Tuesday, July 28

ORAMM 2009: The full story

I had decided some time back that I was going into this year's ORAMM with a new attitude. You see, the last two years have been kinda the same experience for me; I mark the riders early on that get away from me in the opening five or so miles, then I chase them for the next twenty miles feeling sorry for myself as I can't seem to find them, eventually I catch them all before I finish the nine mile climb to the parkway, and then I spend the last twenty seven miles looking over my shoulder. Not this year.

It is good to be king.

I was going to do my best to start with my blinders on paying no attention to who was getting out in front of me figuring I would find them later if it was meant to be. On the five mile paved roll-out from town I noticed Fisher 29'er Crew rider Adam Dewitt was close at hand as we both approached the base of the switchbacks that climb the backside of Kitsuma. In my attempt to hike at the pace that the top forty or so geared riders were riding I tripped on a root and landed on my left knee which was freshly de-scabbed from the Breck Epic. I remounted my bike, but a few switchbacks later I clumsily not-negotiated a rooty/rocky section of the climb and shoved my other knee into something sharp'ish in my cockpit.

First I noticed the blood on my bike.

Then I noticed that blood was running down to my socks on both legs. Keep in mind this all happened on the first climb.

Ain't we a pair, raggedy man?

The injury to my right knee looked like someone was serving me up for an Alive style Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it was just a scratch at first, but as I pedaled along I noticed a flap of skin that flopped open when I reached the top of my pedal stroke. I was looking the part of the epic mountain biker, but it looked like I was trying too hard.

So anyways, I was busy making great bike race, and I noticed that my Fisher friend was dropping off the pace. When I hit the first descent down Kitsuma (we go down it later at the end of the race) there was the typical carnage everywhere. Riders down, laying in the laurel, laying in the trail, falling off switchbacks, scrambling to get back on their bikes... there are so many things that make ORAMM worth doing. While hitting some of the bumpier sections at top speed one of my water bottles decided to push the EJECT button and tumbled down into the dirt. I considered leaving it, but since it was still traveling down the trail with me in an effort to continue the race on its own I stopped and picked it up as it came rolling along. About two hundred yards further down the trail the bottle once again decided it no longer wanted to join me for the ride, but this time instead of rolling down the trail it shot off into the abyss that lay to my left never to be seen again.

So now I'm running down the possible scenarios. Looks like I'm gonna have to stop and refill at Aid Station One as I'll never make it the whole twenty five miles to Aid Station Two on just one bottle. As I came flying out of the woods though my situation changed. Blalock (self proclaimed Industry Nine bitch with an easy to misspell name) was standing at the bottom of the downhill with a Coke in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. Without thinking (in the environmental sense) I grabbed the bottled water, and when I hit the pavement I took my hands off the bars and filled my more steadfast bottle to the top. Now there would be no stopping at Aid One and no losing time. Sorry earth. At least I saw my good friend Nathan at the first aid station, and I tossed him the empty plastic container knowing that he too loves the earth and would make sure my refuse makes it to the recycling bin.

So onto Aid Station Two I felt like I was riding as if I was securely in the lead. Well maybe not "securely", but at least just in the lead, and the race was mine to lose. I hiked up the switchbacks to Star Gap, bombed the backside descent, flew up the grassy road of death, and hung it out on the loose double track descent into Aid Station Two. I screamed for drop bag number 66, and was out of there faster than Jeremiah Bishop through a goose.

Now starts the long nine mile climb on Curtis Creek Road up to the parkway. Since I had ridden this section just a week ago I had timed the last forty minute section so I would know exactly where I was on the climb and just how much longer I would have to go to the top. I don't know how far I was into the climb before race promoter Todd Branham came at me down the road in his pickup truck. "He's just up there ahead of you" he yelled out the window.


"Who's just up there ahead of me?" I politely queried.

"Geoffrey Bergmark" Todd replied.

Shit...what the...shit.

Back to the old game plan, I guess.

I hunkered down and picked up the pace slightly. Before I knew it I could see the tell tale signs of a single speeder ahead... you know, the guy standing on the pedals and grinding up a climb in a really stupid gear. I saw Geoffrey look back to see me closing in, and his pace lifted a bit. As I passed by Gabe from Smoke bikes who was spectating from the side of the road he yelled out "You've gained at least five minutes on him".

At least??

He was ahead of me by more than five minutes at one point? Jeesh. I watched as it seemed like Geoffrey lifted his pace a few more times, and I started thinking that second place wouldn't be that bad. On my iPod Axl Rose was screaming "You know where the f*#k you are? You're in the jungle baby. Wake up, wake up... time to die". That seemed like my cue, so I figured I'd give it a go since Axl told me it was "time to die". I closed down the gap a lot sooner than I expected, and pulled in right behind him. He looked over his shoulder, and I waved and said "Hello".

