Once nice thing about being an old Masters rider is that, at Canada Cups we race in the afternoon following the elite race. Which means I got to watch Neil, Anna and Trish. We're normally on the course at the same time so this is a treat. Neil managed an excellent 24th place while Trish motored through the field to finish 11th. Excellent work. The women's race was particularly interesting as the field was led by American superstar Mary Mcconeloug. She was really, really impressive and by the second lap was well into the men's elite field that had started a minute or two ahead of her. Wow.
At 2:30 Matt and I took the start line for the Master Expert race. He was very serious:
And so was I:
Five laps meant five times up the big climb... This made me a little hesitant at the start. I don't really consider extended steep climbs to be an area where I excel. Accordingly, I took the first climb (which began 10 seconds after the start line) cautiously assuming people in front of me would be exploding by the top. Then again, the field is usually pretty deep at Quebec Canada Cups so who knows... either way I rode it steady and found myself about 8th wheel by the top. Matt was charging hard up ahead and was out of site by the first trip down the descent. He's about the best descender I know so I figured he'd grab the lead there.
By the end of lap one I found myself in 5th position but the gaps were pretty big -- the slow motion death on the climb followed by the banzai singletrack made group riding/tactics pretty much nonexistent.
Then people began to come back to me as they paid the price for lap one. I picked up speed and found 3rd place by lap 3. On lap 4 Matt came back into sight and we joined on the descent. Any sort of team riding is rare in standard XC races but it is great to have someone to help set the pace and motivate you. I led us around for the final trip up the big climb and did my best to guide us down the descent without embarrassing myself in front of former DHer Matt. by the finish line we were both pretty spent but crossed more or less together and were thrilled to have claimed two podium spots. The winner was a couple of minutes ahead but our smart riding on the last two laps gave us 2nd and 3rd easily.
It was an excellent race on one heck of a race course. It was great to have such an evenly matched teammate not only for support but to battle with -- you better believe I sprinted him for 2nd!