Friday morning, I packed some riding stuff in the car and headed to downtown Prescott to pre-ride some of Sunday’s 50 mile course. There was a 15 mile “fun ride” Friday afternoon that used the first and last climbs of the race course, so I figured that was the easiest way to see the good parts of the course and not get lost in the process.
My pre-ride was nice. The sections I got to see were a nice mix of flowy and rowdy, and were a good sample of the rest of the 50 mile course. Since I was taking it kinda easy, I stopped for some photos at the overlook that you pass just before dropping back down to the city (some other riders were stopped & taking photos, too, so we traded cameras)…
After I arrived back downtown, I cleaned up, grabbed lunch from a local place on the square, and headed to the Pro Race meeting. Highlight of the meeting? The women’s lead moto guy telling the men something along the lines of, “I will catch some of you. Move out of the way and don’t make me force the issue, because I’ve got an x00 pound bike with a motor, and I can force the issue.” (the women’s race started 10 minutes after the men’s race)
Following the meeting, I stopped at a local shop- High Gear Bicycle Shop– to clean my bike up and swap tires for the Friday night fat tire crit. I picked the Maxxis Maxxlite 29. It’s ~250g, and has a very minimal tread. They make no bones about it- it’s a race-only, no sharp-stuff tire. It turned out to be an excellent choice for the crit (I’m kinda stoked to have a set to try in other random race situations, too. I’m thinking Clear Creek in Oxford and maybe Stanky Creek for the TN State Championships). I put a super light 650b tube in them just for ease of setup, but they popped onto the rim like they’d work tubeless.
By the time I’d done all that, I had to hustle back to the hotel, eat a snack, relax a few minutes, and get packed to come back to the 5:15 crit. Here’s the deal with the crit- the only “prize” for the crit, other than some nice cash primes, is that the top 5 finishers get a call-up for Sunday’s race. However, the nature of the start of Sunday’s race doesn’t really make a call-up that beneficial. So, since all of the racers are required to toe the line and start, and riders in contention to be lapped are pulled by officials, a bunch of racers end up just riding a few laps then pulling out. It sucks a little that more don’t stay in the race, but, given the course and the pace, I understand the pursuit of self preservation.
The course is pretty brutal. For you stats junkies out there, here’s the Training Peaks graph of the first lap:
For those of you who are familiar with “Crybaby Hill” on the Tulsa Tough criterium course, this was essentially two of those (crowds/hecklers/onlookers included!), with the first one being a steeper (~11%) grade than the second. On the flipside, it made me giggle a little to watch some of the best women I’ve seen on a MTB get a little freaked out by the 30-something mph turn on the bottom side of the hill.
When the race started, I didn’t hold back. I stuck in the tail end of the lead group. A couple of laps later, and I’m in a pack of really strong chasers, still watching some of the most awesome women in mountain biking just seconds ahead of me. I was literally looking at the awesome riders next to me and thinking, “WTF am I doing here, and how am I going this fast?!?”
In the second half of the race, things blew apart some more. I gained/lost/gained/lost a few spots. I couldn’t see straight, and it seemed like there was so much lactic acid in my blood that it was leaking out into my ears and mouth. I couldn’t help but love it, and I couldn’t have made myself quit at that point. I kept wiping what I thought was snot and drool off of my face, only to find out after the race that my nose had started bleeding…
I ended up 13th place out of 46 starters. Sounds really impressive, given the field, but, given the fact that a lot of the fast women quit in the name of self-preservation, not quite as awesome as it would be if everyone was out there giving 100%. I didn’t care- it was probably the most agonizing and awesome race of my life, and I had a blast doing it.
After I caught my breath and rinsed my nose/face off (thanks to the Prescott firefighters for the saline and gauze), I walked back up the hill to cheer the men’s race a little, and meet some JRA fans who had been cheering me on earlier. Ben gave me a shot of Scotch, and it made my legs feel better. I think he should have some action shots as well, and I’ll post them if he does.
The fun thing about the Whiskey Off-Road is that you race Friday night, then again on Sunday. So, you’ve got all day to lay around and recover on Saturday. I stopped by the bike shop to put my regular tires back on, then found the greenway, the pumptrack, and a great massage… prettymuch my definition of the most perfect recovery day possible.