Wednesday, January 31

Winter Shart Tarck '24: Race Two

Before jumping to Winter Shart Tarck, I want to post a subtle reminder that PMBAR registration opens (and shortly thereafter closes) at 9:00AM on Friday.  The one and only event I've done every year since 2004... so that should say something about it without saying much at all.  If you're planning on doing it, set your alarms.

Now, on with the show.

I slept like dookie Saturday night.  I'll leave it at that.  I normally sleep like a baby.  I guess I'm a dookie sleeper now.

I "woke" up semi-chipper nonetheless.  Something something 11:25AM start time and only a twenty minute drive will always take some of the pressure off.  Hell, I even had time to clean up the mess I'd made in the backyard the night before clearing drains in the rain and tossing pin oak leaves and slop asunder.

The bike felt pretty dialed last week, and any real performance issues I had at the first race were user brain-related error.   I even dressed myself ready to hop right out of the car and start warming up, to include driving in my clippie shoes and single knee pad.  I've never been so prepared.

This time, the 50+ class is starting a minute ahead of us single speeders.  Their numbers are many, and on the pavement straight away right in front of us, some (one?) rider goes down.  It's ugly looking.  It's Jeff.  He doesn't get up too quickly.  Our start is delayed... 

"You see what happens?  Don't do that.  Neutral roll out," I pointlessly yell.   

It's pretty much my biggest fear at Winter Shart Tarck.  Short races, fast starts, local glory on the line... and needless accidents... on pavement... at speed.

We finally take off, incident-free, and head into the woods.  Instead of falling asleep at the start and going into the first trail way too far back in the field, I'm up and around the usual suspects.  The top couple riders are setting a blistering pace, but the folks ahead and behind... this is where I wanna be.

Until shortly into lap two, we were already running into the back of a twenty-eight rider 50+ pack.  I thought this would come into play much later, but here we are, slamming into the back of two, three, and sometimes four riders at a time.  I'd made my way up into fifth single speed, and tried to come around Rob (4th) at the top of the first climb, only to get smacked in the gob with a huge and very long lasting wind gust on the next gravel straightaway.  Max effort to go almost no miles an hour while he sat behind me outta the wind... only to easily come around a very wasted me before entering the final trail section.  Following him from there, I could see I was getting through the corners faster (the longer stem is buenos, bless).  Problem being, unless I could make a move that would stick, I'd never get to take advantage of it. 

photo cred: Lee Flythe
How bad was the lapped traffic?  Bad enough that for the first time ever in my racing Winter Shart Tarck history, we (meaning from five to ten of us) literally got stopped in our tracks on the most "technical" section of the course.


I could never really make a move on Rob, either by lack of effort or desire, the timing of the lapped traffic encounters, or the random headwinds that had the regularity of a Pachinko machine and the frequency of a new Trump indictment.

I finished fifth, eight seconds down on Rob... and in the overall spot I'd hoped to avoid this year.*  Points-wise, with Nick not being able to show up for a race or two, the top two spots are looking locked-in (avoiding incident).  Charles and Rob are tied in third, leaving me tied up with Keith for the final (fifth) spot on the overall podium with plenty of people within striking distance of us... so... I have to continue to "try" and not ride with my head up my ass like I did on week one.

* I'd given myself the pre-excuse to skip any of the races if conditions are super nasty if, and only if, I was not in contention for the overall wide angle series podium.  Doing a thirty-five minute race that requires forty-five minutes in the driveway hosing off the bike, clothes, helmet and shoes and then another hour going over the bike mechanically is an experience I've had my fill of over the past twenty years.

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