Written by Michael Green Thursday, 14 November 2019 00:00
My goal this fall was to gather more MTB racing experience in preparation for racing later in the season. One of the races that has grown considerably in Michigan over recent years is Peak to Peak in the “mountains” or northern Michigan. The Elite race was three, twelve mile laps with 850 feet of climbing on each lap. Not much in the big picture but with most of that accumulated on one climb, it takes its toll.
With a decent payout on the day, the attendance was high and everyone vying to earn back their registration fee. I lined up with the rest, corralled about half way deep and prepared for the early hammer fest into the singletrack.
It was fast. Lots of jockeying for position and wheels touching. I haven’t raced with many of the of these racers so I was a bit unsure who’s wheel I should follow, so I raced just within myself until the first climb.
With the first group containing Michigan’s best and ex-pro peloton members, the second group was good for me. At the singletrack I felt very comfortable with my new Schwalbe tire choice of Racing Ray up front and Thunder Burt out back mounted to my stiff Carver wheels. As a bigger guy the tight singletrack is my nemesis but today I was very confident in my group. Sitting on the back of the group I was feeling good. Until....
...until my rear derailleur picked up a stick meaning I had to stop in the middle of the woods, struggle to remove the stick from the back wheel/derailleur before it did some permanent damage, and watched the train roll by. I regrouped and realized I’d lost that train. I didn’t panic, I was bothered by it, but into plan B - there was no plan B!
I found a comfortable pace, picked off some of those who passed me on the trail and started the first lap climb. To my amazement, I was picking people off rapidly. Maybe this climbing thing isn’t so bad after all. The climb...that’s my plan B. So for lap 2 , I held a manageable pace sharing the pulls with a couple of others and dropped them, and others on the climb of lap 2.
On lap 3 I dug in, I have all to give. I could see others ahead and they were my “rabbits”, plus, there were some I recognized up ahead who were in my age group also. My first pass was on a short dirt road. Eight or so were in a paceline and had sat up a bit it appeared. On a corner as they all slowed, I swung wide maintaining speed and blew by them, another three ahead, I maintained that speed through some double track and I was having fun.
The final climb came with the finish down the ski hill a little. Again, I made great progress through the riders ahead by giving it all. I was cooked. Top 3rd overall in Pro/Elite wasn’t so bad, 3rd in the large 55+ group. I was ecstatic about the day. Not so much about the first lap mishap but more about the splits on the last two laps, how I rode the singletrack and how I climbed. Worth the four hour drive. And now four more home.
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