Quicky play by play from my perspective in the Pro Open field (all race photos courtesy of Jill B. and Jamie H.).
Large overall field with a small-ish Pro Open class that included myself, Justin Paulson, Jared Kessler, Clint Claassen, and Matt Obregon. Justin and I were the lone single speeders in the Pro class.
At 32 miles, this was the longest TBF race to date with the previous two being 18 and 24 miles respectively. The additional mileage made selecting a SS gear a tough one: Put on a spinnier gear that I know the legs will be able to push on the last lap at the risk of getting spun out on the flats trying to chase down the Pro geared riders? Or put on a honkin ‘big ring’ gear to spin a more natural (for me) cadence on the flats, at the risk of blowing up the legs in the ups & downs of the singletrack on the last lap? I went with the big honkin gear.
Lap 1: Take the hole shot from the field and be the first onto singletrack. Eventually get passed on the flats by Kessler who was pulling a wheelie on his 6 inch travel FS BMC Trailfox as he passed at 25 mph with Obregon on his heels. Stay on their wheels through the first lap when I realize that I am working way too hard this early in the race and back off the pace. Notice a chase group of about 3 or 4 riders 30 seconds back, and slow down a bit to let them catch.
Lap 2: Drop to the back end of the chase group which included Riley Howard, Justin Paulson, and another rider that I don’t know. At this point, I’m content to just go their pace and recover a bit from my too-hard of an effort on the first lap. Half way through the lap, Justin, Riley and I pull away from the other rider and we’re a chase group of 3. Then near the end of the last section of singletrack, Riley glances down at his GPS and his front tire washes out and I nearly run him over..disaster averted, Justin and I motor on, and Riley quickly hops back on his bike to try and catch back up (he never did which was unfortunate because Justin and I could have used the help of his gears on the flats!)
Lap 3: Going through the start/finish area at the start of lap 3, Justin and I caught sight of Kessler and Obregon maybe 30 – 40 seconds ahead. It seemed like we were either gaining or they were dropping back. I had a bigger gear than Justin, so we worked together, and I pulled us along on the flats, and then Justin swung in front for the singletrack and motored us through the twisties. Clean lap, kept our pace up, and tried to make clean fast passes around traffic.
Lap 4: Going through the start/finish area between laps one last time we noticed that we were only 15 seconds behind the lead duo. We weren’t sure if they knew we were there, so I tried to ‘hide’ us behind lap traffic on the flats only pulling around at the last second then ducking back in. As we entered the singletrack and the climb to the bench for the last time I saw they were only 10 seconds ahead of us so I punched it up the lower half of the climb and we finally caught them about half way up the bench. We were now the lead group of 4 and instantly this last lap became less of a horse race and more of a chess match as we tried to figure out who was still feeling strong, and who was totally gassed.
As we crested the bench climb for the last time, Obregon had the lead, followed by Kessler, then myself, then Paulson. On the way from the Bench to Beek’s Bight parking area, I made a sneaky pass around Kessler, and then held Obregon’s wheel. At Beek’s Bight, Kessler passed me right back by jumping the curb back onto the dirt as I went around, and our order shuffled again. Then at the next steep punchy climb, Obregon and Kessler both stayed on the right and a line opened up on the left so I punched it, passed them both and took the lead. I thought Paulson might follow but he stayed put, Obregon didn’t have the momentum to respond, and Kessler grabbed my wheel and pulled around Obregon. For the remainder of the singletrack out to the aid station at Doton’s Point, it was myself in the lead being pushed from behind by Kessler as we tried to push the pace a bit and open up a gap.
After rounding Doton’s Point, riding through the sandy open meadow area, my legs were HURTING. As we crossed the pavement and up one last steep puncher of a climb, I warned Kessler who was right behind me that I was probably going to get bogged down on this climb as i burnt my last match a few miles back when I made my move on the last climb to get into first. I grunted and cursed up this climb then at the top, Kessler moved around me and pulled on through. I couldn’t stay on his wheel as I needed an extended recovery and at this point, I began looking more over my shoulder than looking ahead. With about 2 miles left to go, Kessler disappeared.
Through the last twisty bits of singletrack I kept seeing glimpses of Obregon over my shoulder and through the trees so I tried to keep the speed up as I knew he was close. I had to build any gap that I could before we left the singletrack as the last mile or so is completely flat and I knew Matt could use his gears there to quickly catch me and pull away. Luckily, as we hit the flats, I had about a 30 second gap, but I looked back and saw Matt charging HARD. My legs didn’t have much left, but luckily the finish chute saved me and I didn’t have to pedal anymore. Crossed the line in 2nd Place Pro, 30 seconds behind Kessler, and just 20 seconds ahead of Obregon. Paulson rounded out 4th Place and Claassen not far behind in 5th.
Fun race. Time to rest up a bit and go skiing.
Pro Podium. Kessler 1st. Me 2nd. (missing is Obregon in 3rd):