3 days ago, BMC gave me this guys bike to hammer on for the season. To show my unending gratitude, I hastily slapped it together (and forgot to install the top cap, because pro) and showed up at Winding Trails to race one of my favorite courses of the season. The trail gnomes at Farmington always manage to cobble together some of the most twisty (ahem, winding), rooty, and (perhaps most important) not-too-climby singletrack races of the year.
I arrived and was greeted by a track-panted and smiling Billy Melone, who can somehow manage to pull off an "I'm not a leg-murdering psycho" vibe when he isn't riding.
I grunted hello and continued to make sure at least some of the bolts holding my new bike together were tight.
My start was passable, as in I got passed immediately by Billy,Noah, Noahs teamate, some Rocky Mountain Factory Team guy, and probably Noahs mom. My situation did not improve when we entered the "winding" portion of the Winding Trails; I proceeded to almost entirely miss every good line for at least 2 laps, ricocheting off trees and into the bushes, with apologies and profanity issuing from my air-starved talk-hole like the last frantic bubbles from a drowning man.
Somehow a few guys thought it would be a good idea to hitch themselves to my shame-wagon, but one by one I managed to lose them (probably by repeatedly leaving the trail).
Well, almost all of them. A Giant Northeast Off-Road rider affixed himself to my wheel, and after a few minutes (out of concern for his own safety) he came around me on a section of doubletrack. I hung on for a lap or so. Then, not wanting to be a jerk (at least thats what I told myself), I offered to come around and do some "work" when we got to the feed zone.
Which, if you have been reading attentively, went about as well as you think it did.
Somehow, despite blowing out corners and pushing chain up the few climbs, I managed to reel in the Scott racer that had been dangling a few seconds ahead.
Who did not respond.
He simply continued to spray seated, hateful watts at us.
It was a real party.
After a full lap of this delightful arrangement, we managed to lose Giant Guy to what he described as a "bottle incident". I still have no idea what that means, although it sounds mercifully different than trying to hold my wheel as I dragged brake through every single corner. I was then treated to another 2 laps of abuse at the hands of the Scott rider, during which time I began to think about arranging a "Bottle Incident" of my own.
I started to lose it, but refused to give up.
I was a day-old piglet on a bacon farm, his wheel-teat was all I knew.
Slowly, inexorably, like a guy trying to scrape the very last bit of dogshit off his shoe, he wiped me off his wheel.
Storming the gates of the Fortress of Droppitude, I made a desperate, cross-eyed attempt to bridge back up. I rode the mud like Sven after a crash, railed corners that I had previously stuffed, and sprinted up climbs like... actually, I was pretty cooked at this point. I can probably convince you that my handling improved, but I don't want to ruin your suspension of disbelief by saying I was climbing well.
Just before I re-achieved contact with my erstwhile nemesis, he snuck around a guy just before the super-steep ride up. Frantic, I squeaked out "
" and tried to come around.
In retrospect, my decision allowed for only one possible outcome.
It happened slowly at first. He drifted back onto his original line just as I began to stampede past on the right. We came to a not-quite-halt together, I unclipped at the bottom of the steepest climb in the race, and my angry watts-rabbit was gone.
Deflated and a little ashamed, I sputtered out an apology and rode in the last mile or so. I knew I had lost my spot on the fake podium (the one that goes 5 deep), and there was no one in sight behind me. I also knew that I felt better on the last lap of an XC race than on the first. Comforted by knowing at least these things, I rode it in for 6th.