Written by Warren Gerow Wednesday, 09 May 2018 00:00
I had never raced at The 'Game' before, and had a whole bag full of excuses not to do it in the days leading up to it. A 3 hour road ride the Saturday prior on very familiar terrain was really painful. How was I going to ride 5 plus hours? A few days out I registered and figured I would dance with whatever I brought that day.
Luckily I was able to ride the first few miles of the course the day before, which proved to be the rockiest and wettest portion of the course. It was obvious there were a few rocky step ups that I would not be able to ride, or at least shouldn't try and ride.
Like any endurance race, the big question at the start would be "how ridiculously fast are riders going to go in the beginning?" As it turns out, for some reason, it wasn't insane. It was almost sensible; however, there was no point being on the pointy end as it was going to be a long day.
I rode the first lap and most of the second lap with my buddy Brian, somewhere near the back of the top ten. Near the end of the second lap he surged away from another guy we were riding with, and I was able to go with him. I didn't have a plan for going this hard for long, but surprising to both of us we quickly came upon the leaders. The pace of the lead group was steady but not too painful.
Each lap started with a mile plus of road. Pretty early on this road section, on the third lap, Brian again picked up the pace, putting many in the lead group in trouble, knocking the lead group down to four of us entering the woods. Roll forward to the first techy section, Andy Scott on the front unfortunately suffered a broken seat post. After the commotion of that subsided, two riders got off the front. Brian and I would ride the remainder of third lap and all of the fourth lap without really knowing how far up they were. We had received time checks of between 10 seconds and 7 minutes. I wasn't putting too much stock in any of the checks, but I really had no idea how far out they were. We were riding good, and I just kept telling myself the guys out front had to get tired eventually. Brian decided four laps was enough mud and pounding for him. I wanted to give a fifth lap a go to see what happened, it's a race after all and anything can happen.
I did not have the legs to chase, but I had been riding very steady for all four laps thus far. Near the end of the road section at the start of lap 5 I saw the number 2 guy. I slowly rode up to him and we swapped positions back and forth through the first techy miles; he was a phenomenal technical rider. Despite being on the ropes he was still nailing the techy terrain. Eventually I caught up to the leader, Matt Green of Bicycle Express. Major kudos to him as he'd been racing the Open Category on a single speed. We rode for a bit and chatted, he didn't seem in too much trouble but I figured he had to be getting tired without gears. A little over halfway through the lap I made a little move and it stuck. I just had to be smart and keep it steady to the end and the win would be mine, which was completely unanticipated.
It was a strange day with guys getting knocked out, 3 plus hours of rain and lots of mud. With smart riding, steady pacing and good fortune sent my way, I was able to hang on for the win. The Kona Hei Hei was performing excellent through the techy rock sections. Big thanks to Zach at Bikeman for going through the rear shock and lock-out the day before as it was malfunctioning. It would have been a long day with a shock handicap.