Stage One: 15 Mile Individual Time Trial
The start is late for a "morning guy" like me. Afternoon late. Too much time to kill. Work on bikes, fuddle about, drink a beer... mebbe a couple?
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamDejay is starting ahead of me. I'm happy. Having him start behind me only to blast by on a fifteen mile course? Been there. Done that.
I leave the line up and go back to the Eagle Lodge to put a few more re-wetting drops on my contacts (which I've only ever worn a couple times now). Ride back towards the start, decide to maybe spin my legs for a couple more minutes... hear my name being called out in panicky voices. I'm about to miss my start, but then I don't.
Go out with a moderately hard effort. Don't plan on ever catching Dejay, just hoping to not blow my load or get caught by my dark horse prediction, Mike Maggs. Coming into the first real nasty descent, I discover that my left contact (which is weighted for my astigmatism) is moving around in my eye. Not only is my vision shit, it's enhanced shit. My sight is worse than normal, so I close my left eye whenever the trail turns downwards. My depth perception is blown, but at least it doesn't look like someone smeared cooking oil in my eye.
Coming back towards camp, the open women and men that started waaaaaaaayy behind me start coming around. Crystal, Payson... Justin. Will it ever stop? Prolly not.
Back in the tight twisties around camp, I know it's just about keeping the bike moving and staying out of people's way until I finally pop out at the finish, never caught by any single speeders behind me and also never catching Dejay.
And then Jesse finishes really close behind me... and then tells Dejay and I that he was the last single speeder to start and had made his way through the entire field, aside from us (the first two out). Oooof. Wonder how that will shake out?
photo cred: Thom Parsons/Dirt Wire TVThat's how that shakes out.
Jesse at 1:19:11, Dejay 1:16 back in second, me 1:08 behind Dejay... which is encouraging because Dejay has beat me by much more in the past. My dark horse prediction (Maggs) is sitting 1:59 behind me.
Stage Two: Coopers Gap 42 miles
I decide to go without my contacts, hoping that the combination of sun and yellow lenses will be enough to see my way through the day. We're taken outta camp and lined up in a tunnel under 322. They call the category leaders (including Jesse) to the front. Bad news. I remember how this goes.
The race starts. I see Jesse get in with the lead group down the long, mostly flat fire road. Groups form and go by, and as always, I can't get on with any of them. I see Dejay find a group and pull away. Shit. I got work to do.
Trail and road and climb and descend. I wonder if I'll ever see anyone again. Then I see a yellow jersey up ahead. I'm not smart enough to figure out that I'm catching Jesse before he follows another rider off course, that rider slams on his brakes, Jesse slams into the back of the other guy... and then two riders explode into the sky like human fireworks.
I make the left turn into the woods, still thinking Dejay and Jesse are still ahead of me.
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamI keep my head in the game and try to remind myself that it's a seven day race. Stay consistent. Keep moving...
but then I think I ride through a bunch of wasps or some other kinda angry stinging insects, and I drop the hammer (it's a very small hammer). I ride as hard as I can for about a minute or two, and then I see Dejay up ahead. I make sure I get close enough to Dejay so that he knows he's been caught, and then watch him ride away. I remember where we are, and I never woulda been able to hold his wheel on the upcoming descent. I hope I see him again.
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamI know there's one big climb before the finish. I've saved some legs for it, and I go off at the bottom, ignoring the natural spring to the left that I've dunked my head under many times in the past. Up the climb, and up and up... and what do I see?
Dejay. Dejay walking.
I start digging deeper.
He looks back, sees me, gets back on the bike, and I do everything I can to close it down. It happens. I stay on his wheel for a second until I see a pitch I like, and then I go. One half real attack, the other half totally expecting failure. I look back, and he's gone. One more descent, a creek crossing, some more work to do... and I cross the line. Second place?
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamNope?
They tell me I'm the first single speeder. I'm dead but a happy kinda dead.
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamNot too much time passes and Dejay comes across the line. I've cut his lead in the overall down to 29 seconds. Jesse finishes much later, feeling the pain of landing on someone else's bike at high speed. Maggs snags third place on the day.
Our podium goes well...
photo cred: Trans-Sylvania Epic media teamSo I go to bed that night after writing a "Bikes of the Pros" article for MTBR that had me more nervous about writing than racing the night before... well, Bill Nye and I might have stayed up a little later hanging out at Chez Shoogs down the hill from Eagle Lodge communing with our single speed brethren.
I feel like I actually have a chance at winning this thing.
Stage Three coming up.... Enduro. All I gotta do is keep it upright, don't flat and try to not bleed too much time to Dejay.
Yeah, that's all I gotta do.