At the starting line, I was pretty excited about the race because I noticed a few fast guys who I hadn't gone head-to-head with this season. With all of the mayhem at the staging area, I lined up in the second row of my class. We started and I knew that it would be easy to get gapped if I got caught behind a long line of riders, so I managed to sprint up to the 3rd spot going into the 1-track. The pace was rather quick on the first stretch of 1-track, but nobody was trying to pass. By the time we did the short stretch of road and the 1st BST section, there were 4 of us riding together at the front.
The long dirt road climb started and the four of us worked together, with Jesse doing most of the pulling. The pace was a little too high for me, and I was hurting. I was trying to feel out the other three, and they seemed to be riding really strong. I figured that if I wasn't leading going into the Clark's DH, then I could easily end up in 4th (or worse) because I often struggle on the flatter/rolling sections of courses, like the sections to follow in this race. I tried to make a couple of moves on the steeper sections of the road, but could not even come close to losing anyone. About 2/3 the way up, Justin dropped off the pace, which surprised me because he was riding strong. The remaining 3 of us kept riding together till Sam (who I later found out is Rick's riding buddy) took off. There was no way I could match his pace, and I felt resigned to race for 2nd. Jesse and I finished the climb together, and I managed to go into Clark's in 2nd position. Here are Jesse and me dropping into Clark's:
And here I am chasing Sam on Clark's:
I figured I'd seen the last of Sam, so my goal was to hold off Jesse. To my surprise, I caught Sam about half-way down Clark's, and I matched his pace till the bottom, and for about 2/3 of the rolling portion of the BST. I felt like I could gain some time on Sam if I could get around him, and I knew I'd need it with the short climb out of the start/finish area still to come. We got to a slower climb and I asked to pass. Sam was quite the gentleman and obliged, but it was still a bit sketchy and aggressive (sorry Sam). The downhill portion into the golf course and BBQ alley started shortly thereafter, and by the time I finished the going around the small lake by the finish area, I estimated I had a 15-20 second gap.
As I climbed the short assent out of the lake, I felt my left calf start to cramp. For the rest of the second lap, I was fighting off cramps in both of my thighs, but neither ended up seizing up entirely. To cut to the chase, I managed to hold Sam off on the climb, and I think I had about a 30 second gap by the finish. Fortunately, my legs didn't really cramp up until I climbed on the podium (thanks for the pic, Sam!):
*I love this race. I think it's the ultimate all-round mtb race with both climbing and technical, tight, twisty 1-track.
*I've only started cramping in two races: Draper 2007 and Draper 2008. I'm pretty sure it's because of the BST sections that require you to do a bunch of quick sprints out of each corner and up each little climb.
*I was happy with my first win at Sherwood, but this is actually even more satisfying because I honestly thought I'd finish in 4th as we were climbing the road. I'd never considered myself a good descender or bike handler, and it was on the sections that required some handling that I was able to pull away, so I'm pretty stoked about that.
*Both of my wins came on short courses (about 16 miles), so I'm pretty apprehensive about longer distances.
*I'm really starting to like the 29er. I think I actually descend faster now than I did with my full suspension. I don't know if it's the larger contact patch or what, but I feel that I can really rip around corners without worrying about losing traction (although I almost ate it twice on loose stuff last night). For what it's worth, in my class, finishers 1, 2, and 3 were all on 29ers.
*The ride of the evening goes to Brad, who won the Expert category on his 1-speed. That's just crazy.