Congratulations to the 918XC race team for a spectacular event at Keystone Lake west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. First of all there was $2,000 up for 5 places in the Cat 1 class. That is a whole lot of money in the MTB world, and it is darn fun to race for money. It identifies the value that we as racers put on our preparation and race day performance, we get to trade value for value, and whether it is selling a bike to someone who is excited about it, or doing a fit for someone who gets a lot of benefit from your work, or racing a bike as hard as you can, that is pretty much my favorite feeling in the world.
The race course was seriously challenging. There was no one bit that was extremely hard on its own, but when you added up the non stop rock garden with quick poppy steeps, it was taking a toll on your body right from the start. Travis Donn, Aaron Elwell, and I rode a few laps on Saturday, and it was an eye opening ride and I think we were all like, "This should be interesting." We were celebrating Dana, Travis's wife's, Birthday on the trip. She was a good sport to come along for the trip and to celebrate by ordering way more food than we needed at Freddie's Steakhouse and falling asleep early back at the hotel. The hotel guy got us excited to lounge by the pool but we arrived to find the pool covered up and him saying, "too cold, maybe tomorrow." I was not impressed with that service, but we slept good.
Travis raced first on Sunday. He took off with Fury in his eyes and gaped to group on the opening climb, from his account he suffered numerable OTB catapults, but still managed to annihilate the closest competition. It is awesome to watch him getting faster every race, he is quickly turning into a phenomenal MTB racer.
Our race start got pushed back to noon. The prize purse attracted a good size field in the expert class, estimations of my crew had it over 20 racers taking off together. We started at the base of a long hill, that after 50 yards or so of pavement funneled you into a grassy/gravely singletrack beside the road up to the top of the hill. I was 5th into the grass, passed one guy before the top and poised to shoot around to Ray Hall's wheel at the top. I gassed it, and some Mad Duck rider and I traded a few elbows. I was in position to ride him into the bushes and go into the trail in second, but he seemed determined to have a collision with me if need be so I let him in. Immediately the guy started to coast and Ray, who is incredibly strong and an incredibly daft bike handler on his home trail, began walking away from us. I was getting pretty frustrated riding behind the other racer. I did not like to be the antagonist that I was, but I at least wanted a chance to try and stay with Ray. The Mad Duck rider continued to flounder and the gap grew, one rider even passed us both when Mad Duck dropped his chain after skipping off a rock and I plowed into him and dropped my chain as well. The first straight climb I went around him and began to ride my own race. It was obvious I was not going to reel in Ray unless he imploded (which did not appear likely) so I just rode hard and steady and hoped the gap behind me was opening.
The rest of the race I focused on riding as smooth and fast as I could through the endless rocks. Travis was giving me helpful time checks that helped me gauge my effort in the second half of the race. I was sucking down bottle after bottle of Heed and I ate three packets of Gu- it was about as much calories as I have ever taken in in a two hour race. Amber and Dana were perfect in the pits keeping everything cold and encouraging us on. I came to the finish line in 1:54 minutes, a distant second place to Ray Hall of 918XC Racing. Ray rode impressively to say the least. Aaron Elwell got around the rest of the field and rounded out the top three. I was pretty stoked to get cut a check for my racing effort.
In other notables Doung "Pappy" Long took second in a phenomenal race in the expert 50+ category. Three riders duked it out hard, and Doug earned a well fought runner up. My Dad came all the way from Great Bend to participate and did three laps with the expert class with his brand new Golden Belt Bicycle jersey. The kids race was a hilarious affair, but as is not surprising the kid with the Mohawk took top honors. Lyle Riedy showed his form is coming around and put in a solid three laps looking strong.
We pulled all the ticks off and hopped back in the car for the drive home. Good Ol' Oklahoma Braums provided the recovery in form of Bacon Cheese Burger, Fries, and a Peanut Butter Cup Milkshake. You better believe it.