This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to another (newly-forming) mountain bike destination, get unexpected surprises (both good and bad), and again realize why mountain biking is such a wonderful thing! My travels would take me to Eagle, CO, a small town just west of Vail. Eagle is one of those towns that you pass by on I-70 and never stop at, and the locals are probably just fine with that. This is because they have built an amazing community of like-minded folks and a mountain biking diamond in the rough, away from the resort-town chaos of Vail.
The Firebird 40 race was slated for its inaugural presentation on Saturday, May 11. I wasn’t sure I would make it until sometime on Thursday, after dealing with an unknown sickness all week that had completely zapped my energy and kept me off the bike and any good training. By Thursday afternoon I thought I was feeling better, so decided to give it a go. Lucky for me, friends Jeff Kerkove and Karen Jarchow (both of whom may be bigger MTB-addicts than I) live in Eagle and were nice enough to let me hang at their place for a few days. Turns out I wasn’t the only one, as Jonathan Davis and Amanda Carey had the same idea, along with the Japanese Cricket, Yuki Ikeda. JK and KJ were not just welcoming; they were just as stoked as us to show us their amazing community and trails.
On Friday afternoon my attempted pre-ride of the course left something to be desired; not of the trails but of myself. My legs felt completely dead; no heart rate and no power. So it goes. Saturday morning was the Pro race with a ridiculously stacked field including Olympians and some of the country’s fastest racers. I had decided to forego the Pro race and race singlespeed as I have some big singlespeed races coming up. The Pro race was fun to watch with a ton of parody and mixing around of places as the race went on. It was also fun to cheer on Karen Jarchow as she came out on fire leading the first couple laps on home turf. My race wasn’t until 1:30, a really late start for me. During my warm-up it appeared things had changed overnight, as I was spinning my large gear with minimal effort and feeling really strong.
The race started with a neutral roll-out of about a mile until they unleashed us on a slight uphill road that leads to the first section of singletrack. I was feeling uber-strong this whole time and happy just to sit in about fourth wheel, behind three other singlespeeders, and barely push myself. As we came though the start/finish for the first time to start lap 1 I made a move around a couple guys and sat in behind the leader, Dax Massey. He was my main rival for the day, an extremely accomplished singlespeeder of national caliber. I was surprised as the first lap ensued that my effort to stay with him was only about 60%, and we were already gapping the rest of the field. I had decided that I would just ride his wheel for a lap or two at this easy pace, playing cat and mouse, and seeing if maybe he would push it at some point. Coming down a really fast section of single-track into a blind corner, Dax wiped out and allowed me to take the lead. I happily accepted. At this point I was still measuring my efforts, only pushing about 70-75%, and still putting a pretty good gap on the field. As I came through the start/finish after lap 1, Dax and the others weren’t even in sight. This is about the time that things got weird. A few minutes into lap 2 my legs started cramping. This was completely unexpected, especially since I was measuring my efforts so carefully. Lap 2 went by and I was still extending my lead, even with a hindered performance. The next couple laps were terrible and my pace was going way down, at the same time my cramps were getting worse and worse. We’re talking leg cramps of epic proportions; every muscle trying to seize all at the same time, feeling as though it is trying to rip itself from the ligaments, and pushing my power output to nothing. So it was not a huge surprise when I saw the yellow and black Honey Stinger kit catching up to me. There was nothing I could do at this point but try to hang on. About ¾ of the way through the last of 5 laps another singlespeeder and Eagle local Paul Gerbould passed me. I finished 3rd, a huge disappointment considering what I had in the bag. I was left completely confused as to why my legs cramped so bad, and what I could do in the future. One of the best things you can do is use bad racing experiences as learning opportunities, but in this case I had no explanation for what happened. The only thing I can figure is that I was working with a depleted immune system coming off of a sickness, and lack of training time on the bike. It was a disappointing performance, but all is not bad in the world when you can go back to friends who offer encouragement (thanks KJ, JK, Amanda, Yuki), drink a couple beers, and enjoy the festivities with an awesome community. Eagle is definitely a hidden treasure, and a place you should consider stopping at for some amazing riding. Firebird 40, see ya next year! Cheers.
|Eagle singletrack is rockin'!!|