Raced down the hot and dusty trails of Hodges Village Dam in Oxford on Sunday. Cool venue, well organized.
Never raced here before and heard good things about the course. Seems the race is either an annual mudfest or dustfest, this year's edition being the latter. Heat/humidity also a big factor Sunday.
Lined up with a strong field of twelve Cat1 single speeders, including a bunch of guys I didn't know, but who all looked strong.
Whistle and we're off for 4 laps. Fast start up a gravel road for a bit, then into a wide single track. I was in about 7th or 8th heading into the single track. This section had a rocky start and then flowed into a dusty roller coaster of a trail that was really fun. Unfortunately, my place near the back of the single speed train meant that I was being sprayed with dust and fighting to see the trail through it.
Got out to another gravel road in about 9th. I think either guys were conserving themselves because of the heat or they were geared easier than my 32x18 because I passed a bunch at that point. I got a gap into the long, rooty section of the trail, and then started to feel like I was overheating. Bike racing seems to be about riding to a level of exertion you can't sustain, and then dialing back incrementally until you find your maximum sustainable level. I was considerably over my level given the heat and had to dial it way back.
I got through the smoother/later sections of the lap and into the start/finish again and took extra water on board. Headed back up the gravelly road and passed geared teammate Lucas and he tucked in behind me. Then Gerry Lafleur from my class tucked in behind Lucas. I was determined NOT to be behind anyone going into the dusty trail, so I hit the gas hard to pass a couple guys before we headed into the woods again. It worked visibility-wise, but the burst of energy took even more out of me and I soon started getting chills, which I know is not a good sign when it's 90' out. I dialed back my effort again and drank a lot and hoped that would help.
Gerry caught back up in the technical sections (joking that he got there by cutting the course and taking a ride from a 4-wheeler) and he sat in for a while. I had no idea where we were place-wise, but he figured we were either 1-2 or 2-3, which I was kinda shocked at. We were both conserving and chatting, and it started feeling more like a ride than a race -- I wondered if one of the faster guys in our class like Royce Yeomans would soon catch us.
Gerry's stronger in the tech stuff than me and he eventually passed me. He didn't attack, though, so I was able to tuck behind him on the straight and smoother sections. I started feeling better and wondered if maybe I was catching a bit of a second wind.
I figured the only way I was going to beat Gerry was if I pushed the pace in the less technical sections. So I passed him once the trail smoothed a bit and and got a small gap. I was feeling well enough to stay on the gas for a while and about halfway through lap 4, a geared rider I passed informed me that I was in 2nd. I rode hard all the way to the finish but never caught sight of 1st. I got 2nd, with Gerry a couple minutes behind in 3rd. Andrew Lysaght won with a time over 4 minutes faster than me.
As we waited for our class to be called for our medals and prizes (nifty little tool kit with bike brush, and a t-shirt), Andrew and Gerry and I shot the shit about the race, how it went for each of us, our thoughts on gearing, etc. Twas a fun bike-geek chat with a couple great guys, capping off a great day overall.
Thanks for reading.