(typical view on the race course - stolen from Brad Keyes)This past Saturday, Nate C. and I drove over to Scott County Park, just north of Davenport for the ScoCoPa Chase. As we drove over we talked about how hot the race conditions would be (mid 90s plus humidity) and how to race smart. I usually embrace the tough conditions because I know that others hate them. I figure that a positive attitude will help and we are all in the same boat, so any advantage (mental or otherwise) will help.
We arrived a good 90 minutes prior to the start and I only did a short 10 minute warm-up prior to lining up at the start. We were expecting a large field (being so close to Iowa City), but only had 18 or so at the start. Nate pointed out a few people to watch for and I initially lined up in the second row. But, then I had second thoughts on my fitness and the competition and moved back to make room for others. When no one stepped up, I figured what the hell and moved back into the second row. I was more concerned on if my training over the past month, and more importantly my week of rest, had been properly completed. I was hoping for a good race, but trying to be realistic in that my fitness may not be there yet.
When the whistle blew, I took it easy for the first 10 seconds. I was probably in 12th spot, but felt stronger and no one was coming around. A quick glance to the the others and they seemed to be working pretty hard (and I wasn't). Knowing that the course was full of tight sidetrack and passing would be hard, I decided to punch it on the last bit of the opening climb and hit the singletrack in about 10th position. It was hot and dusty, but the front group was moving well. The front runners were pulling a way when the guy if front of me washed out his front wheel and fell. I almost ran him over, but a quick trackstand gave him time to get out of the way. I was able to get close to the front group as the tougher section of the course came at us.
I caught up to a Bikes to You rider and he seemed to ride an OK pace, but after 5min I thought that I could go faster. However, was determined to keep me behind him. Since I didn't know the trail, he had the advantage from the front. When I tried to pass him, he would get a jump on the sprint and close down the passing lane. After a few minutes of this, Ryan Neipart had joined us. I let him buy hoping he could get around. At the time I didn't know who it was, but when the FORC jersey passed, I knew he would know the trails and be a good wheel to follow. Ryan tried hard, but couldn't get around either. However, the pace was taking it's toll on the leader of us three and he pulled to the side of the trail and stopped just after the start/finish. I hate to say it, but it was a boost of confidence to push someone to crack.
Ryan kept ahead of me by 100+ feet and I slowly reeled him in over the course of lap two. We also passed two other riders and I reeled Ryan in towards the end of lap 2. At this point, Nate and I had stashed a cooler in the woods. I grabbed my second bottle and used a tip from Nate and stuffed a handful of ice cubes in my jersey pocket. The race was using timing chips and as you crossed the start/finish line, the system beeped loudly. I heard his beep and started counting. Ryan had 15 seconds on me.
I decided to give it all on lap 3 and knew that I had to catch him in the first 1/3 of the course as that is where the most passing opportunities would be. I did catch him in the right spot and he let me by without any issues. I asked if he had seen anyone in front of him and the answer was no. I still pushed as hard as possible in hopes of seeing someone. Towards the end, I could hear someone, but couldn't find them. I did push it too hard around a corner and took a short side trip into the woods and over three smaller trees. As I stepped down, my calf cramped. It hurt, but it also told me that I was pushing my body in a good way.
In the end, I crossed the line in 2:07.48. Nate C. had finished just in front of me with a 2:07.10. I had finished 6th overall and 1st in the 40+ (2nd in 35+). I was really, really pumped at the end of this race. My heart rate average was 168 for the 2 hours and held consistent on each lap. It should be closer to 174, so I know that I have more in me. This was probably my best race ever at the cat 1 level, I raced smart, had to use strategy and rode hard. As a result I was actually racing and passing with others and not riding by myself. I will find out if this was a fluke on my next race this coming weekend.