We arrived early at the track for our races; mine was first at 9am and Rachel’s was second-to-last at 1:30pm. It was chilly to start, but the sky was clear so we were thankful for a nicer day than last week at Fruitland’s. After dressing up and registering, we got on the track to warm up but less than half way through the first practice lap, Rachel got a flat tire and became a bit frazzled. It wasn’t the best start to the day, but it was all uphill from there.
Her wheels were set up tubeless and the old glue had given up its seal to the rim. I didn’t have materials on hand to fix the tubeless setup, so instead I installed a tube which got her through the rest of the day. With that settled, we got back on the course with 30 or so minutes to spare before my race. We both really enjoyed the course, it had the most variety of terrain of any I had ridden so far. There was a long flat stretch through athletic fields, switchbacks on an adjacent hillside, deep sand (a volleyball court), an uphill stretch of gravel road, single and doubletrack trail through woods with one steep hill, and lastly there were 2 barriers to dismount and run over.
The Men’s Cat 4/5 race had 76 riders; fortunately my previous results were good enough to line up in the 3rd row. I got a decent start but soon afterward there was a choice to either run up a more-direct but steep hill or ride around a longer, more-gradual hill. I chose the latter, and got passed by a few riders who chose the former on that first lap. The group quickly fragmented and I found myself at the tail end of the first 20 or so riders. It fragmented further during the next 4 laps and I gained and lost positions but overall improved throughout the race. My final overtake was right at the finish line, which put me in 15th overall. It wasn’t my best finishing position but compared to the total field it was my best finish percentage-wise. Next goal: top 10!
Afterwards I shared my recommendations with Rachel: run through the sand and consider the run-up option in the beginning if it is crowded. At that point my work for the day was done, though, so I relaxed while we watched other races, had some free donuts and coffee, and helped Rachel prepare in between. Just before Rachel’s race, my brother Casey arrived to cheer her on. Additionally, my friend Andy and his son Myles joined us to see Rachel and Andy’s other son, Cameron, who was in the final race of the day.
The Women’s Cat 3/4 group had 15 riders, and Rachel lined up near the front because of a good finish at Fruitland’s last weekend. Clipping in to her pedals quickly is something she tends to struggle with, but apparently not for the start because by the time the group got to where we were watching, she was leading! We were all really excited, but were hoping that she wouldn’t burn herself out early by trying to stay in the lead. At some point throughout the first lap, though, she let a few riders pass which left her at the tail end of the leading 4, which was a smart position to be in.
A couple laps in, one of the four leaders could no longer hold the pace and dropped off the back of that group, leaving Rachel nipping at the heels of 2nd place. The first place woman had opened up a lead of 5-10 seconds by this point. On the next lap, the 2nd place rider mistakenly chose to ride the sand and Rachel capitalized by running past. That rider quickly fell further behind and it seemed Rachel might be making up time on 1st place. She continued to look strong, and there were lots of people cheering the riders up the steep hill in the woods (one person was dressed in a Tiki Warrior costume, often times encouraging some riders up the hill by chasing them while ringing a bell). She fed on the crowd’s energy and continued to ride a great race.
I made the mistake of telling her “Only 1 more lap!” when she crossed the finish line for the 4th time. Soon afterward, I found out from the race officials that they were doing 6 laps. Oops! Fortunately, at the end of the 5th lap, she took the surprise of us repeating “Only 1 more lap!” very well, and continued to push herself. Phew! By this point, 1st place had pulled away and was holding a gap of 20+ seconds, and another rider was gaining on Rachel. Half way through the last lap the other rider was only about 7 seconds behind, but Rachel held her off and crossed the finish line in 2nd place, earning herself a spot on the podium!
After the race, she made friends with the other women on the podium and was rewarded with a brown bag of goodies. I’m jealous that she has not only finished in the top 10 for both of her races, but has already made it on the podium. It’s so much fun watching her race, though, she continues to impress and I couldn’t be more proud!
Finally, we watched Cameron (Cat 2) race in the Pro 1/2/3 event which is always very impressive. After an hour of racing (compared to 40 & 50 mins for me & Rachel, respectively) he finished in 4th place. Overall, it was a great day and we can’t wait to race again. We’re going to miss several opportunities in the next few weeks because of the wedding and honeymoon, but are considering one last race this year, Elm City CX on December 18th.