Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm a Winner!!

Holy crap, I won my first-ever mountain bike race!

Amazing, I know. :) I spent the weekend in Keystone, hanging out with my downhilling friend Zach White, alternatively working on my handcycling story (more on that later) and just chilling. I wasn't even taking the racing that seriously.

Sunday morning I lined up for the cross-country race with only three other girls. (In case you can't tell, I'm the one on the far right.)

Jesus. What is UP with the old chick category?? It used to be the fastest, toughest group, and now it's dwindled to nothing. Granted, it's the last race of the year, so...I guess I'll quit bitching. But come on. Four people?? Anyway, I actually felt good -- the legs were strong and I had gas in the tank, so I thought I could race like a normal person. I was climbing hard and keeping the leaders in sight, which made me really happy. But then about 45 minutes into the hour-plus climb, my back seized and cramped so bad that I thought I would vomit. Then the whole rest of the race was just limping along, trying to survive.
I'm so tired of this situation; paying good money to just hurt like crazy and not even be able to race at full effort. I think I need to get several really good massages in a row and maybe some acupuncture.

So after that lame start to the day, I had no expectations of the Super D. It was so late in the day that the afternoon clouds had gathered, and it was freezing at the top of the mountain. We all lined up, jumping up and down to stay warm. The race style is primarily downhill, with a few short pedaling sections. The Keystone version was exceptionally long, about 25 minutes for my group, so a lot could happen. And the start was the usual wackiness: run with your bike uphill, then jump on just before the singletrack.
I watched the men go, and saw that Zach jumped on his bike halfway up the hill in a slightly flat spot. He surged hard and got the hole shot. Shazaaam!
So I tried the same thing. I didn't get clipped in right away, which cost me a little, and I was second into the singletrack. The girl in front of me wasn't very fast, either; I tailgated her for 2/3 of the race, trying to find a place to get by, but there were no options on the narrow, techy trail.
Finally we made it to the dirt road, and I sprinted past her. The girl behind me passed her as well, and I barely held that girl off going into the next section of singletrack. Then suddenly it hit me: I'm in the lead of a mountain bike race!! Holy shit! That's never, ever happened to me. I couldn't get the grin off my face. I kept pushing hard, not wanting that girl behind me to find a way to pass.
Near the bottom, I encountered several junior boys, who were dropping off the back of their class. They were very professional and got out of my way immediately, which was impressive. How do these 16-year-olds understand that and 30-year-olds don't? Then on the last stretch, where I wanted to sprint hard and keep #2 girl at bay, some older dude was blocking the way. I couldn't tell if a non-racer had gotten on the course, or if it was actually a guy from the 30+ men's class, which had started 10 minutes prior. Spectators started yelling at him. "Move it! Leader up!" and it took him way too long to understand what they were saying. I finally had to call out, more aggressively than I'm used to, "On your left! ON YOUR LEFT!" When he finally moved out of my way, I called out, "Thank you!" and began hauling the mail as fast as I could. When I charged under the finish banner, I just about fell over from amazement. I won a bike race!!
The girl behind me was super cool, praising my riding; so did the girl who was originally in the lead. I was impressed to see this, since I had found that when I raced Sport class last year, the women were too uptight to even talk to each other a lot of the time. I returned the props, and went to find Zach. He had won his race with no problem, which put him 2nd in the overall series results. Sweet!
We are winners, dude. :)

Here's me on the podium...I'm a total dork. :)