Geoffrey responded by accelerating, and I just sat in and kept up the same pace. He sat back down, and this time when I closed the gap I rode up beside him. I looked at my watch and saw that we were six minutes from the top, so I decided I would give it everything I had for six minutes. When I went off there was no response. I kept going at it and shortly after that I caught up to Wes Dickson (the King of Pisgah). As I rode by Wes I gave him a quick Contador fingerbang*, a little revenge for his team besting mine at PMBAR back in May. I rode on to the top of the climb and skipped the aid station to get right to the long gravel descent.

I hung it out as best as I could, but at the bottom the road flattens out for awhile. I know this is where a bigger rider could probably catch me, and that's just what Geoffrey did. I was back in his gunsights right before the road started ramping up for our second trip up to the Parkway, so when the climbing started again I kicked up the speed a bit (looking over my shoulder the whole time). I dropped him back out of sight, but the rest of the race was still on my mind.

There were still two big descents left in the race. Geoffrey is from Hendersonville (near the mountains), and he had a squishy fork on his big wheeled Spot, so I had to worry about him catching me on the way down Heartbreak or Kitsuma. I decided I would go just a little faster than normal on the way down and ride well beyond my comfortability level hoping for the best. On the way down Heartbreak I went back and forth with a few geared squishy riders, but Geoffrey never came up from behind.

One long climb back to the top of Kitsuma punctuated with a repeat of the most dangerous hike-a-bike known to man and I was onto the last descent. I got held up by some guy on little wheels, but I made the pass in the name of win-or-die racing. Once I got back on the last few paved miles back to town I about broke my neck looking over my shoulder every three seconds since it's my worst nightmare that I might lose the race on the gradual paved descent because I'm not heavy enough to coast faster than the average bear.

On the way back into town I rolled up to a railroad crossing that couldn't be crossed due to the large train that was passing by. Visions of the 2006 Paris Roubaix train incident danced in my head, and I kept looking back down the road for Geoffrey, but the end of the train came before he did. I came into town in a most uneventful manner, 19th place overall and 1st place single speed.

More thoughts tomorrow... and if you're lucky, all week. The results are up, so expect some over analyzing in the near future.

Gee, I hope those other guys won't notice that I farted.

*Bike Snob's term, not mine.


Big Bikes said...

You make this race sound like the most awesomest race ever. Maybe someday when I quit my job at the bike shop I'll get to do the damn thing.

Seriously nice ride though eh? You must be stoked!


Fxdwhl said...

nice thunderdome reference. oh, and nice win too.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Richard, you were the stronger rider on Sunday for sure. You threw down a perfect attack, I was too ambitious with my gear choice and paid the price. I am going to work my ass off for 2010, looking forward to trying this again. Seriously well done RD, savor the win, you earned it. -Geoffrey Bergmark

Blalock said...

You need to learn to spell someone's last name before refering to them as the I-9 BIOCH!!! B L A L O C K

Blalock said...

By the way, I stored that water bottle in my chamios for the ride up the hill, now who's the BIOCH!!

Cycling to Fight Cancer said...

ORAMM was my first endurance race, was fun but it hurt, great job, very fast.

Leyonce said...

Waiting for a freakin train! You gotta be kidding me!

Congrats on another win.
Good job.

Luis G. said...

Nice! You need to develop your own podium salute... maybe mimic mowing the crowd down with an M60 while laughing uncontrolably? Hmmm

Anonymous said...

Your Shoes are in.:)

LowCountry Joe said...

Great Race! What gear combo did you end up riding?

dicky said...

I ran a 32X20.
Dunno if it was the right gear or not though.

LowCountry Joe said...

32x20? 46 gear inches...did it feel too tall?

I ran a 33x21 and would have really enjoyed a few more teeth at the 44th mile...

dicky said...

When going for the win certain sacrifices have to be made. I'd rather climb Kitsuma with a 32X25, but I think it would get a little spinny on the way back into town.

That said, it was much easier than the 32X19 I used the last two years.

GenghisKhan said...

Enjoyed the writed up and congrats on the SS win!

DukePirate said...

Way to go TD! Do you think your altitude 'training' helped at all?

Anonymous said...

No, his Hemacrit level wreaks to much havoc on his mental status.

Anonymous said...

OOPS, Hematocrit, and thats from a nurse. Come get your shoes.

dicky said...

Duke Pirate,

I think since I went to Breck with a pretty low hematocrit it's safe to say mine still sucks. Hematocrit or not riding in CO for a week or so sure didn't hurt my fitness level, although my increased food intake didn't help either.

dougyfresh said...

That was a fun read! Good job out there!

Plan? There Ain't no plan!!!

I remember descending Heartbreak on New Year's Day. SO MUCH FUN. I miss Pisgah.

SpeedyLizard said...

Great write-up! Congrats on a great race!