Last Sunday, October 16th, 2016, the OMBC met at Scioto Trails State Park for the 9th race in a 10-race series.
I was in 4th place in the Expert 40+ division and I had a small hope that I could move up to 3rd with a strong showing. In the previous race I had beaten Brad Smith for the first time (read about that here) and if I could pull it off again we would most likely be tied for 3rd and ready to duke it out at the championship race at Mohican the next weekend.
My biggest goal was to try and stay with Brad and see if I could take him on some of the long climbs that Scioto Trails is known for.
On go, we sprinted off and I easily shot to the front of the pack. I didn’t really want to be in first, so I let “The Brads”, Brad Rogers and Brad Smith, pass me and I coasted into the woods in 3rd out of a 12-man field. We were off to a faster start than normal and I was wondering if it was because Smith had won here in 2015 and wanted to repeat that on a course he considers favorable.
By the time we hit the first big climb, it was Brad Rogers 200 yards ahead, Brad Smith 50 yards ahead, myself, then Joe Worboy, who had just moved from Sport to Expert.
The route 5 climb is long by Ohio standards – 350 feet over 1.5 miles on a gravel fire road. It tends to wear down a lot of riders and separate the pack. But, Smith, Worboy and myself stayed together for the whole climb. It wasn’t until after the climb, the “Three-Tiered Bitch”, which is one of hardest singletrack climbs in Ohio, that we started to lose Brad.
I was running a 32:17 gear ratio on my singlespeed and I didn’t feel like I had the gearing to ride all the way to the top. I hiked my bike but didn’t feel like I was losing ground to the other riders that were deep in their granny gears. But soon after you reach the top, you are going on more fire roads, but this time they are going downhill. My 32:17 gear ratio now wasn’t able to eek out enough speed to keep up without an extremely high cadence.
At this point, I made a decision to ease off and let Brad get ahead on the downhill with the hopes that I might be able to catch him on the climb. However, this turned out to be the end of our race for the day. Brad was highly inspired and never slowed back down. He went on to win 1st place in our division and lock up 3rd overall for the season in Expert 40+. Congrats Brad!
Now it was down to Joe Worboy and I. Joe had also gotten ahead of me on the downhill, but I was able to reel him back in. But, when I slowed down I had also allowed Dave Tingley to catch up to us. …and then he passed me!
I had come into the day hoping for a 3rd place finish or better and now I was in 5th. I thought my singlespeed might be an advantage on a day with a lot of climbing, but now it was hurting me on the long downhill fire roads. I started to get a little panicky. Who else was going to catch me?
I fought hard and caught back up to Dave and Joe by the beginning of the second lap. But once again, after the Three-Tiered Bitch they both put a gap on me. I tried to stay focused. Joe Worboy has beaten me several times this year, so I knew he had the potential to do it again, but this was the fastest that I had seen Dave Tingley ride all year. It seemed like someone had put some extra sugar in his Wheaties.
I finished lap two with both of the guys out of sight and I wondered if I was done for the day.
Then, I got glimpse of them as they started the 3rd and final climb up the Route 5 fire road. I’ve been a strong climber this year, so this gave me hope. The lap was 10 miles. The high point of the trail is at the 5.5 mile mark and from their it slowly descends to the finish. I knew that this climb would probably determine the outcome of the day.
I put my head down, stood on the pedals and started sawing the bike back and forth. I had done dozens of hill repeats to prepare for this moment. Left, right, left, right, left right… I barely looked up. I stayed focus on calmly tackling the hill. At one point, I came around a corner and saw Tingley ahead. There was no sign of Worboy who is a very strong climber.
I slowly closed the gap and then made a push to pass him. He surged forward to stay with me, but then I heard him say, “Well that ain’t happening!” He then slowed back down to the pace he was chugging along at and I put a gap on him.
Now I was in 4th and I decided to see if I could catch back up to Joe. I turned off the fire road into the woods and kept up a fairly fast pace until I reached the Three-Tiered Bitch for the final time. I could see Joe. He was riding about half way up – probably a 90-second gap. I started running my bike up the slope and it seemed like I was gaining on him. My heart rate was pinned to the wall. This did not feel any easier than riding.
Joe went over the summit and despite the fact that my final five miles was really fast, I was never able to reel him in. He finished 88 seconds in front of me. My final time was 2:21:28. Dave Tingley finished in 5th, 3 minutes later.
So, I locked up 4th place for the year and Brad Smith, who I have been chasing all season is guaranteed 3rd. The 1st and 2nd place finishers in the Expert 40+ division will be Ross Clark and Brad Rogers. Congrats to everyone for the solid season of racing. It’s been really fun!
This Saturday, October 8th, is the championship race at Mohican State Park near Loudonville, Ohio. I will be there, but since my final rank won’t change no matter how I finish, I will be focusing on getting a PR. My previous best was this spring when I blew away my previous best of 2:23:ish with a time of 2:10:24 – a 13 minute improvement on a course I’ve raced over 10 times.
What does that mean? It means that I’m going to focus less on staying with the leaders and more on maintaining a nice even pace for the 25 mile course. Let’s hope for a nice dry day, so the course is fast and primed for PR’s. See you there!