When I posted last week, I was laying in bed with my legs up on pillows. Trying to recover from the first three days of riding. Let me try to remember where I left off.
We got rain Tuesday night so we delayed our start on Wednesday. There were some tired legs in the bunch so this was designated as a recovery day. A 40-mile recovery day. Ouch! We did some pacelining over varied terrain early in the ride. Then we started taking pictures and chilling. Two guys continued on to extend their ride. The rest of us rode back at a crawl.
We found ourselves on some dirt roads on the way back.
Thursday, we were back in the hills. A little shorter ride as some guys were crying, "Mercy!". I may or may not have been one of them. This would be my last planned hard ride. We started from the house towards a big climb. One we had come down two days earlier. That preview didn't help much as we were now going in the other direction.
We rolled along the lower slopes of the first climb, trying to remember where it kicks up and really begins. Of course we found it and the games began. Throughout the week, we had gotten to know one another and some friendly competitiveness rose to the surface. Since we were all present on this day, the fireworks were lit up on that first climb. As my legs don't agree with prolonged stopping during rides, I often made a habit of turning around when I crested a climb. Once at my pace, then I'd go down to the slowest rider and chill with them at their pace. That is why you may notice a double peak in my graph data. No pictures from this ride. I did get some cool video though.
Friday would be my last day of riding in NC. The group was undecided about riding. Most of us went our separate ways although we had the same target in mind. The town of Highlands, NC sits atop a mountain range. Some rode form the house to get there. I decided to drive there and begin a ride from Highlands. The road I took snaked up through a gorge carved by a raging stream. Lots of exposure over the guardrails that lined the road. The uphill side of the road was often just a wall of rock. The road had been carved into the mountain. The stream had many rapids and waterfalls. I realized I had made a mistake. I should have ridden up this road.
I parked and did a small loop. Then returned to town to see many of my week-long companions resting at a grocery. They were preparing to ride back to the house and end another 80-mile day. I decided I would join them down that scenic road. Then climb back up to my car to finish the day.
Here is some video from just a portion of that 9 mile descent.
I enjoyed one last dinner and stayed up late in bed. I packed on Saturday morning and headed out. Next stop? Richmond, Virginia for Monster Cross. A client turned me on to this event last year. I decided to join him this time around. First race of the 2014 season. My new Cognition Canopy made its debut with the bike that inspired my logo color change.
50 miles of paved roads, dirt/gravel double-track throughout Pocahontas State Park. I raced in the 40+ Cyclocross division. There were divisions for those using MTBs as well. While the terrain was not very exciting, the speed was awesome. Mostly smooth surfaces with an occasional root, loose soil, and embedded rocks to keep you honest.
The Elite men and women went off first. After a small gap, 700 more people were started at once. Quickly funneling into a one lane road through picnic groves and parking areas. Wow, was I glad to find a spot near the front.
As soon as we hit the trails, I found myself in a group of about 20 riders. While we had no interest in making friends, we worked loosely together towards a common goal, Keep riding as fast as possible for as long as possible. I rode in someone's draft for nearly all of the first 30 miles. Occasionally, I'd be at the front. Much more often, I was tucked in behind someone that I was confident in. I say that because the speeds on this constantly changing surface made things questionable. Rocks, twigs, roots, mud and water all came up by surprise. Some high anxiety riding as your view was often obscured.
The group got smaller and smaller as the miles past. I rode mostly alone in the last ten miles. Occasionally passing riders who had overextended themselves early. Also many riders changing flat tires.
I managed to continue riding strong throughout the entire race. Pacing myself extremely well. With so many riders starting at once in many different race categories, I had no idea what place I was in. Someone I passed mentioned that I may be in 3rd or 4th place. That was a surprise and encouraged me to continue pushing the pace. With just a couple miles left, I was able to back off as I had not seen anyone ahead or behind me for some time. Whatever my position, it wasn't going to change.
Thanks for reading.