Uncertain if I would make it to Wisp to take on the inaugural XC Challenge, I started my morning like any other Saturday....2 scrambled eggs and 4 Eggo's. YUMMY! I then get a call to go to the race. The weather looked promising in Fairmont, WV, upper 60's and sun. What the heck I'll throw the bike in the truck and make the trip to McHenry, MD.
As I drove to ASCI on top of Wisp, seeing several cars with race bikes on the roof, I was feeling ready to ride. Then, I opened my truck door to 50degrees and some serious wind. I should have figured...any race of JR's was going to start with less than ideal conditions. Oh well, at least I'm getting to ride some new trails.
Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling was obviously well represented with the familiar black and blue argyle team kits at the start of the 3 lap race. Once given the call, the experts were off on the prologue at a blistering pace. Now, I just had to get myself up to the start line otherwise I'll get stuck in the middle of the pack.
(I'll try to keep this race report short, but this race was too much fun to leave much out!)
Two minutes later, JR starts the 2-lappers. Andrew Brautigam launches from the start with a giant of a racer in second that I later heard someone refer to as Gwadzilla--appropriately named by the way. The prologue was fast and before I knew it we were flying down a pretty sketchy double track with multiple tight switchbacks. At this point I was probably 4 or 5 riders back. Andrew was quickly leaving my sight at the front of the group. Soon I would catch Gwadzilla's wheel on the downhill...until he fishtailed into a 160degree switchback sending me in to the course tape. Lost a couple of positions there.
Once we enter the true singletrack I quickly pass a rider and catch the big dude's wheel. In and out of some tight tree-lined turns, I call out a pass on his left. However, he wasn't ready for me to get around. I convince him that I'm no threat to the Clydesdale race, obviously lacking 35lbs, he then seemed to be willing to let me around. Now, this is not an easy racer to pass...he takes up alot of trail...and he just wouldn't slow down long enough. I try again to make a move until the trail begins to descend again. Gravity is not on my side as he pulls away putting some distance between us. The course opens into another section of double track and I finally make a left-sided pass.
Now I need to find Andrew, but he is nowhere in sight. After some seriously fun singletrack, a few thick mud holes, and a few water crossings (feet stayed dry and comfortable in the Swiftwick's), I see him up ahead of what appears to be the very bottom of the course and the bottom of a long steep climb. The course soon levels to a slightly less steep gradient of fire road. After some self-reminders to be patient and not blow up, I finally catch up to him and exchange a couple trail-side comments hoping he doesn't realize that I'm in the same class.
Too late, he latched onto my wheel. I would much rather be the chaser on a climb than being chased. At this point a little space between us may make me feel a little more comfortable. The trail up ahead hits a steeper grade. Once there, I glance back to see if he is still there. Yep, right on my wheel. However, I noticed his elbows locked straight and he's looking down. Now is my chance...a couple of clicks on the shifter and a standing mash of the pedals gives me a quick 20 yard lead.
The first lap flew by quickly. However, the second lap was more challenging. My arms were getting tired through the more technical sections as I bounced off of every obstacle. I began to think, maybe I got a lead because the others went out too hard from the start. Or, maybe I went out too hard from the start and will eventually lose my position. Maintaining as steady a pace as I could keep, I later crossed the line to here Gina call out my first place finish. Sweet!
Overall, the trail was mostly dry, considering the rainy weather last week, with a few technical sections, tight singletrack, double track, and several sharp switchbacks. The race venue was more than adequate with shower and locker room-equipped restrooms available for some post-ride de-mudding.
As a Dynamic Physical Therapy employee and a member of the cycling team, it was great to see the team so well represented on the podium at Wisp. Congrats go out to Gunnar and Betsy, Todd, Robbie, Chrissy, and Nicole for their success at this race.