Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Torturous Maximus

As I move southbound on I-270, a car with the word “Serenity” airbushed next to the license plate aggressively passes me at a high rate of speed and continues forth, making risky passes on the shoulder and acceleration lanes. I cant help but laugh out loud at the irony of it all. And so is life. Once you think you have found “enlightenment” you find yourself right back under the dark cloud of confusion, disillusioned once more. My day at Michaux somewhat resembles this. I packed early and was feeling pretty fit from the big days I have been putting on the bike so far this spring. I felt confident and left plenty of time to prepare once I arrived at the Pine Grove Furnace for the Maximus this year. I have been to 3 races at Michaux so far and have found to expect 3 things at Michaux: 1) there will be more than enough good techy single track, 2) its gonna rain at some point in the day (usually in my last 10 miles) and 3) I am going to fall to pieces at some point in the day. Yes, this race would be no exception.

As I pulled in, I saw many familiar faces and got caught up being the social butterfly, which, if you have ever me, you know this is not my default. Anyway, during my rounds, my choice of machinery for this event would be closely scrutinized and commented upon. Seasoned fixed gear mountain bike racer Tomi, assured me I would have a blast out there. There was a good turn out, and I was happy to line up and see there would be no running at the start of this event. A long gravel road start would thin out the field before we turned in to the woods. Andy, the only other fixed gear at the event and I rolled out 3rd and 4th on the road and into the woods. Once in the woods, things got shaken up quite a bit. I was pushing a real man’s gear for the day (32x18) so as to whoop up on the rest of those freewheeling fools, but the question that remained in my head was “Am I man enough to push this gear for 40 loamy miles in Michaux?”

I am not too proud to walk and did my fair share on some of the early climbs to save some matches for later in the day. The downhills are where the fixed gear suffers as the leg or arms for that matter, don’t get a chance to recover. Dare I say it is even harder than the climbing? I rode with some friends like Cheryl, Roger and Sue early on and enjoyed finding some “local lines” through the corners. There was some great technical rock sections with tricky roll-overs and step-ups and the big gear felt good through it all. Then I noticed my rear tire was loosing air. I realized I had left the 15mm wrench need to remove the rear wheel in the car. The beginning of my mental collapse. As luck would have it, I saw a tent at the top of the pitch which would be the first aid station. Travis was there and we chatted. He gave me some channel locks to take with as well as another tube. Aid stations are dangerous for me as I always hang out way too long and chat with friends who are helping out, but eventually, I got moving again.

Back into the woods and more or less on my own, I found my rhythm through the rocks again. I saw a couple of riders up ahead which I always use as the proverbial carrot and focused on reeling them in. More of that typical technical rake-and-ride loamy trail that Michaux is known for. Then I dropped my chain, which wound around the rear cog and snapped. No quick links on me. Awesome. I started my hike. Several riders passed and asked if I was okay, if I needed anything. I said I needed a quick link. Then no reply. Baffling. I guess this is like the classic “How are you,” and then before I can even reply, the person who asked is already getting into how I can be of service to them. The forth guy passed just kind of grunted when I asked for a link at which point I said “What does that mean? Is that a ‘No?’” Then came Claude from Canada via Jersey who would save the day with a 10 speed link. I got rolling again and within the next 10 minutes, who would I come across on the fire road but “The Grunter,” with a flat and asking another rider directions to bailout. I couldn’t help but snicker to myself thinking this is a classic case of “Trail Karma.” I could understand not wanting to stop if you are a contender but I mean at thins point I was an easy 45 minutes off the pace.

Now I was just joy riding and spent some time chatting with Larry about trails, bikes and the like. Michaux is such a beautiful place to ride with its evergreen canopy and flowing streams. On race day you can hear the throaty rumble of the KTM moto support crew off in the distance. Rain began to fall steadily and before long the trails became creeks and quagmires with a good 2” of topsoil and loam wrapping around even the most voluminous of tires. In the last 10 miles, things slowed to a walking pace, as even the slightest of grades were too slick for tires to hook up. I dropped the chain again and “The Grunter” rolled up and asked if I needed anything. I didn’t bother wasting my breath on a reply and he asked 3 more times. I got it lined up and rolled on. Who is that up ahead on the side of the trail chatting with Larry? It’s Andy! We had ridden together until I flatted and here he was. Apparently he was having the same issues as I, unable to keep the chain on and air in the tires. I waited for a bit then he told me to roll on. I was solo now, occasionally able to lay an eyeball on a rider in front or behind. Ruth from Pittsburg and I played leapfrog for a bit and I finally came to the finish of a long day on the trails, 2 hours behind the first place single speed time of One Harlan Price. Fresh father, Chad took 2nd. In the Elite men Pat took 3rd and Jon 4th. With the Maximus behind me, I move right into SDS prep.

Weapon of choice...


Looks like trouble...



Single speeds depart...


Moto support...


Fresh and clean early on...


Pat in the pain cave...


photos snagged from Tomi and Travis

2 comments:

  1. good writing!

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  2. Those long techy downhills on the fixed gear are always harder than the climbs, spinning fast and hanging onto the edge...

    ReplyDelete