Does waking up at 5 am, to race to a race to ride a mountain bike fast for 60 miles sound fun? It does to me and that is what I did this morning to get myself into the Front Range 60, a local Denver race, the second in the Warrior Series.
I arrived at the race in plenty of time and was able to pre-register early and was ready to go well before the race (unlike my South African friend who rolled in 30 minutes before and put on music while getting ready, you know who you are, and you kicked my ass today). I had a new Performance bib and jersey to keep me comfortable as well as some Belgium Budder, haha.
The race was at Bear Creek Park and consisted of 6 10 miles loops of very smooth single and double track with some sharp but short climbing. I brought my one and only single speed and was registered along with 26 other racers in the men’s singlespeed division.
A typical lap for the few of you who never ride at Bear Creek: A mild climb to double track, race around to a medium sized sharp hill. Climb it; scream down! Curve left onto double track, back onto single track, fly down to another off camber climb, scream down again, scream down some technical stuff (watch out for that one little rock!), ride over to an extended climb. Climb gradually for several minutes. Scream down an extended single track. You will be flying. Climb a mountain, not a big one but you will hurt just a little. Go down the back of the little mountain, be fast. Fly down double track. Play in the woods. Climb a little hill. Ride alongside the road. Fly through wooded double track. Climb a short very steep road. Rinse and repeat 5 more times.
I started off very smooth and regular and the first 3 laps went off without much of a hitch. I found I wasn’t losing any spots to any other single speeders but was getting passed by a ton of geared bikes. The reason was NOT because I was on a singlespeed. Single speed times seemed in step with regular geared times. My time was in bottom third of single speed and regular times. It’s not the bike, it’s the rider.
My main problem was fitness. At the end of the third lap I was riding regularly with another single speeder who finished 25 minutes ahead of me. By the end of the 5th lap I had fallen back to the bottom third of the pack and was “seriously” thinking of not going for the sixth lap. A 43 year old pro passed me and told me “finish strong boy” emphatically. That lit a bit of a fire under my ass and I picked it up a bit. I forced myself out for the sixth lap and to my surprise I found my legs again and had excellent rhythm around the final lap, probably clocking one of my best laps. My time was 5:12.
Kudos goes to the really strong racers out there today like Sonya Looney, my friend (and tons of other people, she is awesome) and second female after flying in last night. Also Ralph Kuhlemeier had a time of 4:21 (super solid mate) and Tim Hoppin had an amazing time of 4:06; man is a monster. Also Lance Risi clocked a 4:15 or so, another very talented athlete, and the Nazman, fighting some serious sickness recently, had 3 solid laps with a great attitude, including cheering me on a bit.
Some good lessons learned today: first, smooth and consistent and strong makes a good single speeder, and this was exemplified by the single speeder I rode with named Jay, a man in his late 40s, early 50s, who finished 15th in the SS open and told me this after the race. Second, I learned that although I don’t give up that easily, even when I am feeling really bad, racing could be a lot more fun if I was in a lot better shape. Third, I found some subtle position lessons with weighting my feet properly on downhills that did me very well and gave me really good form for most of screaming downhills on the course.
Post race pic: I was really, really wasted but I don’t think you can tell, right? :)