Race #5 of the H2H Mountain Bike Race Series. The Bulldog Rump, Kittatinny Valley State Park venue for the New Jersey Mountain Bike State Championship!
Setup - 3 laps of 4.1 miles, mostly fast fireroad and singletrack with a few sections of wet technical sections (1 significant) and a 3 sisters climb each lap.
This race win was all about knowing the course and sticking to the plan. From the start I knew that the Bike Dr. rider who won the last two weeks would be out for blood. He's been looking to take the series and needed more points to take the win. Out of the first 4 races in the series I've raced 2, and took 2nd and 1st. So he needed more points to guarantee his lead.
The pace was fast from the start. As we hit the course I was in 4th wheel, just where I wanted to be. Bike Dr. was on the front and I could see that he could distance himself from us fast. I yelled up to the front to make sure that they knew we needed to close the gap and fast. Then a guy crashed right in front of me on some slippery rocks and I got into him fast. I was passed by 3 or 4 folks as I tried to get back on and now sat in 8th. Now I had a lot of work to do. I did it by cleaning some rougher sections, pushing the pace, and making some clean passes. I got back to where I needed to be and sat 3rd wheel for the remainder of the 1st lap and the beginning of the second lap. I was happy sitting in and just waiting for an opportunity (all in the plan). We were passed by a couple of the geared riders on the fire road section leading into the start of the second lap. As we hit the 2nd lap a guy in another class crashes right in front of the guy in 2nd and now I had my chance to pass. The guy that crashed himself into some rocks was yelling and swearing and really needed to get his rear tire out of my face instead of having a conniption on the trail while his bike blocked the other racers. He of course didn't let us by and eventually took 2nd in his class.
And once again Bike Dr. got a good jump on us while this was all going on. He seems to have a knack for getting through these crashes unscathed and taking advantage of them. I was now chasing him down in 2nd position. I caught him fairly quickly and rode his wheel for about 2 miles and then at mile 5 I noticed a few things:
1. He was slowing a bit on the hills and looked to be getting some recovery.
2. He was running a bigger gear than I was - this is important as I knew he could make up ground on the flats and on the fire roads but would probably have problems climbing the last steep section of the 3 sisters hill that was coming up.
3. I was able to reduce his lead easily on all the downhill sections - meaning he had a weakness.
I knew that the technical sections were coming up and a couple small hills so I went to make my move. I rode up next to him on the trail and he said "so its just the two of us"... and I just put the hammer down. He was not able to respond and I went off the front at mile 6.
I cleaned the technical sections and kept the pace up until I started my 3rd lap with what I thought was a healthy lead. I let off the gas for a bit as I got a few reports from passing riders that my lead was about 30 seconds. As I came into the home stretch and turned around I thought I saw a rider behind me on the fire road (where I knew he would be able to make up time). I asked a guy watching what number was behind me (so I could tell what class he was racing) and was told no one was there... and then I saw him about 20 seconds back. I rode a little harder as there was no way I was getting passed.
I crossed the line and took 1st place in the my class as well as taking the NJ Cat2 Singlespeed Championship!
Thank you to Joe Azze at Mountain Peak Fitness for laying out the perfect race plan and knowing that I could execute it.