Since the Lumberjack 100, I have been quite busy between family, work, training and racing. Following the N.U.E. #4 (Lumberjack 100), it was time to compete in the Michigan Championship (www.tailwind-racing.com) at the Pontiac Lake State Park.
Pontiac Lake XC, elite men, 1st place, 6/26/2011
Like always, the competition was stiff as Mike Simonson was present ready to crush the pedals. There were 3 laps to complete. With a competitor like Mike, there is only one thing to do:Start at 100%, accelerate in the middle and finish with a sprint!
It ended up with a duel with bikes. Mike was letting no sign of fatigue and with only one lap to go, I was cooked and wondering if I will have the strength to sprint at the end. However, I was allowed to sail away as Mike’s front derailleur broke in some rougher section.
I finished the race in first place, with only 15 seconds difference between my slowest and fastest lap!
Stony Creek Marathon, elite men, 1st place, 7/2/2011
One week after Pontiac Lake, there was another fun race on the schedule counting towards the Tailwind championship (Michigan). A must do well race for anybody serious about the championship as this race might count double points depending on your result.
The month of July is notorious for its hot and humid weather; it was exactly the conditions we had for this day of racing. Quite quickly I ended up on a break with the championship leader for the first 2 laps out of 6. Then the heat started to take its toll: my competitors were fading faster than I was. I was left alone in the lead with no idea how I was doing: gaining more time or my close competitors reeling me back?
One thing was certain: the last lap was not coming fast enough. I finally crossed the finish line with 11 minutes over 2nd place. It was very tough race with many racers not crossing the finish.
Firecracker 50, elite men, 5th place, 7/4/2011
I had just enough time to hop on a plane and get settled in Breckenridge Colorado before racing again. Of course, the elevation difference was a shock to the body but I felt rested from my efforts two days earlier.
The start was much faster than I expected and ten minutes into the race I let a large group (about 20 persons) go ahead of me. I knew I would catch some of them as it was obvious most racers were over doing it, especially with 50 miles to go. By the way, the race was 54 miles long due to some detours to avoid trails in bad conditions.
My engine was running at full speed while my power output must has been minimal; a little bit like a car at full throttle but stuck in first gear. I did not feel fast anywhere which left me more time to look around for the scenery.
The downhill were fantastic; where else do I have the opportunity to let it go for 20 minutes at a time? The Epic 29er was simply incredible, the rougher the trail, the more I could sense this bike is much more than a XC rocket.
With lap 1 completed, the speed at which I was catching up people slowed down significantly. Maybe not so surprisingly I started to feel a little more at ease in the climbs, probably because I drunk half my Camelbak and was that much lighter…
Crossing the finish line, I was told I was in 5th place… I was amazed by this unexpected result.
Breckenridge 100, elite men, 3rd place, 7/16/2011
The first day of my vacation in Colorado was about racing the Firecracker, the last day was also about racing. This time it was for the N.U.E. race #5, the Breckenridge 100.
The two weeks separating those two races were spent mostly as great family time. On week was spent at the Rocky Mountain National Park. During an afternoon ride on the main road (while my kid was napping) I got poured on; at 12,000 ft not such a nice experience. I reached back home uncontrollably shivering.
At two occasions before the Breckenridge 100, I could ride with Josh Tostado, 6 times winner of the race. On those fun rides, it was obvious I would need a perfect day in order to play in his league…
Even before the start of the ascension of Wheeler pass, the pace was amazingly high; it did not let down a bit leaving the town and reaching the double track road. Jeff Schalk, Josh Tostado, Kelly Magelky and I distanced ourselves very rapidly.
I was counting on those three to settle down after 5 or 10 minutes. My legs were killing me; my heart rate completely maxed while Jeff, Josh and Kelly seemed somewhat at ease. I did not have a great day, but what the heck; I was going to enjoy the awesome trails both up and down.
Three quarters up the hill, I made the decision to stop trying too hard following the leading trio. The trail was going across three snow patches. The last one was particularly difficult to go across as we had to go straight up the mountain. I could barely keep my balance and walk up.
The downhill from Wheeler pass was once more an “all smiles” 30 minutes period thanks to the Epic 29er even so some part of the trail could sent you directly to the hospital (or worse) should one take the wrong line around stones and roots.
With lap #1 completed, the time gap to the lead trio was already multiple minutes. Lap #2 is partially similar to the Firecracker… ouch! There are some very steep climbs ahead of me. Climbing French gulch, probably the steepest part of the entire Breckenridge 100, in some loose gravel trail, I forced myself not to dismount; I barely made it!
With French Gulch and Little French Flume behind me, I started to feel better as I was reaching the ascent to West Ridge on the Colorado Trail. Bike riding does not get much better than that! The trail is awesome both up and down. It is challenging just enough to provide a sense of accomplishment without all the risks. The trail is nested in a preserved area with no man made construction as far as the eye can see; wonderful!
Towards the end of lap #2, I was really tired, yet there was one climb left, up Gold Run Rd. I should have paid more attention at the elevation profile because it is a significant ascent. I also started to spot one racer in front of me, it was Kelly. We reached the start finish area together but in no time I was by myself; this time in 3rd position.
The climb to Boreas isn’t difficult at all, except for the previous 65 miles completely depleted most of my energy. The smooth grade along with the will to stay in 3rd place got me motivated to put a good effort. At the top, the volunteers killed any secret hopes I had catching up with Jeff or Josh; the time gap increased even more.
Once more, I should have pay attention to the elevation profile, what I thought was a straight downhill to the “city” of Como (just a couple of houses), was in fact a downhill with long sections of flats and even a short climb punctuated with hike a bike portions (at least for me).
Climbing back to Boreas pass was more of the same, the gradient is gentle; the ascent is just long. A rider in far distance behind me got me push harder. I finished in 3rd place, 11 minutes behind Josh. Not too bad for the first time in my life I ride for more than 8 hours. Breckenridge 100 is by far my favorite 100 mile race! I hope I would be able to go back!
Stony Creek Time Trial, elite men, 1st place, 7/24/2011
Stony Creek is my home trail; the event is well run so why not race there? I barely made it to the start line: absolutely no warm up. Not really a problem is was already 90+°F.
Being the last one to register, I was also the last one to leave the start line. Racers would leave every 30s, so I could gauge my speed each time I would catch somebody. It was fun to ride on familiar ground again.
A few times I almost lost it in some slippery corners (loose dirt on top of hard packed trail), but I reached the finish in first. It was nice to talk to friends about my vacation in Colorado and listen to their own riding experience. Great time!