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This past weekend was host to the fifth and final race of the Southridge Winter Series. The weather however did not get the message that this was still the winter series. Temperatures were in the mid 80’s, a significant change from the previous races where layers to keep more were more typical. On the way to the course, I got a surprise phone call from fellow team racer Mark Tomas. He was able last minute to join in on the final race. Mark, who brought out his new SS, and I were in the same class with the SS’s being an open class. In our class we were joined by Bruce Dupriest with Incycle and Byant Mena with ODI. With all the registration paperwork completed, Mark and I headed out for a warm-up spin.
Normally the SS class is released for their start just after the expert class. There were a bigger group than normal of expert ladies, and somehow they missed their correct start with the group ahead of us. Donny called the SS’s up to the line and notices that there is still a group of ladies mingled in among the SSers. He tells them that they had missed their start. Some of them started to line up as if he’s going to give them a fresh “GO”. Donny tries to clarify by telling them, “No, go now!” This gets about half of them moving and the rest catch on after the first few take off.
Now the SSers actually get their start. I got the out in front off the start and through the first turn and into the flats. Mark caught me at the beginning of the single-track, and all of the SSers proceeded to loop through the single-track leading to the hike-a-bike. I have Mark about 20-30 yards ahead of me on the start of the hike with one other SSer between us. I pushed up the hill trying to close the gap between us. I wasn’t able to catch Mark, but I was able to catch and pass the other rider by the top of the climb. I reached the top and started the first descent. This is where I really notice that I was having trouble finding a rhythm. I was forcing myself through the turns not flowing through them. Through the next two climbs and down the back side of the hill, I continued to struggle to find my rhythm.
I finished up the downhill section and headed out to the flats. I cleaned the steep climb before the last bit of single-track leading to the end of the first lap. There was a change made to the final turn out of the chicane leading to the second lap, and evidently some of the riders didn’t catch the change and rode directly into the tape. Luckily, Mark & I pre-rode this section in our warm-up, so it wasn’t an issue for us. As I passed the finish line, I noted my time for the first lap. Not really a faster pace than the previous race, and I wouldn’t be setting any PR’s today. As I started the second lap, one of the other SS riders was creeping up behind me. I could not manage to maintain my lead heading to the HAB. I followed him up the HAB section. It was definitely quite warm and I was definitely feeling the heat. I noticed another rider using his water bottom to cool his head. Best idea ever! For some reason I had never thought to do this. I don’t normally drink much during the race, just a mouthful here or there to keep my mouth from getting to dry. It worked well to cool me off on the hike.
I knew I could gain ground on the downhill sections to help make up the gap. This time around however, I did have any issue finding a flow with the trail. I was able to pass him at the bottom of the descent as he had to reset a dropped chain. I pushed up the next climb to try and put some distance between us. As we approached the single track climb he was still about 30 yards behind me. I stood up and sprinted up the hill till my lungs were ready to burst. This lead to some rolling single-track and one last steep section that completes the majority of the climbing for the lap. By this point the other rider was out of sight and it was time to enjoy the long descent and put more ground between us. As I reached a short fire-road climb about halfway down, I came up on the rider I had already passed. He was gotten a flat and walked straight down the hill (I assume). I offered to stop and help him repair the flat as I had a tube, but he was not interested. I dropped down the rest of the hill, and toward the back flats. Up a steep short loose climb, and then I headed out to finish out the rest of the lap and on to the finish line.
I powered through to the finish line and placed in third for this race behind fellow team racer Mark who won the race. See his race report here. As this race completed the winter series, the series overalls results were available shortly after the race. Having had participated in all five races, I had accumulated enough points for a series win. The final results for the series had me in first place.