Some racers find the drive to out of town races to be a hassle; an obstacle they must get through to participate in a sport they love. I, on the othe hand, love the road trip to races as it reminds me of family vacations when I was a child. So, when I picked up Shantel at her place Saturday morning to embark on a journey to Calgary to race the Summer Solstice presented by Deadgoat cycling club, it felt as though her and I were heading out for an adventure.
Photo Credit: Sangudo
After enjoying a leisurely three-hour drive, the anxiety of racing hit us straight in the face. We were half an hour behind schedule, so by the time we parked, most of the racers were already kitted up and going on their pre-race lap. It didn¹t help that both Shantel and I had full bladders, stiff legs and the caffeine from our morning coffees started to wane. We were able to register without a problem since Josh from the ABA was working the race, but he did tell me that the Expert category was very well contested with some fast riders. That is usually the case, but after I personally looked over the start list, my nerves started to percolate as the phrase “wow, he’s pretty fast” followed after every name. Some of the nervousness began to assuage as I started seeing familiar and friendly Edmonton racers, so at the very least, I¹ll be riding mountain bikes with friends from home.
It was almost a mass start as the Elite, Expert and Sport categories were all lined up for a staggered started. We were lined up behind the Elite men as usual, but they looked like a small group considering the Expert men numbered in the 20’s and the Sport men were in the late 30’s. I really can¹t remember the last time this many Expert racers were lined up to start, but I hope this is a trend for the rest of the racing season as it always makes for a more exciting race. Young racers Raphael and Isaac were up front and center for this race as it seemed pretty obvious from the perspective of the rest of the Expert racers, this was their race to win. Overall, the mood of the racers seemed to be quite relaxed and relieved that it wasn¹t raining during the race as the weather prognosticators predicted. I, myself, was preoccupied wondering if my inability to take a pre-race lap would be a large mistake as I didn¹t know the COP trails very well, and with the rain the previous night, I had no idea what the trail conditions were in different areas.
When the race started, I quickly found myself in an unfamiliar situation. I had a great start clicking into my pedals right away, so going up the first climb, I was in the lead group with Raf and Isaac. A confident racer would have cherished this opportunity and tried to stick with the leaders, but I found myself panicked so I slowed down and let racers by. I don¹t know why I did that, but I suppose this tells me I need to work on my confidence as a racer.
During the end of the first lap, I felt I was in mid-pack, but I was with Redbike racer Adam Armstrong and Brian Loewen so I knew I was still going at a fast lap pace. The three of us raced together for the next lap, but eventually, Brian and I got dropped by Adam despite the fact that his chain dropped on two hills and he crashed in one of the twisty single track sections. On the third lap, Brian had to push up one of the muddy climbs while I was able to ride it through so that allowed me to close the gap almost completely as I was right behind him riding back to the start/finish area to start the final lap.
I can¹t recall if I was planning on passing Brian or not during the last lap, but he never gave me the chance. We were entering a single track section where I over shot a tight left-handed turn and almost fell into a stream. I had to stop completely and redirect my bike to the proper line. That misstep was enough for Brian to create a small gap which I could¹t close. By that time, I was just looking forward to riding out the last lap and getting sexual harassed by Shawna Donaldson.
Overall, I came in 11th place in a very well contested category with strong racers so I was happy in that perspective. Perhaps if I get another strong start, I will have the wherewithal to hold that position and not so easily relinquish it.