David Stachon, Tall Tree's best percussionist, is on a mission to Crank...the Shield. Falling in September, CTS will be David's first mtb stage race, and he's getting pretty serious about preparing for it. Thus, rather than being happy with merely doing the OBC's Grand Prix in Saturday, David was keen to do the Substance Projects Marathon mtb race in Kingston on Sunday. I'd planned on doing the Grand Prix all along, but Rob Parniak convinced me to give the Marathon a try instead. When David suggested I just do both, I figured, hey, why not. I was curious to see how I'd feel on Sunday, and figured it'd be fun.
Fast forward to Thursday night. All is in order for the weekend when illness strikes. Some sort of dreaded stomach bug had me droopy and feverish in the evening, and cursing my luck. To bed early, I nevertheless awoke Friday feeling horrible, and decided I'd better stay home and rest. By Friday night I was feeling improved, but not great. I threw all my natural remedies down the hatch and got to bed early again.
Up early on Saturday I felt pretty human, but definitely not 100%. However, I knew I certainly was in better shape than last year, when I attempted the GP while on antibiotices for strep throat. That didn't work out at all. Riding up to the Park I figured I'd be ok, just not great.
Just in time for the start, all our Tall Tree riders were in the peloton ready to go in the Masters 30-39 race: Jamie, David, Jim and myself. This was Jim's first GP, and he was excited to see how it would go. It went well, as Jim managed to hang with the lead group until the third climb up Fortune, a bit longer than Jamie and David had in them. The pace was steady, and attacks never serious. It was clear that the Cyclery guys were sending riders off the front to try to wear down those foolish enough to chase and soften them up for their sprinters, James Brooks and Bill Hurley. At least, that's what I figured, as I had no clue what sort of form Hurley and Brooks were in at the moment. I reeled in one of the attacks myself at no expense of energy, using Blacks downhill to bridge. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I can't really explain the logic now.
Heading up Fortune the final time, the pack was down to about 35 riders and still riding pretty steady. The pace was hard up the false flat, the worst climb of the loop, for me, and a few more riders were shed. Crossing the road to the North loop, the final stretch, the tactics began. I was second wheel heading into the feed zone, way over on the right side. I didn't want to be there, so I got over to the middle. I quickly found myself boxed in with no room to move. Now I got anxious. I imagined trains streaming by on either side with no chance to react. Sure, I knew I didn't have any jump in me, but I still wanted to be able to react. I think watching the PROs all the time wasn't really helping. At about 600m to go (maybe more...), I had an opening and made a split second decision: GO! Surprise attack - 'cause it was stupid - I cut to the left with the throttle wide open, out of the saddle. Sat down and crossed to the other side. Then again. Still had a gap. Cutting for the fourth time it was over, I'd been reeled in. I grabbed a wheel, but I was done, so I did all I could to limp in, wasted. I hoped only 15 or so had come around, but in reality it was 27. 28th place. I felt stupid, but at the same time, I knew I'll only learn from mistakes. Sticking with the lead group wasn't hard, so I'll build on it next year. The sprint was far more open than I expected, so I think I'll manage ok next time. More riders were shed than I'd expected, so it wasn't a real field sprint.
Jim and Jamie rolled in after a bit, but David opted to pull out earlier on, perhaps to save a bit for Sunday. Jeff and Glenn fared pretty well in the novice race, riding in with the second group, as did Mike in the Masters 40 race. All in all, it was nice to find that our climbing form was pretty good; we all have lots of room to improve. Going in I wasn't too keen about the race, but now I'm quite looking forward to taking another crack next year.
Photos here and here