Friday, July 8, 2011

The Only Race That Matters

Touted as being "The only race that matters," how could I turn down a personal invitation I recieved to go attend this year's Tour to document the action and even do a bit of riding.

Friday, 5:30 AM:

The alarm sounds and I struggle to get moving, eyes heavy and burning as I see the day's first light out my 8th story window. I brush my teeth and give the furry mister his eye medicine and a bit of quick lovin' before making my way downstairs to my truck which I had packed the previous night. My goal is to beat the morning traffic and get to Harrisonburg before the shop opens to hang some art work for First Friday.

Making good time, I stop after safely negotiating NOVA traffic to fill the tank and grab a Pepsi man can. I can see the north end of Shenandoah and Massanutten rise in front of me as I approach Front Royal and just as I turn to head South, a lone hot air balloon hangs, bringing a spot of vibrant color to the blank blue canvass above. Arriving in Harrisonburg, I pull into the shop to find not only is Kurt there, but he is tuning up the bike I will be riding on the road for the week. We sort through photos and get them hung for the night's art walk.

Friday night Prologue:

The Prologue kicks off at 6PM with the ladies leading the charge. I start somewhere in the middle and notice pretty much right away my seat is about an inch and a half too low. It would do me well to stop and sort it out, by I opt to stick it out and get passed by some 8 people on the climb. Towards the top, Kurt comes by and I stick with him to ride the ridge and much of the descentin his company. On the ridge I catch a glipse of Buck changing a flat and realize that once again the Tour de Burg is underway. Right behind Kurt and myself I was catching glimpses of Joel killing it on the fixed gear. Passing Kurt, I feel the flow of the lower sections, roosting the turns and skimming through sketchy rock gardens. To my knowledge, this is the first time there has been any kind of race down the New Trail. The trail begins to rise and the bonk gets the best of me. I slow roll for a bit until Buck comes along and I jump in to see the show of flow through the final section of woods. I stick on him off the drop and into burms where folks begin to hoot and holler. A bit of a disappointing start to my Tour, but there is a long week ahead.

His onesie matches the curtains at Little Grill...




Stage 1: Trout Pond/ Big Schloss MTB

Lots of party pace riding unless you are one of the few chasing KOM points. For me it was social hour, climbing up to the ridge where we begin the timed section. The rocky ridge rolls slightly up and down and in typical tour fashion there were a lot of flats. I lay an eyeball on Dicky trailside and wonder if he is rethinking his tire choice. Fast and rocky descent down to the store with several spots to boot over the chunkiness if you have the sak for it. Long lunch and then party time again heading for Schloss. The timed climb seemed much shorter and tolerable than last year and I reeled in several riders once the ridge went from double track to single dropping back into the woods. I drop my chain several times, wrapping around my crank arm and forcing the dismount. I get back on it and once we turned onto the Cut-Off trail, I see Chris Scott in the distance. He is my carrot and I focus on making up that gap. He dabs in one of the slow techy sections and I come by him and Dicky and then Jimmy, but I see the trail goes up so I let Chris and Jimmy go since my legs are already toast and roll in solo.

Kurtistan...


Carboloading...


Cobras in WVA...


4X the Dicky...




Stage 2: Massenutten/ Short Mountain from town. Road Bike

My first road ride in 15 years and its a hundred miles of mixed surface riding. I know its going to hurt. We ride up the gravel on the backside of Massenutten then head for Fort Valley climbing Edinburg Gap. I slum in the rear, but am able to stay in the GC and not get sagged. I slum really hard on the ride back to town with Dan, who was either slumming as hard as I or just trying not to make me feel bad. Dinner at Carp's feels like a funeral as everyone is exhausted from the big day.

Manditory lap around Court Square...



A lunchtime dip...


Le director in the midst of chaos...




Sue grinds the gravel...


This guy has party pace written all over him...




Stage 3: Camp Todd/ Chestnut, Narrowback MTB

I know this climb and know it hurts. I start off in the rear and a bit of the way up help a fellow with a broken chain. On the move again I hear some yelling up ahead and 2 of the ladies are stopped saying there are bees. I sprint through getting stung once in the ankle as a guy from Boone is half naked dancing and yelling, "Bees! They're everywhere!" Behind me, Buck also tries to run through, but comes up short falling in the vicinity of the nest. I suffer once again from body and bike issues with dropped chain and an over inflatted tire. Another bee catches me on the way down stinging me several time in the ear.

The second timed section starts with a climb up Narrowback where a naked dude was making sure people didnt cut the corner. after lunch I feel a bit better and roll the ridge pretty well. A rider in front of me offers a pass and I say I will take it on the right. I jump off the line into the brush and I find myself now racing this chick that had just offered to let me by. Ah, the ladies and their mixed signals. My "line" is closing fast as there are some trees ahead, so I am forced to earn my position and take the line forcing her off the trail and almost into a tree. A big storm hits while on the ridge. I am invigorated as lightning strikes nearby and I see James Kelly the wrong way, frantically trying to find a way off the ridge. I roll on. Lightning striks 50ft to my right with a crash but move onward. The trail is somewhat hard to see and the tire tracks washed away so there is a little guessing. At a left turn I hear "You suck, Nate," recognising Marshall's voice but unable to see any sign of him. Between wrecking that chick and the bottle rocket, I was definatly marked as the asshole for the day. Late night hangouts at JV hq.

A stranglehold on DFL...


All of the glory...



Stage 4: Reddish Knob Road

A casual ride as any up to the top with Buck, then a rowdy descent off the backside. Joel stacks is up on the ridge and I pass some 15 riders with flats coming down due to the ledgy rock that juts up toward you as you ride down. I make the left at the bottom and Chris Scott comes flying up on my left, hot into a sweeping turn. He drifts out in to the deep gravel with his right leg out and then into the grass, before finally getting it back under wraps and narrowly avoiding disaster via 25ft culvert. I flatted shortly after finishing the 80ish miles solo.

Beautiful road riding...


Locals...


Reddish Knob...





Hillandale TT: MTB

20ish minute loop including a pump track loop. The tight left hander as soon as you entered the woods claimed many a victim including GC leader Sam who had one of 3 crashes there. Feeling good until once again having chain drop issues. Dinner at Little Grill.

Brian Fawley pumptrack action...



Harlan Hillandale TT...






Final Stage: Union Spring/ Flagpole, Timber/ Wolf

With nothing to lose, and glory to gain, I let it all hang out on the climb up Union Spring making my way up to some of the faster folks finishing the second to last time section in good standing. On the second timed section, I sprint off the line to beat the slummers into the woods and as I predicted a shit show unfolded before my eyes in the rock garden standing some 200 yards into the single track. The heckling began as folks flounder frantically in attempts to stay on the pace. Maxed out, I am forced to let a couple of people pass on the early pitches but am finally able to settle into a comfortable pace. YT comes into view as I merge onto Wolf and I launch several attacks, but a dropped chain forces me to dismount. I reel him in again and spin out on a steep pitch and then drop the chain once more. On Tighlman he comes into view once again, and I can see Tony chasing me down. By the time I reach the lot YT is long gone and Tony and Collin both come by.

I know I promised big things to come for my Tour, but in reality I couldnt have had a more mediocre final standing. 27th in th GC. Next year.

Nick Waite aint no slouch...


James had a strong showing, riding the same bike all week...


Podium madness...

2 comments:

  1. why come you don't gitcha an MRP?

    ReplyDelete
  2. cant mash the big ring with an MRP and there was a lot of time spent in the big ring

    ReplyDelete