I watch the riders pop out of the woods. Looking for number plates that are similar in number to ours and for the certain lack of a rear derailleur. One team... very fast. Last year's duo single speed winners. Another team... guy really looks like an athlete too. Another one... good. Podium pressure is somewhat alleviated. Then, here comes Nick.
We actually planned our transition this year to avoid the ever-changing hand-off thing we did last year that was the cause of so much bungling. I get out on the course and just hammer as hard as I can. In short order, I've caught the team in front of us. Shit. Back in podium contention. I do my best to make a pass, looking like it's not destroying me to make the effort and keep it floored until I can no longer see him over my shoulder.
Certain things are becoming obvious to me. My hands hurt. My left thumb doesn't like switching from the TOGS to the grips to the drooper lever. Every once in awhile, moving it sends a bolt of pain up my arm. Hmmm. I might have to stay on the TOGS as much as possible and choose my droops wisely.
Also, I thought the 27.5+ would be the hot ticket for the course. Super bermy and mostly flow. I had forgotten all the roots and rocks and chatter. My hands are letting me know that I chose unwisely. Also, I'd had a rather long PM conversation about 27.5+ VS 29 with Gordon Wadsworthless last week. During the course of the dialogue, I had to do some looking back in my blog to find that the 27.5+ setup is .8lbs heavier than my usual 29er wheel/tire combo. I thought that was negligible? Unnoticeable? I was wrong. Every acceleration. Every punchy climb. Every extended climb. Almost a pound extra of rotating weight is indeed the suck. Meh.
I'm gonna swap to my 29" wheels that I'd brought for backup after this lap.
Transition with Nick, get right to the swapping of wheels, try to see where we're at in the standings but they're scrolling by in bib number order, so my addled brain can't make anything of it. Eat some bacon and gunny bears. Wait... and back to the transition area. I discuss with Chris Joice (who is also racing duo SS) the whole "if they finish by such and such time then we need to do a lap in such and such time in order for our teammates to have enough time to get their third lap done in time for us to get a third lap" thing. So many times. I quickly figure out that the five minutes extra that I begged for might be the difference between me going back out again or not.
Nick and Chris's teammate Gary come into the transition area together. Meh. We're now in a "race" for third or fourth. I know Chris is better at this kinda racing. He's short like me, but thirty pounds heavier. Muscle heavier. Shit.
I pretend to go for the hole shot, but I let him get into the woods first, and very quickly, he rides out of sight.