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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was psyched to see race #8 in the Mountain States Cup series would be held at Eldora Ski Area, only 40 minutes west of Boulder. Finally, a race on my home turf. I even had a chance to pre-ride the course.

During the pre-ride, I crashed on a section of narrow singletrack and gave myself a very bloody elbow. Worse than that, the crash caused me to be a bit too tentative on the downhills the rest of the day, and some of this carried over into the race on Sunday.

I ran into Brian Smith first thing Sunday morning on my way to register. He's a super-fit rider, leading the series in points, and I've only managed to beat him this year on the two occasions when he had race-ending mechanicals. He mentioned that another strong rider, Thomas, would be racing here, along with Justin H., who had recently won our category (Sport 30-34) at the Snowmass National. Competition would be tough, as always.

I have been seeking the elusive win this season, knowing that next year it will be all but impossible when I move up to Expert. So far I've placed as high as 2nd, but still haven't earned that top podium spot. Did I have it in me? I was determined to find out.

For the first time at a start, I found myself boxed in and near the back of the pack. Usually I try to squeeze in to a good position near the front. I wasn't too worried about it, though, because Brian was back there with me. We took off in a huge pack, many of us riding less than desireable lines out of necessity. Within a few minutes the pack had strung out a bit, but we were still pretty tight. There were a few short and steep climbs that required concentration to clean without running into a fellow racer, but I stayed upright.

My warmup hadn't been stellar, but I felt much better now that I was racing. I noted with some satisfaction that I'd passed the yellow jersey from one of the prior waves within the first ten minutes. And I wasn't sure, but I thought I must be in front of Brian. I hadn't seen his distinctive red jersey anywhere. This could be my race!

As soon as I had formed that thought, who should crank past me but Brian, of course. I gave him a good natured laugh of "oh-ho-ho" and determined to stay with him. He got 20 meters ahead, but I reeled him in by the time we got to a hairpin turn. I was right on his wheel at this point, but I swung wide so that he couldn't see me as he went around the corner.

A couple of minutes later, Brian lagged on a short climb. Sensing that he was about to get passed by someone, he turned and looked just as I made my move. His look of surprise was priceless.

"You bastard!" he joked. I laughed again and worked hard to put some distance between us.

The longest climb of the course was all singletrack. Passing was possible, but somewhat difficult. Still feeling good, I worked my way through several groups of riders, then got stuck behind one slower rider. I used the opportunity to catch a little rest.

"Is this the front group?" a rider behind me asked.

I was jolted out of complacency.

"Oh, I doubt that!" I said, and realized I needed to get around this slow guy pronto. After hammering past on a sketchy section of trail, I soon realized I was about to reach the top of the course. And that was Thomas up ahead!

I was psyched. I was catching Thomas on the climb, a guy who actually beat Brian at three out of four races, and now the course was about to tilt downhill, my strength. I tried to stay smooth and relaxed on the descent. I wanted a clean run and tried not to think about my crash from before.

Descending has always been where I make up time. I've always had great confidence in my downhill abilities, at least compared to the guys I'm racing against. However, lately I'm starting to realize that these top racers have got some real skills. I had always heard that said about the Expert riders, but I'm finding it's absolutely true for the top Sport riders as well. I was able to hang with Thomas, but just barely.

Here is where pre-riding helps. On mud-bog section #3 of this course, it's best to keep your speed and stay high and right, even though you're on some serious off-camber ground to do so. I was right on Thomas' tail, but he picked a different line at the mud bog and I shot past.

The main descent was over and we now had a section of rolling terrain before the end of lap 1. I poured on the power, but it was not enough. Thomas soon passed me and I was back to chasing him again. On the good side, I checked my watch and the first lap had gone down in 32:13, a full ten minutes faster than I had ridden it in practice.

Lap two was a blur, as I chased an elusive Thomas up the hill. We started plowing through the Pro Women's field, but I knew the pace was fast when I caught the last male Expert rider. They had started several minutes before us. This was a first for me.

Once again I caught Thomas at the top of the hill, but he held his position this time all through the descent. I shadowed him up the climb on lap three. At the hairpin turn I caught a glimpse of a red jersey chasing me. Brian hadn't given up yet!

