead. I quickly passed four guys at once and got right on his tail. None of the other riders could match his pace. I barely hung on. Going around turns, I took any chance I could get to let my redlining heart rest. At three laps to go, we were well out in front of the rest of the riders. My heart had stopped beating so hard at this point so my plan was to stick to his wheel like gorilla glue until the final straight-a-way, and then outs-print him for the win. Luck would have it another way. On the next lap I heard a pssssssh come from my back tire and my back tire started to fishtail as it complete went flat. Crap. There was no chance to change it and get back in the race because there was only two laps to go. I was really mad. I tried not to take it out on my bike too much, but, well lets just say I wasn’t happy. I walked back to the finish just in time to see Baylor’s Andrew cross the finish in first. I got a DNF. So much for defending my lead. Later Cameron found a huge piece of bailing wire sticking out of my tire.
The third race was on Sunday and was a cross country race, which is just a regular race. Nothing fancy. My plan was to stick to Andrew’s wheel and not let him out of my sight. This worked for most of the race. I had him on the first section because it was flat. We dropped almost everybody except for an A&M rider that was stuck on my wheel. Then the three of us started to climb. Andrew said to me, “Feel free to go around me because I’m going to take it easy here.” I said okay, but stayed behind him. I didn’t want to over-exert myself on the climb. He went pretty slow. I was not breathing that hard and the Aggie was still there. I kept almost going around him, but every time I just said to myself, “stick to the plan!” So I just stuck to his wheel. After climbing we had a long section of very technical rock, which the hill country is so well known for. It was tough. Soon we dropped the Aggie and then Andrew started to inch away from me. I fought as hard as I could to stick to him, but I just wasn’t as good at picking a smooth line. By the next climbing section, he was probably 200 yards in front of me. This climbing section was long and painful, with lots of switchbacks. I gained a little time on him, and every time we would go around a switchback, we would stare each other down, looking for signs of weakness. I tried my best to look in good form, but definitely was not. He was doing his best to keep the distance between us. Then we went back downhill. I could barely keep my arms straight and was having a tough time on the downhill. At one point I took stupid falls twice in a row, I screamed at myself to concentrate and things were better after that. I don’t have a lot of downhill mountain skill, but I pretty much just careen down the mountain with disregard for my body. I was trying to win a race here! When we came out of the downhill, I had almost caught up with him! I pushed my legs as hard as they could go. I was gaining time on him, but he looked behind and saw me coming up on him and wisely floored it so that I couldn’t catch up. I ended around 20 seconds behind him. The Aggie came in 4 minutes later. We had pushed each other to the limits of our abilities and even though I lost, I still had a lot of fun. I congratulated Andrew and he said he really enjoyed the race and that he wasn’t planning on going that hard.
I ended up third overall for the weekend, with the aggie coming in second and Andrew from Baylor in first. The conference championships are next weekend, so I’m ready to kick up some more dust.