My wish for the Shenandoah 100 was to have no mechanicals and that the course stays dry. The day before the race, the weather forecast showed the rain in the afternoon and just overcast sky for the morning. Unfortunately for me, I experienced both a flat going down Wolf Ridge and then 2 rain showers.
The race started with an incredible fast pace; the fastest I ever experienced for this race. We were climbing at record speed and we were only 5 racers reaching the top together. I was glad I was among that group.
Before we reached the second major ascent of the day, few racers joined us at the front. However, the group was shattered when Jeremiah took the lead and put pressure on the rest of us. Only Sam Koerber was directly following Jeremiah’s wheel. I was in 4th place about 20s back. I was not especially worried. Once the main climb is over, there are still a few little up-hill sections where I could push a little harder and join back. Most of the gap was closed before reaching the main descent; my full suspension Epic 29er helped me close the final bike length separating me to Sam’s bike.
Everything was going well until a sharp stone punctured my rear tire. The repair took me about 6 to 7 minutes period during which many racers passed me. I had reliable tires but sometimes it is just a matter of luck (or lack of).
I teamed up with some other racers until the beginning of the third main climb to Dowell’s Draft. I had a good pace. Being on my own, I controlled my effort and avoided any surges. Unfortunately it began to rain quite heavily at times. It was all that I wished to avoid: a mechanical problem and the rain. The trails transformed into little creeks; my vision thru my prescription glasses was just a blurry mess.
Near the top I passed Michael Simonson; it kept me motivated to keep up with my good tempo. Going down wet and slippery rocks on a steep trail is an exercise I don’t enjoy and I used extreme caution. The fourth main climb was totally uneventful. I was just getting tired.
I could not wait to put behind the relatively flat roads after aid #4. I was certain to lose quite a bit of time there. Finally the grade of the climb increased, so was the pain in the legs but I was certain I was making up time: I reached up to Brandon Draugelis and then Sam Koerber. By aid #5 under another round of rain, the volunteers gave me splits: two minutes to Evan Plews and four minutes to Jeremiah.
I went into chasing mode but my reduced vision thru my muddy glasses was impeding my speed. Even with a carefully negotiated downhill to aid #6 I was glad to hear that Evan closed the gap to Jeremiah and they were just two minutes in front of me.
The last climb was just painful; each pedal stroke was a difficult task but I passed Evan. I was almost arrived so I kept the effort to my max capacity. Finally, by the finish line I was 2nd, not too far back from Jeremiah.
Like last year, the championship will hinge on one single race: Fool’s Gold. I hope my legs will feel just as good as for this edition of the Shenandoah 100.