A little race report music for you:

I break bike stuff.  Lots of it.

When I walk into my local bike shop, rather than being greeted with a “Hi” like a normal person, it’s usually, “What did you do this time? ” followed by a moment of pin-drop silence in the mechanics back room as the numbers of component manufacturers warranty departments swirl above their heads. For example, I present to you Exhibits A, B, and C.  Three 3 XTR cranksets in 3 years.

Exhibit A (2010):

Exhibit B (2011):

Exhibit C (RIP March 9th, 2012…2 days before the 20th Annual Cool MTB Race):

It sucks.

Especially when stacked up along side, cracked frames, loosening suspension fork uppers, destroyed wheels (usually the rear) and headsets hanging on for dear life. The fact that I exploded yet another crankset (along with my beloved Rotor Q-Ring….new and improved! now with more ovalization!) just days before the 20th Annual Cool MTB Race (held in the town of Cool, CA) was ominous.  Mainly because the Cool race has never been Cool to me.  Rather than go on and on about why, and because pictures are worth 1000 words, I present you with Exhibit D.

Exhibit D (yes, this is me):

I’ve never felt compelled to ride through that bog again….

So despite all of this bad race history/juju for me at Cool, despite all this broken shit and the bad timing of it all, I had an inkling in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, for the first time ever, I could do well at Cool.  I’ve had some decent results in some early season training races, felt strong, and with a borrowed set of too short XT cranks (175’s whereas as my normal albeit broken ones were 180’s), I was ready to rock.  I was feeling pretty good and pretty confident.  That was until, I unloaded the car at the morning of the race and noticed the following, Exhibit E.

Exhibit E (a cracked carbon seat post…yep):

People say when that happens to carbon, especially in a seatpost, bad things can happen.  (BAH! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!??)  Let’s race.

The single speed race went like this:

About 40 of us one-speeders took the start line.  We mashed out and spun out and freaked out (Anthony Clark reference) into the first corner.  After the first straight I was around 5th, but quickly shot to the front on the first little uphill tick and led us for the first mile or two into the first downhill where I was overtaken by Chuck Ross with a guy I didn’t know in blue not far behind (let’s call him ‘Blue Guy’ from here on forward).

Here’s a sweet aerial view of the start waves:

On the lower section of the climb, Chuck jumps off and starts running.  I stay on the bike and pass him (take that!). But not long after that I’m forced to get off the bike as I get bogged down behind some geared Expert guys that we had caught on the climb and I’m off and running too (oh shit!).  And as I’m running/pushing/walking, I get passed by the Blue Guy on the Salsa that is staying on his bike and climbing this hill of suck like it ain’t no thang (uh-oh, this guy’s a force).  

We crest the first climb and it’s Blue Guy, then me, then Chuck.    At some point I pass Blue Guy and take the lead (KAPOW!).  Then at some point he passes me back (DAMMIT!).  Then Chuck passes us both and leads most of the first lap (SONOFA!).  And THEN at the last hill with the yellow house on top, I pass them both and take the lead after the first lap (YES!!!).

It quickly went downhill from here though…

Second and last lap, Me and Chuck seem to pull away from Blue Guy (WOOT!).  Then Chuck blazes by me on the downhill and opens up a significant gap on me (uh-oh).  We hit the hill of suck once more and I look up and see Chuck is up by about 10 seconds but he’s walking (yeesssss).  So I smack the power down and instead of gaining on him, I really don’t go anywhere and am forced off the bike once more (nooooo).  Turns out all the bike riding I’ve done this winter has done nothing for my walking ability, and I’m quickly caught, munched on, and spit out the back behind Blue Guy as he passes me spinning up the hill of suck and making it his bitch (i hate him…well, not really, but sorta do right then and there).  Then he does the same to Chuck and takes the lead as they both dissappear out of my view (will i ever see them again?).

I never see those two again.  The remainder of the race I’m in single speeder no man’s land.  Don’t quite have the power to catch back up, and hoping I have the power today to keep whoever is behind me, behind me.  And luckily, I was able to keep everyone else behind me, that is, until the last 2 feet of the race course when as I’m shouting out my number plate and about to raise my arms in 3rd place glory, I’m passed AT THE FREAKIN LINE  by another single speeder who I never even knew was there (COME ON!).  But luckily, this sneaky guy was in the younger SS age group, so it didn’t matter (that’s what I tell myself anyway so I can sleep at night) and I still ended up in 2nd Place for the old guy (36+) SS group (turns out eventual overall winner, Blue Guy, was in the younger group, while Chuck was in old guy class with me).

Exhibit F  (Old guy (36+ SS) podium.  Chuck Ross, then me, then my teammate, Joe McKeen):

So that went fine…and my borrowed cranks survived:

And a note about Blue Guy.  His name is James Harmon and he’s a really nice guy.  And he crushes it.  He was visiting our area from his hometown back east in Connecticut, realized there was a race going on, and came on out and destroyed it.  Keep an eye for him at SS Nationals this year, and perhaps some of the bigger 100 milers as well.  It was fun to race against you James, maybe see you later in the year.  Check this video, where CyclingDirt.com called him the Baddest Single Speeder In The Land, to learn more about him: http://www.cyclingdirt.org/coverage/247601-New-England-Regional-Cyclocross-Championships-2011/video/541563-James-Harmon-Baddest-Single-Speeder-In-The-Land-NERCC-Day-One

After the podium, I finished my beer, then changed, stuffed up my pack with rain gear, and rode back home to Folsom.  My seatpost is still cracked, but it’s cool.  I’ll take it into my bike shop and see what they say…..