In year’s past, I’ve been pretty fired up to race the Rockhopper but this year was different…I had just spent the past week in “recovery mode” from racing my single speed cyclocross bike the weekend prior at the Lost and Found 100 Mile Gravel Race and I was pretty tired all week. I had just one hard effort mid-week at the Wednesday Night Prairie City Race, but I just felt fatigued and tired there and didn’t really have that great of a race.
So with all that i mind, I didn’t even decide to race Rockhopper until the day before when I finally got my Giant XTC Advanced SL sorted with the right single speed gear. The year prior I had raced with a 36×21 when we only raced 2 laps…this year, however we were to race 3 laps, so I went with a slightly easier gear of 34×20 (but was essentially the same).
As usual at the race start, they lined us single speeders at the back of the pack of the geared categories that were also doing 3 laps. So we were slotted behind all of the Pro’s and all of the Cat 1 geared age group guys. The course starts out along a flat section for about 5 minutes before we hit the first small climb of the race, then we descend back down to another extended flat bit before we enter the “meat” of the course which is basically all “up” or “down” with very little flat. Knowing this, I was pretty content to just hang in the back of the group through these first two flat sections chatting with the other single speed racers and keeping an eye on any carnage that might unfold in front of us. (there actually was a little bit with some geared guys banging some bars or something causing a few minor crashes).
A few minutes in and the flat sections behind me, I figured it was time I could start picking up the pace. But on this first lap, the single track climbs were just clogged with geared riders. It was hard for anyone to really go anywhere and we were at the mercy of those at the front of our group setting the pace. There was just no where to go so I had to be extremely patient and move up one by one when little gaps in the trail would appear, until about 15 minutes in when we hit a wide steep gravel road that led up to the first aid station. Here I was able to pass about 8 – 10 geared riders in one brief attack and finally get my legs opened up a bit and moving a bit faster.
At the end of lap 1 (~40 minutes into the race), I could tell my pace was a bit off time from last year but that was ok. I didn’t think there were any other single speeders to close to me and I also figured that the increased traffic this year slowed things down a bit. And lap 2 was much better. There was much less traffic and about half-way through I could tell I had caught up with some of the faster Cat 1 guys and some of the Pro’s as well. I fell in with a group of them and we suffered through the heat and encouraged each other to keep the pace up.
I finished the second lap at nearly the same pace as the first (look at the lap times they were just 1 second off of each other), so I please to be able to stay at a consistent pace. However, with no other single speeders in the rear view mirror I gave into the temptation to back off the gas a little and my Lap 3 time was nearly 5 minutes slower than Lap 1 and 2. So it was nice to be able to relax a little, enjoy the last lap, and cross the finish line in around 2 hrs and 10 minutes.
Also, I was stoked to learn that my team mates Tofor Lewis, Cole Davis, and Brian Birtch each won their respective categories as well!
Next up…a two week block of hard training for some final preparation for MTB Marathon Nationals in Ketchum, ID on July 5th…
Congrats to top spot winner Jared Kessler and Ron Shevock for competing in the Lost and Found 100! They were both interviewed by CX Magazine, and you can read all about their experiences here (http://www.cxmagazine.com/2014-lost-and-found-gravel-bike-ride-race-results-kessler-young) and here (http://www.cxmagazine.com/ron-shevock-felt-f1x-gravel-singlespeed-lost-and-found)