I missed out the fun in 2011 but this year, my family joined me to Marquette for an excellent weekend in the UP (Upper Peninsula). The weather was fantastic: not hot but with a wonderful blue sky. The start was much better than my previous attempt in 2010 where I passed about 100 racers before reaching the lead group.
The length of the race suggests that this race should suit me well; after all it is almost 50 miles long. However, the average speed being close to 20 mph, it is only taking 2.5 hours to complete…
At the first climb, the shape of the lead group started to emerge. Shortly after passing thru Ishpeming, on the power line climb the lead group was completely shaped down: Brian Matter, Tristan Schouten, Cole House, Mike Phillips, Jorden Wakeley, Tyler Gauthier and I.
I wished I could have contributed to the effort at the front but as I reach 20 mph, I seem to reach my “sound barrier” and riding any faster requires a huge additional effort on my legs. So I stayed at the back end of the group hoping that my legs can hold that incredible tempo a little longer. Sometimes, riding at the back end of the group was not such a desirable position. In some areas, the bikes in front of me would spray so much dust in the air that I could barely see the persons in front of me and even less the trail. It was white knuckles time!
The hike a bike loose rock climb saw Cole House struggle a little but he did not take much time at all to reach back to the front. By now we were at the midpoint and Tristan and Brian were placing attacks. Tristan would try then Brian and so on. I was riding closer to the front and I closed the gap after Brian attacked.
When we reached a paved road climb I decided to ride a high tempo to keep the attacks under control. It worked as long as the road was going up. Brian took a flyer as soon as we reached the top but having attacked just minutes earlier I reeled him back quickly. This is when Tristan launched himself to the front. We were now in a false flat downhill; no way I can chase anybody riding at over 25 mph.
The miles were trickling down and with 3 miles to go, on the wood chip climb, the group split. Brian and Cole at the front, followed by Mike and then Tristan and I. I came around Tristan shortly after that. I was closing on Mike as he was getting closer to duo Brian and Cole. With one mile to go we were all four together.
Cole and Brian started to sprint, I was going to place my effort but Mike started earlier than me and was on my right and started to force me against the fence. With nowhere to go, I finished in 4th place; only one second behind 1st place. Probably the place I would have reached even not being pushed to the side. I am very satisfied with my race. Any race where I finish seconds to the winner against such strong competition is a win to my eyes.
My ride can be seen at strava.com
Next on the agenda is the New Hampshire 100 on 8/19/2012