The last mile of climbing hurt. Brian took advantage and powered past me on the singletrack. Maybe he wants it more than I do, I thought, disgusted with myself. I would have liked to chase him at a steady pace, but he kept relentlessly passing every rider in sight. Each time he did so, I nearly blew up trying to pass the slower riders and keep him within contact.

My only hope was to pass him on the downhill. Alas, Brian was even better than Thomas on the descent. I couldn't even catch him, let alone pass him. He steadily put more time on me as we raced toward the finish line.

With one mile to go, I was giving it everything I had. Jay Henry, a local pro, suddenly blew by me like I was standing still. I guess I couldn't feel too bad about getting lapped. After all, Jay would go on to win and to finish ten minutes (10!) ahead of Travis Brown. There's some talent in these here hills.

On the finishing stretch, I could see Brian's red jersey up ahead, but there was no way I could catch him. He beat me by only 21 seconds, but it was 21 seconds I couldn't seem to muster that day.

Justin H. ended up with the win in my category. He had put down the hammer early and didn't let up. None of us even saw him after the first climb. Thomas got second, Brian third, and I was fourth. While checking the results, I noticed that Men's Sport 30-34 is by far the fastest sport category. At Eldora, the guy who got 8th place (8th!) in 30-34 would have won all of the other sport age groups by over two minutes.

I'm starting to realize that winning a race depends on much more than one's physical abilities. You need the fitness, of course, but you also need that killer desire to push yourself to the absolute max. I'm at the point where I need to truly believe I'm capable of winning. I can look within myself and see points during the Eldora race where I could have given more. When Brian was chasing me down, I should have been fiercely determined NOT to let him pass me. He beat me because he knew he could. I should have put doubt in his mind.

I've got one more race to prove myself. After Keystone, I don't want to feel like I could have given more.

Anyway, it was a fun race and I had a great time!

bock

Course stats:
Length: 5.6 miles (16.9 for 3 laps)
Climbing: 726 ft (2178' for 3 laps)
Max elevation: 9860'
My lap times:
32:13
32:15
32:30
 

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Livin' in the fast lane!

Great write up Mark! Sounds like the usual MSC hammerfest alright.... I have to give you a ton of credit for logging strong and consistent lap times in these races. Only recently have I entered the realm of pacing that can endure many laps. Can't wait for you to be on the starting line in expert next year too! I guarantee you'll hold your own! Now I am starting to feel bad for that Moab race, as you'd have taken the top spot had I not been in the way. I bet you'll exact your revenge sometime next season on me :) .

Definately cool to race on home turf too, eh? Do you or can you ride out at Eldora other than during this race? I heard access was something of an issue, but can't confirm it. Sounds like a sweet course though!

See you in Keystone! Know anything about that course? "TNT" and some other trails linked together to form a single loop from what I hear, and hard!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
glenzx said:
Great write up Mark! Sounds like the usual MSC hammerfest alright.... I have to give you a ton of credit for logging strong and consistent lap times in these races. Only recently have I entered the realm of pacing that can endure many laps. Can't wait for you to be on the starting line in expert next year too! I guarantee you'll hold your own! Now I am starting to feel bad for that Moab race, as you'd have taken the top spot had I not been in the way. I bet you'll exact your revenge sometime next season on me :) .
Thanks, Glen. I read your last race report...sounds like you are riding strong, just getting more than your share of mechanicals at the moment!

Hey, don't worry about that Moab race. You had no idea you were way too strong for Sport class then. :D Besides, Thomas got 2nd there, not me (the same Thomas I raced against at Eldora), so I wouldn't have won anyway.

And next year I don't think I'll be racing against you in Expert, unless you're older than I think you are. I'm going to be in the 35-39 group. One thing I've noticed is that the older age groups are often just as fast, but they're not as deep. Gives me a better chance, ha ha!

glenzx said:
Definately cool to race on home turf too, eh? Do you or can you ride out at Eldora other than during this race? I heard access was something of an issue, but can't confirm it. Sounds like a sweet course though!

