Fall Classic Cross Country

The Cross Country race on Sunday was almost 30 miles, promising to be a long day in the saddle. It had spent most of the night raining and thundering, and when we woke up, there was snow on the mountains. It was really pretty, but we would be riding just a few hundred feet below the snow. Mud seemed to be the word of the day as we rode through puddles on the way to the start. It would be a gorgeous day, despite the mud. Nick raced the Fall Classic last year and warned me that it wasn’t easy. There was a lot of climbing and it wasn’t easy climbing either.

The fields were larger then at the Circuit Race and the Hill Climb, but only racers who finished all three would be eligible for awards at the end of the day. Before each class started, the announcer went through the GC, with the leader’s time and the time back for the top three. I was over five minutes back on first in the age group, and only had two minutes to third. My plan was to take the start easy, then see how I felt on the first climb. Too bad no one else was reading from my personal race manual! The field started fast, very fast. Faster then I wanted to go that early in a race. I was second to last entering the single track and just rode tempo up the first hill. There was plenty of room to pass and I gradually worked my way through the field. At the top of the hill, I was comfortable in fifth.

That first descent was fun. It was the most fun I would have all day. The trail was smooth from the rain and the men’s cat 1 racing in front of us. The course was well marked, except for one corner. It was a sharp left, off a wide jeep road onto single track. There were eight arrows right at the corner, but none warning of the upcoming turn. Sarah made the corner without any issues, but the woman right behind her nearly blew through. She had to stop and turn around to get back on the trail. (Nick said that he’d blown the corner too, as had a lot of men in his class. They were not looking where they were going, but at the wheels in front of them.)

As promised, there was plenty of mud and puddles. I tried to avoid most of the puddles, but ended up riding through a few. While riding through one, I heard a loud clang – thump. Not sure what it was, but I still had air in both tires so I kept going. I was in third at that point, holding the wheel of second. If nothing was wrong, I wasn’t going to stop and lose time. Up Heinous Hill and I could see the blue and gold kit of the women in first. She wasn’t gaining any ground on the steeper sections, and there were plenty more hills to come. I was still riding pretty comfortably in third, looking to make a move after the top.

Then coming down the single track descent, I wiped out. There was nothing in the trail and it wasn’t even a technical descent. I just found myself colliding with the ground with my hip and elbow – hard. Picked my self up, got my bike out of the way so Sarah and the woman behind her could pass and checked out the bike. My handlebars were all twisted around and I thought that was the worst of it. Nick has always told me to make sure that you have brakes and shifting before you get back on, especially when the bars are twisted. That’s when I noticed that the rear wheel was no longer in the dropouts. Odd – but I didn’t want to waste time wondering about it. I got everything repositioned and hoped back on the bike.

Right away, I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t shifting smoothly and the rear brakes were rubbing something fierce. I couldn’t use the largest two cogs in the rear and the chain was jumping a little in the smallest two. I didn’t stop to look the derailleur, just decided not to use the messed up gears. Another bad choice.

Of course, I forgot about that on the next big hill and shifted into the largest cog. There was an awful racket and the chain jumped right off the cog into the spokes. I was no longer making forward progress. I couldn’t even get the chain un-wedged!! My race was over at that point, unless I planned on walking the rest of the way to the finish.

Then Sarka stopped. I told her that the chain was wedged and that she didn’t need to stop to help. But she climbed off her bike anyway and proceeded to help me. Another racer, Erik L from Colorado Springs, saw us working on the chain and also stopped to help. It took me and Sarka holding onto the wheel and Erik yanking on the chain to get it free. But we did. Without their help, I would not have finished the race.

After that, my spunk was gone. I just wanted to get to the finish line in one piece. I could tell that the rear brake was rubbing really badly, but the wheel was in place and I didn’t want to risk having it come loose again. The shifting was still all out of whack, but I was able to use most of the gears.

It took me until the last long climb to catch back up with Sarka. After all that work and her help, I didn’t have the desire to try to gain any time back. I was happy to just have made up the time I’d lost. We rode the last down hill together, through the “stream” crossing (it was more like a river) and down to the finish at the Ice Arena.

Despite the drama, the cross country was a beautiful, challenging course. There are so many fun trails in the Breck area that only the locals know about. (and they don’t always want to share.) I would love to spend more time up there, riding and exploring.

As for the MSC series, Feedback Sports had a really good season. Greg got second in the Men’s 40-49 Cat 1, Nick took third in the Men’s 30-39 Cat 1 and I was second in the Women’s 30-39 Cat 1. As a team, Feedback Sports took second behind Yeti-Comotion. It wasn’t as close as last year, but we were only riding with the minimum five at most races and only four riders at a few races.

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