Saturday morning (too early) Jeremy and I headed to Jefferson City to race the Binder Lake 6 HR. We made a stop at Bob Evans in Columbia for a little breakfast and then arrived at Binder Lake to watch the light rain for the couple of hours before the race.
Jeremy rode a recon lap and reported that the second half of the course was pretty greazy (not greasy). I was a little nervous because I was not running a good tire setup for the mud. I had a Maxxis Crossmark up front, but a Continental Race King in the back and its got some very compact small knobs. I looked around and most other people were running Crossmarks so I figured I'd almost be in the same boat as everyone else.
We chatted it up with Cameron and Travis (Ethos duo team) before the race, including a light-hearted discussion of the merits of my new 6" travel Scott Genius 20. I've been running a hardtail Fuji for the last two years and had pretty much bought into the consensus view that lightweight and short travel was the setup for off-road speed. Not true in my case. I can definitively say I am faster on the Scott. Apparently, my roadie background requires the squishiness that the Scott provides!
Anyway, things got off in the standard way with a nice little jog across the field to the bikes. I was on the bike 4th, Cameron and Chris Ploch were out in front and another unnamed rider was in just front of me. This rider graciously let me by shortly after we started uphill and I pushed myself up close to Cameron and Chris. I was dangling a few seconds behind them for the first 1/3 of the lap and we had separated ourselves from the rest of the field.
At this point we got to the slip-'n'-slide portion of the course and my rear tire was not hooking up real well. I decided to ride conservatively and let them go away from me. I came in about 1 minute behind them at the end of the first 7 mile lap. The second lap was a new story. The course was much drier and I was able to move quickly and smoothly through the sections that were slick the lap before.
Over the course of the next few laps I settled into a rhythm and was turning consistent laps. I didn't really have a good sense of where everyone else was, but I got a couple of time checks and it appeared that I was pulling away from my solo category competition: Mike Best and Dan Miller.
I turned good times for 5 laps and then I hit my weak spot. In these races I tend to start strong, slow down in the middle and then get it back together at the end. Review of the results indicates that it happened here too. Splits for laps 1-5 were within 1 minute, then I slowed a minute on my 6th and another minute on my 7th. At this point, I did some lap-time math and figured I had a chance at 11 laps if I could pick it up for the next 3 laps. I got it back together and ripped some good splits on my 8th, 9th, and 10th laps. I ended up riding laps 9 & 10 just as fast as laps 1 & 2. Cool! So I squeaked in 10 laps at 5:56 and headed out for the 11th. I was pretty tired, but managed to roll at a steady pace and made it home without too much trouble.
This was definitely my strongest ride so far this year. I was only 2-3 minutes behind the Cameron/Travis duo (although they had cramping issues and lost several minutes that they wouldn't normally lose) and about 13-14 minutes behind the first place duo team. If I can build on this race and solve my mid-race slowdown, I'll be psyched.
Jeremy ended up riding 6 laps in about 4 hrs before calling it a day. He was sitting in 11th when he'd had enough. He hasn't had enough time on the MTB this year to get his body accustomed to the punishment.
Thanks to the organizers/promoters for a great race. The trails were awesome and a good time was had!
What's next? Maybe a marathon race in the Psycowpath Series and a couple of CX races (Bearcat and 'Cross Under the Lights).