See you in Keystone! Know anything about that course? "TNT" and some other trails linked together to form a single loop from what I hear, and hard!
Yeah, I believe you can ride up there whenever you want. There are actually a ton of trails up there, and most are not mapped. Lots of singletrack through the woods, etc. Good riding!

Definitely see you in Keystone. I don't know anything about the course, other than I heard it was an 8 mile loop. Three laps for Sport, so Expert will probably do four. The website still says, "Check back soon for XC Course Map".

cheers,
bock
 

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bock said:
Hey, don't worry about that Moab race. You had no idea you were way too strong for Sport class then. :D Besides, Thomas got 2nd there, not me (the same Thomas I raced against at Eldora), so I wouldn't have won anyway.
Hmpf. Thought you were 2nd there, dangit.

bock said:
And next year I don't think I'll be racing against you in Expert, unless you're older than I think you are. I'm going to be in the 35-39 group. One thing I've noticed is that the older age groups are often just as fast, but they're not as deep. Gives me a better chance, ha ha!
:eek: Older? I guess so! I'll also be in the venerable 35-39 Y.O. group, so we'll be toe-to-toe once again! Thankfully, my b-day is in Jan. so my 'racing age' stays the same throughout the season. I would imagine this makes things a little simpler compared to having a b-day mid-season, causing an age group jump during a series!

bock said:
Definitely see you in Keystone. I don't know anything about the course, other than I heard it was an 8 mile loop. Three laps for Sport, so Expert will probably do four. The website still says, "Check back soon for XC Course Map".

cheers,
bock
We'll see how epic the loops are then, when I read that I thought it may imply that we'd be doing ONE epic loop! Hard to call laps "epic", but I suppose it's possible, if it were like CB or Snowmass it'd certainly make for a hard race then!

Anyhow, great job this past weekend and for the season!
 

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Nice report... great season.

Hey Mark, nice write up. Great times on your laps. Our course was definately lacking in the climbs department, but such is life as a beginner. I have no doubt, that you left it all out on the course! I can only hope that I have half as good as a season next year. I really hope those other guys move up... not that it will matter... but here's to hoping! RU doing Tipperary or Durango Nationals, or are you going to train up to poeak at Keystone. Catcy ya soon. Let me know if I can tag along and do some training.
-Ocky
 

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Nice Writeup!

Mark -

Nice writeup! There are some pearls of wisdom in there for us beginners...mostly that there is no better timing for a little humor than in the heat of battle! If I can find the air, I'll initiate the jawing in our class next time a pass happens...

Also I appreciate and agree with your thoughts re: competitiveness:

I'm starting to realize that winning a race depends on much more than one's physical abilities. You need the fitness, of course, but you also need that killer desire to push yourself to the absolute max. I'm at the point where I need to truly believe I'm capable of winning. I can look within myself and see points during the Eldora race where I could have given more. When Brian was chasing me down, I should have been fiercely determined NOT to let him pass me. He beat me because he knew he could. I should have put doubt in his mind.
I've raced tons this season - I think my 13th race is coming up this weekend, not counting short track. I think my performance is starting to suffer because of it, because I just can't summon that "killer desire" each and every weekend. That really bums me out to admit, as I love competition, but there it is...

Anyway nice to meet you this weekend...we'll have to ride together sometime.

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
rapwithtom said:
Mark -

Nice writeup! There are some pearls of wisdom in there for us beginners...mostly that there is no better timing for a little humor than in the heat of battle! If I can find the air, I'll initiate the jawing in our class next time a pass happens...

Also I appreciate and agree with your thoughts re: competitiveness:

I've raced tons this season - I think my 13th race is coming up this weekend, not counting short track. I think my performance is starting to suffer because of it, because I just can't summon that "killer desire" each and every weekend. That really bums me out to admit, as I love competition, but there it is...

Anyway nice to meet you this weekend...we'll have to ride together sometime.

Tom
Hey Tom, thanks! Yeah, it was good meeting you, too.

I think it's easy to race "too much", but everyone has different limits. I've done 8 MTB races this summer, and I think that's about as many as I want to do (after the 9th at Keystone, of course!). But I've also done two running races, a couple of orienteering meets, and six adventure races this summer, so just about every weekend involves traveling somewhere. Still trying to strike that perfect balance...

cheers,

bock
 
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