Wednesday, February 14

Winter Shart Tarck '24: Race Four

Somehow I'm parked next to Bruce.  We always park in the same general vicinity.  We're basically the same age.  We finish the race about the same time.  Chalk it up to a "birds of a feather" situation.

"Robert Marion isn't coming today."


I'd mentioned last week that I wasn't moving up in the GC unless someone in the top five missed a race.  Now that's happening, so I guess back to caring.

I make the decision to kit up sans single knee pad protecting my lower left bendy part.  I mean, I skipped it for the previous day's under-biking adventure, so whatever.  Ride over to watch the Sport Men come through the swoopy section to see how muddy things are getting on the course.  Everyone looks clean for the most part... until the leader's jersey comes by way back in the field, covered with mud up top and blood down low.  Guess it's slick out there... back to the car for the knee pad.

Run into Charles while checking on the beer tent status (the beer is NOT there yet).  

"Robert's not here.  Guess we're moving up."

"I'm not really here either.  Got sick last week, so I'm not racing today."

Well, guess I'm moving up.

Warm up and chat with Keith who's right ahead of me on points about stupid things like single speeds, sprint finishes, and meaningless points.  Head over to the start and unabashedly line up towards the left side of the start with Rob who has been crushing it lately.

Oddly enough, I get clipped in immediately and get the hole shot on the first two turns... only to have GC leader Justin and Rob get around me going into the woods.  Rob, Justin, and then me.  A whole lot better than what I've done in the past three races. 

photo cred: Pisgah Paparazzi
We're not even done with the first lap before we start running into the back of the twenty rider strong 50+ field, so tactics are going to come into play sooner rather than later.  Justin gets away, but I keep Rob in sight.  I'm feeling like an Almond Joy for all of a hot second before Keith gets around me and everything goes all Mounds on me.  It's now that I start doing maths.


Although Robert isn't here, he put enough riders between us for the first three races (one being the double points race with a stacked field) that the math might work out that I still can't move up in the GC just because he isn't there.  Now with Keith in front of me, I'm losing even more points.  I close it back down towards the end of the third lap, and decide it's either time to go full beans or none.

Full beans it is.  I manage to get a gap on Keith and also catch up to Rob's wheel.  I know there's two logical options on the last lap with Rob.

1. Stick on his wheel, let him pull on the gravel flats, put in one effort on the last climb to avoid the sprint finish which I had told Keith while we were warming up is my biggest nightmare.

2. Pass Rob on the first gravel flat, take the wind head-on allowing him to sit in, go faster than him on the last bit of single track, hope it's enough to discourage him from chasing me back down in the last minute and a half of the last lap.

Number one is the smart play, so obviously, I go with option two.

It pans out as one would expect.  Rob manages his biscuits better than I do, comes around me on the last steep pitch, and takes second to Justin.

In the end,  Robert did have enough points to skip a race and only drop back one place to third behind Rob.  Charles skipping the race due to illness means Keith moves up to fourth and I fall ass backwards into fifth.  

While I was talking to Charles (at a distance), I told him that Winter Shart Tarck is like a stage race that takes five weeks and only has three hours of actual racing... but it's what happens those 167.5 hours the rest of the week that can toss it all in the bin.  Illness, injury, family situations, unexpected commitments, etc.  Do Shart Tarck for enough years, you'll get around to at least one or two unfortunate incidents that make the work you put in all for naught... aside from having fun with friends in the woods and hanging out on a winter's day... which is usually enough for me to call it a "win" regardless.

One week to go.

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