Dustin White, 2nd Place, 15.15 mph average (that's road bike speeds)!
|Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, we are here for round 4 of "I played bike racing this weekend." This is a special iteration entitled......man oh man is playing bikes challenging and humbling! This weekend was double purposed between the Georgia and Southeastern points series. We gathered in Conyers, GA to race at the 1996 Olympic track. Although I cannot say if we race the exact route as the Olympics, I can tell you that this course is very demanding and unique! There are many switch backs where the trails seems to double back on itself...a hand full of nasty, steep, bumpy, loose, and burmed out downhills....and above all else....2 very steep climbs per lap better known as Ol' Woody and Powerline. For your reference, those names are completely made up, but it adds to the allure of this story and note that with 4 laps, this makes a total of 8 nasty ascents!
Before the race began, I made it to the course super early to ride a pre-lap and scope out some course changes since my last outing at Conyers in 2015. Not much changed, but this is certainly a course that needs a pre-ride. You need to be reminded of how tough Ol' Woody and Powerline can be! In short, the start goes up a false flat in a grass field for a little over ¼ mile. At the top of this rise, you duck into the single track with plenty of tight winding and no passing areas for roughly half the lap. After this you head down 2 descents to a basin that begins the ascent up Ol' Woody. With no room to recover, you plunge down a few more descents and rises until the Powerline climb. Coming out of Powerline you are about 85% through the lap. There a few tight sections remaining and then the single track ends into a grass field finish of about ½ a mile.
For the second week in a row, my race had a very solid starting lineup of between 10-15 guys. Most importantly, my now rival showed up...the young, the talented, the Harrison! We pushed up to the line and I had another good start. I certainly did not want to pull up the false flat section so sat back until the pitch started to increase...executed sprint ahead mode...and thus entered into single track 5th wheel. The first lap was fast and flowing, but we made it to Powerline almost entirely intact and I didn't really like that. Hindsight being 20/20 I should not have attacked here, but I did....I pushed but stayed within myself riding all of lap 2 off the front of our race! It was cool having some people snapping photos of AJBW off the front with competitors pursuing hot and heavy up Ol' Woody and Powerline! Heading into the final field to end lap 2, our group was reduced down to 5 or 6 folks. This point actually turned out to be pretty important in the race.
Having finished 1 bottle on laps 1 & 2 I went to a table to grab a second bottle off a little table I bring. Coming into the section too hot, I knocked down my 3rd bottle in the process.....DANG IT! I catch back up to my group starting lap 3 and then the pace started to increase again! I came into the woods 3rd wheel. The gentleman in the lead was new to the series this year, 2nd was Harrison, myself next, and 2 or 3 behind. The pace was getting very uncomfortable up Ol' Woody for climb number 5 of 8. A little separation happened until the leader dropped his chain on a descent! Young in his age, but wise in his racing savvy...Harrison started to accelerate now taking over the lead. As I punched it to catch up, I lifted my knee to hold through a corner tight and BOOM hamstring cramp time right before Powerline (6 of 8).
This started the hardest part of my racing this year. I cramped in Florida late, but held onto the lead. I was bested in NC in the final 2 minutes. However, this cramp was simply heartbreaking! I had 30 minutes left to race and can barely bend my knee! WHY?! On Monday, I finally understand why...because bike racing is extremely difficult!!! It may sound like a duh type moment, but looking back, we were flying and battling all day. No wonder I cramped!
Up the powerline climb, I clawed back onto Harrison's wheel pushing through the cramps and mental anguish! Following him for the 1st time this year, I was really impressed to see how talented this young man really is! We started lap 4 and Harrison was launching gaps I didn't even know would be feasible and throwing tail whips off of what seemed like bumps the size of pine cones. Here I am cramping, and this young fellow looks like he is at an amusement park! That is humbling!
As we came up to the descents leading into Ol' Woody for the final time, Harrison bombed through the nastiest of corners and opened a gap on me. After he noticed this, it was lights on in his eyes and he nearly sprinted up Ol' Woody and never let up. I dug as deep as I could chasing that young man for the last portion of the race and could not muster enough in the old coal engine! Another 2nd place, and a lot more lessons learned! These last 2 race weekends have easily been the most exciting from a fast pace / strategy stand point. Even coming up short, I know I am getting better very quickly which is exceptionally exciting! Having 3 weeks until the next outing, I have to really improve on trail speed to have any chance of taking back the series lead. With that said, I now make a public deceleration...a Strava war has just begun!!! I need to try and train at the pace we race at (15.15 mph for me yesterday....WHAT?!) and the only way I know to do so is to hunt the times in our area!
Please wish me safety and luck my fellow shredding folks, and until next time, GO RIDE!
|Click here for the Ride with Dustin page complete with race schedule and post-race reports.|