April 11, 2006 – Well I took a year off from this race, but showed up for my second time in 2006. It was a great day for the race and the temperature was ideal in that it was cool but with not much wind. There were about 250 participants or more in the first wave start and a total of 1,500 or so for the 30 and 60K races.
With that many racers in the first wave, everybody and their dog wanted to be up front and there was a very diligent man at the start who was ensuring no last minute rollers to the line snuck into the front. Well that plan was a wash as about10 guys overwhelmed the start dude and he just kind of gave up. It was rather amusing to watch 10 guys whine and complain about why they should be at the front.
The race start was rather relaxed and it was no problem to get to the front. The main problem was the volunteers cheering your efforts instead or pointing you in the proper direction as I took a flyer off the front and made a wrong turn two minutes into the race. A wrong turn with nobody watching is not too bad, but with the whole pack viewing the result well let’s just say I was rather gun shy for the rest of the race. After the detour I weaved my way from the back to the front again to get ready for the first selection area off the race. This is a sharp right turn onto a loose gravel climb that turns to a dirt road climb. I hit the section in second behind Michael Simonson. At the midway point of this section four of us had a good gap on the field. The group was me, Michael Simonson, Tristan Galbraith and Peter Morse. We all saw that we had a good gap and worked well together. However after some sections dirt and trail Andrew Watson and Michael Garrigan had bridged up. The group was now six, but the cooperation was good. After 20 minutes this group was established with the chasers somewhat visible. Of the six, four of us had cross bikes and the two Mikes had MTB’s .
The dynamic of the group was good and there were no attacks except for the odd hard effort to get to a technical section first. I was handling my bike with the grace of a three-toed sloth and after my earlier detour I was very hesitant to take off on my own. After the first hour small gaps were forming – especially after some of the harder, muddy and technical sections. But no one really wanted to drive it hard to leave any of the stragglers behind and they would eventually rejoin. I knew the race would come down to the two technical muddy and rocky descents. My only problem was I had no idea when they were coming. Well they did come, but luckily Garrigan got into the first one and had to get off his MTB. I was third in line had decided early to run it and actually made good time. At the end of this section Garrigan and myself had a small gap with Simonson close behind. The other portions of the group again were also fairly close.
Before the next big downhill the group reformed with Garrigan again leading into it. I was second wheel and proceeded to endo nicely over a fallen Garrigan. This error allowed Simonson to get a good gap. I got up quick and ran again keeping the damage to 10 seconds. Garrigan and I, again, were together with only some downhill and flat sections left before the last big climb to the finish. The others in the group were now gapped. With about 1.5K to go I attacked on a corner and got a small gap on Garrigan and around 5 seconds of the leader Simonson, however things took a turn for the worse at his time. I took my eyes off my line and hit a rock or root or something and proceeded to drift to the left. The only problem was that to the left was a three foot deep mud hole which I face planted into. See attached photos.
Garrigan had an awesome view of the incident and the three others in the group also had a nice view of me trying to get the mud out of my eyes as they rolled past me. Well after a minute or so I got rolling with an extra 10 pounds on board and barely caught Peter and Andrew to roll in for 4th. Simonson held on for first and he was easily the most consistent in the group, made the least mistakes and took a well deserved win. Garrigan made a strong effort but had to settle for 2nd and Galbraith took a hard earned 3rd, with Peter and Andrew rolling for 5th and 6th.
This race is probably the closest thing to a real classic that you will find in this region as there are 10 or so places where you need to be close to the front or you risk losing contact with the race leaders. You need a good mix of power, technical skill and luck to win as flatting is a big concern. In the end it was a great race and I think the racers had a lot of fun. All the racers who lined up and attempted it deserve recognition as it is a tough haul no matter what place you are going for.
See the 1,500 or so of you out there next year.