Ida Grove was one of my favorite courses of the series last year and I knew it would be fun again this year. It doesn't reward any one skill, but an all around rider can excel here. It has one or two longer climbs, a few power climbs, some technical swoopy singletrack and some high speed sections. Add in a few log jumps and roll overs and you have a real fun lap.
JD and I drove up early enough to get a recon lap in. I wasn't going to waste the energy, but in the end, it was probably a good idea as it helped me memorize a few sections that would help in the race. The bike rode nicely in the pre-ride, the parts were working fine and the gearing was spot on.
Six of us toed the line for the Cat1 mens race. Jed Gammel, Nate Cline, Jason Alread and myself from the Rassy team, Jesse Bergman (the race promoter) and a new face. After the sprint off the line, we headed into the singletrack. I took the last spot with this normally fast crew and just hoped to hang on. As luck would have it, my chain jumped off at the start of the singletrack. I quickly dismounted and put it back on and then began my sprint to catch-up to Alread. I was able to latch back on and on the first long climb, continued the push to get in front of him. Jason was a little tentative as he had not pre-ridden the course and he let me go. I was having hopes to getting a small gap on him, but by the end of the 1st lap he was back on my rear wheel.
I let him take the lead on lap 2. The 2nd place singlespeeder caught us before the long climb and he put the pressure on. Alread kept up with him and they got a 15 second gap on me. I had to recover a little on this lap, but was able to keep them in my sights. They slowly increased the gap to 30-40 seconds. At the end of lap 3, I started to push hard again and began to catch back up. The singlespeeder was done with 3 laps and Alread has stopped for another bottle so I was able to get within 10 seconds. I tried to make the last effort to bridge, but he kept the pace up. I never did close it down. By lap 5, I was probably close to 30 seconds and kept it about that pace until the final climb or two.
By the end, Alread beat me by a minute. I think that Jesse had him by a minute as well. New guy won it. Nate got 2nd, Jed came back for 3rd after cutting a tire and having to stop and replace or patch the sidewall.
Overall, I was very happy with my progress. I gauge myself from race to race against the names that I know and by how far they beat me in the previous race. I know that Alread wasn't at the top of his game (I could see him trying to stretch out his back), but he beat me by 6min two weeks ago. It was fun to finally have a race in which I was closer to someone and wasn't racing by myself. It added an entire element of strategy that was fun to play with. Nate had beat me by 9min at Banner and I think it was a similar time for this race. He said that he had one of his best races, and he is riding very strong. I hope to somehow close that gap a little over the coming months.