With the end of the UTCX season in sight, and the weather taking a turn towards winter, the races are getting more interesting if less crowded. These are the races that separate the devotees from the mere enthusiasts.
Saturday’s race was at Fort Buenaventura in Ogden. I had only ever raced there once before and coincidentally it was another race in the cold and the snow. This time, the weather wasn’t quite as cold, but the previous weeks snow was still on the ground. Warmer temps made things slushy and eventually muddy. With the autumn leaves hiding beneath the snow, cornering was going to be the challenge of the day.
Fort Bueno is a flat course. With heaping helpings of grass, pavement, dirt and a nasty river bed that few are able to pedal through. For my tubby physique, the grass proves to be the toughest surface to keep pedaling on. It sucks the life out of you especially when 2-3″ of slushy snow sits on top of it. With no discernible hills you spend the entire race pinned.
As we lined up for the start I took an undeserved position towards the front of the pack. Slyfox Moonwillow was on hand and somebody made the mistake of letting him hold the microphone. Before it was over, he had picked Bob Walker for the holeshot in the 55+ race, and Jdub(me) to take the holeshot with the C’s. He then offered twenty bucks to anyone willing to ride across the frozen pond. Three things came of this. First Bob “Santa” Walker did get the holeshot and was off to a good start. Second, I felt compelled to at least try to pull ahead, and ended up in the #2 position heading into the woods. Thirdly, due to either some horrifically bad parenting, or a momentary lapse in supervision, a 6 year old boy on a mini bmx bike snagged the twenty dollar prize for riding across the frozen pond.
This was possibly the closest to the front I have ever been in a UTCX race. Due to rampant sandbagging, and my lack of actual racing prowess/fitness. There is that brief glimmering moment when I thought, “Maybe…”. But then, like the Simpson’s episode where Homer accidentally jumps Springfield Gorge on a skate board. While sailing through the air, his three hairs wagging in the wind he exclaims “I’m gonna make it!…I’m gonna make it!” Then falls just short and slams in the the canyon wall on the other side. Soon enough, my arch rival Alex Kim nearly sucked my doors off going by, and in short order one by one I dropped back in the standings. There were at least four people in front of me as we headed for the river bed. That was until whoever was in third place, leaned a little too much while crossing a leaf-covered concrete picnic pad and slammed to the ground skipping like a stone into the weeds. We headed down to the river and soon everybody was off their bike trying to make it to the pavement on the other side of the bridge first. I set my sights on the rear wheel of Church of The Big Ring rider Ian Dailey. Early in the season I watched him puke after a race in Draper, but he has been consistently improving and is now much faster than me. I think he swaps training tips with Tim Matthews while they are in the chairs at the local tattoo parlor.
Back and forth it went for four laps. With each lap, the tracks got deeper, and muddier. Soon my glasses were so speckled it was tough to make out the course. On the third lap, as I went through the barriers, when I remounted my bike I heard a disconcerting clunk. I kept riding, eventually glancing down and noticing my rear skewer lever was dangling limply and my rear wheel was bouncing around in the dropouts. With at least three guys within spitting distance of me,and delusions of a top-ten finish, I decided against stopping and just hoped for the best. On the last pass through the barrier section, I jumped off, and picked my bike up by the handlebars, and the rear wheel so it wouldn’t drop out. This awkward carry opened the door for at least one guy to get past me in the barriers. I remounted and tried to catch him in the last half mile or so before the finish. It didn’t happen. Rolling across the line, on the brink of a stomach purge I realized that I was once again, mid pack. It sounds better to say I was thirteenth. Until you check the results and see that there were only 27 finishers. Thirteenth out of fifty or even sixty riders would be awesome for me, but thirteenth out of twenty seven? That’s perfectly mid-pack.
Slightly disappointed, but grinning wildly from one of the funnest races this year, I quickly got out of a truly Clammy Chamois.