Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Vermont 50 Race Report 2012
Not everyone does it every year, but it's the only race around that draws 800 people. That in and of itself would be enough. But it also draws a lot of fast folks too. Not the same ones every year mind you (but few races do). And the past winners include Jason Sager and Ted King - both of whom are pretty darn strong.
This year, like quite a few editions of the 50, was rainy. Which was fine with me. I figured my training had been a touch subpar, so anything that would make the race less of a pure wattage fueled slugfest would be to my advantage. Rain slows the racing down and favors sheer power, muscular endurance, and technical skill over top end speed. I was okay with that.
It almost didn't happen. Some last minute bike issues and general craziness meant that I almost didn't race. Thanks Aaron and Nina for making things happen for me. I didn't have everything squared away and dialed in until late afternoon on Saturday. Not ideal prep, but racing is waaay better than not racing. Every time.
Bike issues solved we headed down to our friends Ginger and Pete's house. They've made an annual tradition of graciously housing and feeding us the night before the 50. Plus they live about 10 minutes from the start, which is particularly handy when the riders meeting starts at 5:15 am. I couldn't ask for anything more.
So, after a lot of help from Friends, Family, and Sponsors, I lined up to start. At 6:00 am, in the dark. For whatever reason (mostly reducing the size of the starting packs in the dark I think), my wave started 5 minutes behind the first wave (which included eventual winner Ted King). I wasn't too worried about that at the start. I was way more focused on trying to have a good ride at a race where I've had quite a few bad ones.
Off we went, and it was, in a word, dark. Fortunately I was able to mooch a little bit off of other people's lights. In the end though, I think the dark worked a little bit to my advantage. There were a few dirt road descents early on, and no one else was stupid enough to bomb them full speed, so all of a sudden I had a gap.
On the first single track climb I still couldn't see a thing, but I rode by feel and worked my way through the slower Wave #1 starters, figuring the more people I could put between me and everyone else in my wave the better. The 50 doesn't have an open class, so you're really racing for age group wins. I started to think I could pull the old out of sight out of mind trick on the other guys, and sneak away.
It seemed to work. Or I was climbing well. Mostly the second part. When it comes right down to it, that's what it's about at big races. Descending on the duelie 29er was pretty rad too, it's just that most of the descents are so steep and fast that they're over to quickly to make much of an impact.
Sometime around Garvin Hill I started to think about the overall and working my way up through. That's when I caught up to my friend Phil, who'd just spent a week in Pisgah doing the stage race there. He's a fast guy, so I figured I must be on an okay day at that point. I climbed up through the mist, pulled back a few more guys, and headed back into the woods.
The rest of the days just seemed really solid. I rode all the climbs, even the ones that normally make me walk (yup, there are a couple of really steep ones at about mile 30 or so). Descending felt good, and the singletrack was super ridable and not too torn up yet. Having no idea where I was place wise, I just rode the best tempo I could and hoped for the best. At the very least I was creating a cushion for myself in case a broken chain or a flat.
I also lucked out and had someone from the first wave to ride with the last 10 miles, which is definitely a moral booster. We crossed more or less together (though I was 5 minutes up). Turns out it was a great day, 5th overall and the age group win. Pretty sweet to end the season on good form with a great race.