I have to admit, I had my eye on this one since the beginning of the year. It’s sort of my home course on the NUE calendar, and its’ flatter profile and fast flow suits my style a little better then say some of the other courses with over 13,000 ft of climbing. I also look forward to this race every year because I get to see and hang out with a lot of my local riding buddies and the RBS team. I’d been on some heavy duty antibiotics for about 10 days before the race due to a tick bite, so I wasn’t sure how well I was going to ride. It felt like I was only digesting about ½ my food all week. The other ½ seemed to like to evacuate at about midnight, 2am, 3am, and 4am each night. I don’t recommend getting bit by a tick. It’s not very fun at all. I know… excuses excuses… blah blah blah…
The race start felt a little more mellow than last year. I stayed right on the front as all 400 of us dodged the van pulling into the parking lot. Barry Wicks took the holeshot into the shoot and I was right on his heels avoiding the crash mayhem which happened just behind us. I was lucky. Wicks pushed the race pretty hard up all the steep rolling climbs. At one point, I let him and Kevin Carter go off the front. I thought if Wicks was going to ride like that all day, there was no way I would survive. Fortunately he let up and a group of 6 formed.
It was Wicks, Tostado, Tanguy, Carter, and me for a while, until Edsall, Spreng, and others bridged up later in the lap. I got caught between groups for a few miles during lap 1 when my seat post slipped down. I fixed it quickly and chased back on. I was feeling pretty good. The pace felt totally manageable and I was taking a few turns on the front trying to push the pace.
Lap 1, so far so good. During lap 2, Tanguy took a hard pull through Road Monkey until he developed a slow tire leak, then I took over for a while all the way up to the fire tower climb. Then on the ensuing rollers, Kevin Carter came to the front and took a blistering pull. I could tell he was feeling good. Wicks found the hot line and came around Kevin on the rocket launch. The rest of had to run as we slid out on the sandy terrain. At that point, I was really feeling it. The heat and humidity was climbing, and my body was shutting down.
I pulled into the pits and loaded up on ice and a fresh camelback of infinit and tried to recover. I was feeling better, but the group on the front was long gone. I’d try to just keep the pace up and limp in for 5th. It just seemed to get hotter and hotter. The climb up the fire tower took the last bit of energy I had left. Soon later, with about 3 miles to go, Tostado rolled up. He passed me in slow motion and I had nothing left to stay with him. I would roll in for 6th.
Not too bad. Could have been better, could have been worse. The heat really bothered me at this one and who knows what effect the tick infection had on my endurance. Big thanks goes out to my wife Mitch, and my in-laws Dan and Sandy for getting me through that 3rd lap. It is what it is. It’s a points series, you have to roll with the punches and save the best placings you can at each race. And when a guy like Barry Wicks shows up, you know it’s going to be a hard day. I think it’s good for the sport though, and it brings up the pace and the level of competition. Congrats to Wicks for the win and a solid ride by Kevin Carter. I think I’m the first one of the top contenders to finish 4 races, so that’s a huge relief. Even if something bad happens in the 2nd half of the season, I know I have my 4.