Monday, September 12, 2005

VA Derailer #3 - Using a knife in a gun fight.

De-railer. Now I have an idea of why the creators of this fast-growing mountain bike race series chose that name. The Peaksview Park trail system in Lynchburg is like racing on rails. The third event in the Virginia De-railer series was very dry, extremely fast, and provided very few opportunities to pass.

…except for that blasted paved section!

Most riders I talked to welcomed the mile or so of hard-top bike path that separated each lap. It provided a break from the constant up-and-down, twisting, turning, relentless singletrack trails that made up the course. It also gave most folks the chance to pass. My singlespeed and I weren’t as fond of the pavement.

The race started as most do with nervous pre-start chatter from some competitors and silence from others. The Pro/Expert class was slated for three eight-mile laps, Sports two, and Novices one. When I looked around I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only nutcase on a singlespeed. “Hey Quinn, what’s up with the gears?” I asked of Quinn Hershberger, who had been the other usual singlespeeder at this year’s events. Quinn and I are currently 1-2 in points in Sport 36-49. “I saw all of this pavement during my pre-ride and decided that gears where the way to go.” At that moment I knew I was toast. We’d have to revisit this tortuous, evil, flat pavement three times today. Almost three miles total in two laps. I would be spinning myself silly. “Ok, I’ll just have fun and finish where I finish.”

The Pro/Experts took off two minutes ahead of the large Sport class. Then we were off. Actually, everyone but me was off. I was kicking my pedals over at what seemed like 1300rpm working my way up to a whopping 18mph. Everyone passed me. I knew I’d have my work cut out for me when we hit the singletrack. I do well the more undulating and technical the trails are. Peaksview is just that – it never gives you a break. Just the way I like it.

As we came off the pavement we were greeted by a nice short, steep dirt wall that I had to get off and run. A few of the folks who sped past me at the start chose to walk, so I passed about three or four right away. Then the field started working its way gradually uphill through numerous switchbacks that had some mildly tricky root sections. A few guys bobbled through them and provided me an opportunity to pass them. As the racers spread out, I worked my way around whenever I could. This was perhaps the hardest course to pass on that I have ever raced. I would get right on someone’s wheel and be ready to shoot by when the trail would abruptly turn back on itself. The only sporting way to get around racers was to announce my intentions to pass, then let them pick the spot. What made this more difficult was that the course leveled out and became faster to ride the further into it you raced. I found myself on many occasions behind someone just ever so slightly slower than I was. It made for very difficult passing.

Through the first lap I was able to pick my way though most of the Sport riders and had passed the Expert women. I knew that the leaders in my class were gone, and that they were already blasting down the pavement many minutes ahead of me on their second lap. I settled in and figured that wherever I was sitting in the finishing order was where I was going to stay.

My second lap was faster because it was lonelier. I could hear brakes squeaking and chains rattling all around me, but didn’t see nearly as many racers as the first lap. Then about ¾ of the way in, I saw Philip Love, who I knew couldn’t be far off the lead. Philip and I have been very close at every race thus far, and he has been riding stronger and stronger. Then, just ahead of him I saw Jay and Quinn, the two leaders! Wow, I caught everyone! The euphoria I felt quickly subsided as the long flat stretch of pavement chiseled its way back into my memory. Even if I could work past all three, which was all but impossible as they are all very strong riders, they would completely leave me in the dust on the bike path. Before I knew it, the trail ended and the pavement began. I passed Philip and made one last hopeless attempt to get away from him, but he shot by me like I was standing still when the terrain leveled out.

I rode myself into fourth place in my class. I felt great and had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.

BONUS! After the race I was speaking with Kenny Palmer from Bikes Unlimited (Great job guys! Fantastic event!) who was fairly confident that there will be a singlespeed class in next years De-Railer Series. Then there will be a whole group of racers spinning themselves silly on that flat stretch!


ashwinearl said...

You might have been the only guy on a Single speed but I think I was the only one on a fully rigid!

Way to go . When you were on my tail, I just wanted you to go by so that I could back off for just a second. How your legs can push that one gear through all pitches is amazing.

Warren Schimizzi said...

I saw that! We both must be off our rockers. I'm glad our class has so many guys that are all about the same ability level. It certainly makes for fun racing. Keep up the good riding! See you at Bedford!