Sunday, May 21, 2006

Angel Fire Race

So the racing season in Colorado got started this weekend with the first race in the Mountain States Cup ( in Angel Fire, New Mexico. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to race the XC race until Tuesday of race week so last minute arrangements were mad with teammates for a place to stay, taking a day off work, and most importantly clearing with my wife. With a four year old taking two days away can be difficult because of parenting, but lucky for me my wife understands how important racing is to me and I was off.

Drove down from Denver on Friday morning and got in to Angel Fire around 2:30. Found some of the team getting ready to set-up our pit area so I helped with that before pre-riding. Angel Fire is one of the toughest courses I’ve ever ridden and remembering back to 2004 when I last raced there I was not overly looking forward to the race. There is a lot of climbing, which I don’t mind; however, the downhill is tight technical singletrack which is not my strong suit. I also didn’t have high expectations as I’ve been fighting a cold for about three weeks and had reduced training significantly, along with finishing a course of antibiotics Friday before I left. I figured I’d race to get a little race fitness and pick up an “extra” race for the MSC series. Even after the pre-ride Friday I didn’t have high expectations but did feel ok, especially with my climbing.

Saturday started with my normal lateness and a limited warm-up of about 25 minutes. Given the long climb at the start I would have liked more. The start was on an open ski hill that was in terrible shape. It seems as if Angel Fire has been doing work on the hill and the start area was rough because of the earth movers. About 500 meters after the start the race turned into a singletrack climb. With the sport men 30-34 starting with my group (35-39) this start caused a mess of about 50 or so riders trying to funnel into the singletrack. I was sitting about 30th at this point, but knew to keep my cool as the trail soon opened and I’d have a chance to pass. I just kept riding steady and was passing people when the trail allowed and by the top of the short first lap (4.5 miles) I was in 4th from both age groups. On the downhill I was promptly dropped and passed by a good number of people; however, I didn’t notice too many with the “16” on their leg, signifying my group. My lack of off-road riding was showing though as I didn’t feel comfortable at speed on the downhill. In the past two months I’ve hit the dirt about 5 times total and the lack of technical skills was showing.

The good news for me was the second lap was the long lap and I knew I’d pass a lot of people on the climb. I was riding well and starting the climb thought I was in 5th or 6th in 35+. By the top of the climb I had ridden well and thought I was sitting in 3rd. I knew if I rode well a top 5 may be in the cards so I tried to follow a teammate from a different category that was in front of me to help on the downhill. I won’t say I was riding fast on the DH but clearly better than the first lap. I was passed by a couple of younger Sports but towards the bottom nobody in my category had passed me. I bobbled a corner about 1km from the line and a guy in my group passed me, so I was thinking I was in 4th (at the best as a few people didn’t have their legs marked), giving my general lack of DH skills, the course, and recovering from illness I was wanting a top 10. I made it to the line without getting passed again and was feeling pretty good about the race, but not to worried about my result.

I went back to the condo to clean up and pack since I had to leave back to Denver by Noon. After getting cleaned up I went back to the course and teammates started to congratulate me. It was then I found out I had finished 3rd on the day. Somehow I had miss counted the people in front of me. I was only a hand full of seconds out of 2nd and 2 + minutes down on 1st. Not to bad considering my expectations at the start. Now I just need to start training on the dirt and maybe I can win one of these races.

Also the drive down was awsome. Cimmaron Canyon in NM is great and very senic. A nice way to chill out when driving that far.

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