Friday morning, everyone jumps aboard one of three or four tour buses for the drive to the start. I end up on one with Montalbano, Green, Spohn, Giroux and Wilson. We drive for an amount of time that seems ridiculous, considering we have to ride all the way back to camp eventually... over a bunch of mountains.
Endless Bikes for the pocket-sized rum prize at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek. Nestles up all nice between two friends.
We get out of the bus, mill about, sign in for the day. I wind up standing around with Dan and Doug doing nothing useful.
"We should just go."
"Yeah, we really should."
I ask one of the promoters (nameless to keep him from being held responsible) if we can leave early. It would be better for everyone if the single speed shit show got out of the way early on. We would try to get to the "Death Chute" section of Endurble One before everyone else and scream at people.
"I can't see everything that happens."
"Where do we start?"
No time to look for Axel. We'll nab him when he catches up. We start looking for a trail out of the parking lot. An arrow or any indication that we're going the right way. Not here, not there... what about here?
Yes. Out the parking lot and left. We start climbing. An arrow. People are following us. Justin Lindine and Bryna Blanchard, both in the top three Open Men/Women. We let them know that we have no idea when the race starts, and we're not exactly warming up. We're heading out on the course. Because.
Coming with us would be a terrible idea.
They both turn around and go back. Good call.
We climb and climb and climb. We need to cover six miles and 1,400 feet of climbing before we get caught by the leaders and screw things up. No idea when the actual race starts and no idea what time it is right now (my computer died in the rain the day before). Gravel climb, to insane trail slog in incredibly humid conditions. I leave Dan and Doug behind, fearing the catch from the leaders.
"Was he just fucking with us? Is he taking off?" Dan asks Doug.
Up on the final gravel section before the first Endurble, I see a volunteer ahead. I crest the hill, and there's nothing but puzzled looks on the faces looking at me.
"We left early," I tell them.
The looks I get back are not of surprise. Makes sense.
Making a slight left onto some double track, I see men's leaders Kerry Werner and Justin Lindine coming in hot. I make room and they go by. I slow down for my compatriots, and we hit the first bit of the Endurble.
Piss poor planning on my part and the non-coozied beer I have strapped to my top tube flies out. It needs to have a coozie around it for maximum security on PA rocks, but the only two coozies I could find were around the two beers in my jersey pockets, flanking the bottle of Captain Morgan I have in the center. I have to stop and shove it down my bib shorts... where it stays for ten seconds before ejecting a second time. This time, it landed on a rock. Beer is spraying out of a pinhole. I tell Dan and Doug to go on without me. I try to drink the beer shooting out of the can for a couple of seconds before I realize I can just open it and drink like a normal person.
Crush the can and catch back up with my two co-conspirators already at the Death Chute.
The look on Montalbano's face was priceless as he ran/walked/slid down the chute with Matt Spohn and he saw that we were already there standing around in the woods.
"How the fuck did you get here already?"
"We left early."
Axel came down with both feet on the pedals, crushing the descent. Homemade ProCore inspires hard core gnarliness.
Axel joined us, we explained our hastened departure, and it wasn't long before the stream of riders coming down became mostly walkers with an intermittent schralpper here and there.
Once we were pretty sure we were close to the back of the pack, we packed up and headed out to finish the remaining... 26.5 miles? Jeebus.
We pulled into aid station, and it looked like the sun was coming out. I pitched my vest, mounted back up, and the sun went away. Moments later, the rain started in earnest. By the time we got to the climb up Sassy Pig, it was pouring.
We just kept moving. Wet rocks, a slightly beer-tainted brain, and so many miles to go. Doug told a joke about tofu and dildos, breaking the silence for a moment. Something, something, meat substitute.
The descent down Sassafras was, if anything, memorable. Pouring rain, a river down the trail, brakes fully engaged... sketchy death and all-encompassing hilarity as we slid down the surface of the earth.
"I'm drinking a beer."
No arm twisting to get the others to join me. Finish the beers, back on the bike, loud belching noises, come into the aid station from the other direction, and resupply for the final eleven miles.
photo cred: Axel KiermaierWe discuss drinking the rum before heading up the final 2.5 miles climb up Stillhouse Hollow.
Potential vomit a problem.
It's decided we will drink a beer at the top instead. I crest first and call an audible. We will drink at the bottom on the other side. There's a sweet little stream down there. I hope they read my mind when they don't see me waiting at the top (or they'll think I took off... again).
They roll down into the stream and join me. We break out the rum and remaining beers and commence with the heckling and the offering of shared happiness.
photo cred: Axel KiermaierGood times are had being figurative and literal trolls under the old, dilapidated bridge... but all good things must come to an end, and eventually there was no more beer or rum, and to be honest... it was getting cold down in there.
We rolled back towards camp, and Doug had to put in a last minute "attack" to catch up to Joaquin Gil Del Real to nab his first place non-podium... something Dan, Axel, and I had already enjoyed enough of earlier in the week.
photo cred: Aaron Chamberlain
Even though they were separated with almost half hour gaps between them, this is stage racing after all. You gotta keep your shit together and always know that anything can happen to change the final standings. Vicki Barclay broke a handlebar on the final stage, dropping her from the overall lead to DNF. ;( Justin Lindine was just a little over a minute back from Kerry Werner on the final day, and a flat while pinning it on the first Endurble took him out of the hunt. Anything. Can. Happen. Kudos to five days of pinning it, guys.
There was a raffle that night after the awards. I was selected to draw the winning ticket for the Flat Dicky, and surprisingly, there were more than few tickets in the cup.
I feel as if we (Dan, Doug, Axel and myself) did a good enough job keeping the (very stupid) single speed parade lap tradition (started by Grig Martin seven years ago) alive. It was a formidable choice, what with the longer mileage, way more climbing, and insane technical descents when compared with the previous year's final stages (and knowing we would be out there for way more than five hours), but there's just no way we could have done it any better...
Well, maybe getting Axel on board earlier, but you can over plan these things. Not to mention, you know... starting early is probably against some rule.
Pretty sure we get to pick which ones apply to us on the final day tho.
More TSE wrap up to come.