This race rocked the free world on a day to celebrate our fine country...what could be better?
Not much, but the day was certainly enhanced by the fact that the start/finish was officially GT Central. Rob, Ryan and I set up the Dirt Coalition Compound right next to the Demo Program, and the Golden Race Series folks were right next to that, rocking some tunes and polishing the Golden Bike for four-time winner Vincent Lombardi. This resulted in a six-tent city that attracted all kinds of people.
There were GT fans of all shapes and sizes:
Then Mick Hannah made his appearance. What a nice, laid back guy. I felt like he deserved just as much attention, if not more, than Vincent Lombardi, but he didn't seem to mind flying under the radar. These cross-country weenies don't know who he is, anyway.
Here, he checks out GT's new 5" travel bike, the Sensor, with Rob and Louis, the GT Demo Program go-to guy. Louis was super nice to us, helping us set up our tents, loaning us stuff, and going over my bike after the race. All I had to offer was chocolate chip cookies to go with his beer, but let's hope that was sufficient thanks.
Here's a close-up of the new rig. The suspension's been tweaked a bit; I wish I'd been able to test ride it after the race, but it was raining intermittently by then, and I was pretty cooked.
So after getting our setup dialed, Ryan and I started pressing the flesh.
The staging area at Carter Park was full of people, from runners who had just finished their race prior to our event, to families and friends of bike racers. It was great. Everyone had to scope out the Golden Bike and the Gold Digger cheerleaders, who could be spotted practicing their routines behind the tents.
But eventually, Ryan and I had to pose for one last photo before warming up for the big event. Ryan was doing the whole enchilada; Rob and I were each having a taco. Ha. :)
Rob was kind enough to give me the first lap, which means I got to start as part of Breckenridge's Fourth of July Parade. It was a madhouse down there.
Rob had intended to be my umbrella boy, but there was barely room in the crush of people to maneuver your bike, much less put up an umbrella. I found my wave, the co-ed Maverick Teams, and got in place. One last fun photo and we were off.
It was such a good time to ride through the walls of people and be part of the parade. Little kids stand out in the street in long lines, holding out their hands for high-fives. I made contact with as many little hands as I could, taking care to do so lightly. :) I even got a few tiny little dudes, hanging out in dad's arms. It was cute, and made for the mellowest race start I have ever experienced.
As I made the turn out of town, I heard a holler from a friend of mine, and it was great to begin the race with a friendly cheer. I started up the road and found that I felt pretty good. I was climbing well for me, which was a pleasant surprise. I took care to conserve some energy, though, since I knew it was going to be a long 25 miles.
Just as Rob described it, though, it was actually less taxing than last weekend's Winter Park race. Decent-sized stretches of this course went quickly, especially the descents, where I roosted off rocks and tree roots and got a grin on my face before the next climb. I also took my iPod for the first time ever in a race, which was the best idea I'd had all week. I only ran the right-side ear bud, so I could hear other racers and still enjoy the sounds of nature. But a steep descent with Tool's "Vicarious" as a soundtrack was one of the highlights of the race. Hell yeah! And by the next descent, a male racer I hadn't even been paying attention to said,"I definitely don't want to be in front of you on this downhill!" I had to take some small pleasure from that, since I knew I was climbing like a snail on quaaludes.
I pushed hard, for being recently injured and out of shape, and only stopped once. I was trying my damndest to make it in three hours, but just couldn't go any faster. I got some friendly cheers on one of the final climbs from a couple more friends, which was a welcome boost, and then finally started the twisty, switchbacked descent into Carter Park. It was a great finish to a really fun course, and I still felt reasonably human.
Rob snapped a quick pic of me crossing the finish line:
I tried to pass on some good energy to him, especially since it was starting to rain. But he looked amped and ready to go, rocking the pirate kit given to him by a buddy who used to work for GT's new relative, Cannondale. He told me to look for him in 2:30, and took off like he was shot out of a cannon. I got some lunch, washed the Marathon, put my feet up for a few minutes, and then at two hours I had a feeling. I bet Rob's feeling great, too, and will be faster than he thinks. I grabbed the Dirt Coalition umbrella, the camera, and hiked up the switchbacks. Sure enough, in about ten more minutes, Il Pirata made his appearance, rocking the pants off everyone else in the turns.
While we didn't have the world's best finish, seeing as how neither of us have been able to train effectively, we still had a fantastic time. It was great to actually feel good and work the course, rather than having it work us. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.
Meanwhile, the Golden Bike has found a new engine. Vincent Lombardi suffered at altitude (plus he couldn't go to the next race anyway), so now the series lies in the hands of a Coloradoan. I'm supremely embarrassed to say I'm not entirely sure of this guy's name right now. I think it's Ryan Dorsey of Woodland Park. It's too soon for the Golden Race folks to have updated the GT site, and the Firecracker results are a maze of amateur categories that I can't wade through just now. But here he is getting the bling:
But with a graphic like this on the back of your jersey, the pressure is definitely on.
As for me, I will be making my next race appearance at the Winter Park Super D this coming weekend. I will be rested and ready to sprint up that damn hill for the holeshot!