Dustin White, 1st place category, 4th overall, black is the new black!
|Welcome back to round 2 of "I played bike racing this weekend!" This past weekend was another exciting adventure, and this time I ventured back to my home state to race at Haile's Trails outside of Gainesville, FL.
The race journey actually started on Friday evening. After the Macon rain fest last week, my old trusty Specialized Stumpjumper "Stacy" was having a fit. She was making very vicious noises throughout the week, groaning like the hull of a tired ship on distant seas. Despite my attempts at cleaning, greasing, tweaking, and nurturing, Stacy was lost in her own abyss of dissatisfaction. Not a shy moment went by before a knight in shining armor stood up to help! The master mechanic, Sir Nathan Zukas, stepped in and helped me press in a new bottom bracket at Zukas headquarters on Friday evening to finally rid Stacy of her harsh bitterness! With this aid from the self-titled "team mechanic"....a gross understatement of his skills.... I was able to rest easy and start my expedition on Saturday at dawn! All jokes aside, you are the man Nate! Thank you!!!
Moving on to the course description...it was hard, period. The redundancy there was to really emphasize that there was nothing but hardness coming out of Haile's Trails. The venue is very unique because it is a retired rock quarry on private property. Twice a year the owner allows gone riding to sponsor a race on their land attracting racers from all over Florida and the southeast. Those trails throw a lot of punches at you....sand, rocks, tight turns, steep ups, steep downs, 60 foot cliff drop offs into a water pit, and pain. 3 features stood out to me on the course. First, they routed us to the top peak of the nearby motocross track which came to a very loose and steep gradient at the top (Mt. Moto). Second, there was another steep, slow climb shortly after that you could not sprint or spin up....this bad boy was made for grinding and holding traction (Mt. What the Heck). Third, right after that 2nd climb was a dusty off camber decent with 90 degree turns to shake things up (Squirrely Whirly). On the hardtail that meant I rode down this feature in a slide with my chest on my saddle....wild stuff!
Sunday morning came up quick and I must say this race was vastly different than last week. In the SERC series they offer an elite/pro category and based on attendance, they combined that field with my XC1 19-39 group for the start. For the first time in my mountain bike career I was lined up next to Ryan Woodall to begin a sure to be fast XC race! If you do not know who Ryan is, I tempt you to use "The Google" to do some homework. Anyways, the whistle blew and I once again had a terrible start. I miss timed getting into my pedal and was quickly towards the back of the pack heading into the single track. Now when I say single track, I mean Florida single track....tight loose and fast cornering most similar to the canal. Looking back at my Garmin we were rolling at roughly 17 mph for a while and I was holding on for my life!
After we came to the first open field area, I decided to move past a few folks in my category. I punched a ticket on the pain train and slid into roughly 5th spot overall, but first in my category. For the next half lap, the pro/elite guys rolled away and I cannot say I was overly bummed about not holding onto their 15 mph average speed fury. That point aside, I was rolling very well and having a blast flowing with Dustin Greer who I raced against in Macon. He made the trip down from Nashville last minute so he definitely had the most travel time of anyone in attendance. Since he was racing in the pro field for the SERC, it was all giddy up and go for us working together.
Jump ahead towards the end of lap 1 and I put in a big move to leave Dustin and 2 others in my category. In hindsight, I don't know if that was the best move, but I really wanted to push myself on that trail and let's just say I accomplished that mission. Looking at lap times, after lap 2 I had put myself into roughly a 40-60 second lead and Dustin Greer had bridged up to me. We worked together pulling half laps each and stayed very fun and steady until late in lap 3 where I hit the pain cave head first. Going up Mt. Moto and Mt. What the Heck on lap 3 made my legs start to indicate signs of cramping. At this point I weighed in on some options and decided I needed to throttle back a little bit.
Halfway through the final lap I still had a comfortable lead and even let Dustin roll away from me. Shortly after my moment of comfort I noticed a few glimpses of 2nd place in my race not too far behind! Time for the afterburners! I came back to speed like a man on a mission to get the last 6 pack of beer before a hurricane! I began to close in on Dustin near Mt. Moto and started the talks with myself about dying before I lost the race that I had led since lap 1! Approaching Mt. What the Heck, things were bad folks...really bad. I ascended the hill with as much care as I could muster to not spin out, but my efforts were futile. With a slip of the rear tire I had to place my feet down and immediately both of my legs locked up. What happened in the next 3 minutes was nothing but true grit!
Getting off my bike in a full body cramp, I waddled up Mt. What the Heck and jumped back on to the decent down Squirrely Whirly. After thankfully not being annihilated in that turn I made it through a few more tight rollers and then started the descent into the long finishing straight. Seeing Dustin ahead and knowing that 2nd was in hot pursuit, I went for a 45 second all out sprint to the finish through all the cramps and aches. I made it in for victory ladies and gents, also taking 4th overall on the day, but only by 10 seconds after it was all said and done! It wasn't pretty, but it was mean! It was bike racing!
More than anything I enjoyed seeing a lot of great folks this weekend! I learned a lot about myself in that race and tallied a good number of things to work on. It's always great to be reminded to never settle and always strive to improve! In the wise words of many cyclist from my past, it never gets easier....you just get faster.
Until next time folks...
|Click here for the Ride with Dustin page complete with race schedule and post-race reports.|