Race 1 – 2011 Charlotte Winter Short Track Series

Hard to believe that the 2011 season has started. Even more scary is that I have no miles on my legs this year. I adopted a puppy (Ryder) in November and then the temps went south – WAY south. It’s been 10-15 degrees below normal here in Charlotte, NC. So needless to say, before Sunday’s mountain bike race, I had only two days on the road and a few cyclocross races in December for training.

Last Sunday was the annual Rocky River Road Club Polar Bear Ride in Davidson and it was one to remember. It was cold (below 30) and windy. The lead group was gone as soon as the ride started and I settled in with Mike Giraud of the A2 Wind Tunnel. The craziest part of the ride was the small blizzard we rode through half way through the ride. I blew up pretty bad on the way back in which didn’t do much for my confidence. And with snow on the ground, there was no riding the week before the race.

Sunday got here and I decided to enter the Category 2 40+ mtn. bike race. I’m not quite sure how I qualified for the 40+ class… My friend Jasen raced before me and didn’t look to muddy but said the course was softening up. My race started at 11:30 and I had a nice warm up with Sarah’s class at Cool Breeze Coaching (I needed a kick start so signed up for one of her classes that was having a make up class before the race – how convenient).

Charlotte Winter Short Track Series Jasen Winning
Charlotte Winter Short Track Series – Jasen

My category started one minute behind the Cat 2 racers. I planned on taking it easy for the first couple laps but in reality, when Neal said go, I was off. I think I entered the woods in about 6th place. The first thing I noticed was that it was going to be muddy! Halfway through the first lap I could already feel the wet mud soaking through my kit.

The short track course is a loop course about a mile in length with half being single track and the other on a gravel and paved road. I took it fairly easy and tried to get the legs going again after the morning workout. When we hit the gravel road, my plan was to follow the guy in front of me but it his pace wasn’t quite high enough. I went around him and a couple others and set my sights on my teammate, Sonny Joyner.

I caught Sonny entering the gravel road on the 2nd or 3rd lap. We worked together for a couple laps and then he made a great move to get around some lapped riders right before entering the single track again. I didn’t make it and followed the lapped riders into the woods and realized I wouldn’t see Sonny again. The trails were muddy, but sticky. Sticky enough that I wasn’t having any major issues with grip. The problem was the lapped riders weren’t as confident. Sonny got a nice gap on me.

I tried to catch Sonny when we entered the gravel road but couldn’t quite close the gap. After that, it was just suffering, catching slower riders, trying not to come to a complete stop with chain-suck. I thought Neal would say two laps to go but instead he said 15 minutes to go. Had we really only been racing 30 minutes, it sure felt a lot longer. When I caught Nick of the Trek Bike Store, he said he was having the worst time he’d ever had on a bike.

Finally, Neal counted the laps down and we were finished. I was as muddy as I had ever been. Mud had even managed to seep into my bib shorts. Hosing off wasn’t much fun in the cold (Cross riders are nuts). But it really was a good time. It was the warmest day in over a month, a great turnout, a fun race, got to be a kid playing in the mud and took home the 3rd place trophy to boot. Already looking forward to next week’s race, riding more and hoping it doesn’t rain or snow any more.

Props to Neal at Charlotte Sports Cycling for putting on another great race!

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