I've been looking forward to this race for most of the season. I've never ridden out at Crowder, but I've been told the course would suit me. It was a good course, only a couple of technical sections, a few good climbs, and basically no place to rest.
Louis, Gina & I headed up Saturday afternoon with the Airstream in tow. We were one of the first on site and had a good selection of spots to set up camp. We quickly got situated and then set up Jeremy Pych & Luke Lininger's spot next to us. Jeremy showed up around 5pm and we did a pre-ride. We rode it in 54-55 and I figured we'd see sub-45 minute laps during the race.
Things kicked off at noon as usual. The start was a run up a rocky hill to the bikes. Tige Lamb and Cameron Chambers took off in the lead while a second group was spread over about 30 secs. I followed Jon Schottler on the run figuring he was the guy to beat (he had beaten me pretty soundly at the Firecracker 50 six weeks earlier). Across the initial field section, Jon rode up to Jeremy and I hovered about 10 secs behind them. Descending through the "Bone Yard" we both passed Jeremy as he bobbled on one of the rockier sections. Throughout the first lap I kept Jon within 10 seconds and we slowly reeled in a few guys riding within sight. At the end of the first lap, we were a group of 4-5 that came in 3-4 minutes behind Cameron and Tige. 3 of us were solo 6hr riders and Kyle Shour was next about 2 minutes behind us.
I led out of the check-in area into the second lap and glancing back on the grass section it looked like Shottler was no longer in sight behind me. I got into a rhythm and just tried to be smooth. I was worried I was riding a little too hard, but I figured I'd just see where I was at the end of the lap. About halfway through the lap I looked back a saw what looked like someone in blue catching me. I assumed it was Shottler in his GT Dirt Coalition kit. Nope, it was Luke putting in a great lap! He didn't end up catching me, but came in right behind me at about 15 seconds. Good stuff from the 17 yr old in his first MTB race!
On the third lap I started to dial back the pace a little to settle in for the long haul. I was still feeling pretty good though. Laps 4-6 were less comfortable and I started to have to fight for it a little. Gina & Louis were keeping me well fed and hydrated and gave me updates on the time gaps.
I dialed it back up on Lap 7 to see if I could. It looked like I'd have time for an 8th lap unless I hit the wall or had mechanical problems. I turned a decent time dropping 2 minutes from the previous lap and headed out for one more. On the last 3 laps I was having some issues with cramps and twinges in my legs. I've never had leg cramping issues in races, so I'm going to have to figure out what happened. I just took it easy on the climbs and rolled the rest and finished the last lap without too much trouble. 8 laps, 73.6 miles, 6hrs 45mins, a good outing to be sure. Shottler apparently ran into trouble and drifted back, while Kyle Shour kept turning solid laps to finish 2nd overall and 1st in the under-29 category.
Props to the Heartland Crew for putting on a great race. Also, double thanks to Doug Long for rounding up a tarp for me at 12:30am to cover the leak in our Airstream!
See you at The Grinder at Binder in a few weeks.