Keystone Classic


Pro Women XC Podium - Rebecca, Sarah and Me

Another fun weekend of mountain bike racing is in the books. Nick and I headed up to Keystone for the MSC Keystone Classic last weekend. I raced both the XC on Saturday and the STXC on Sunday and had a really good time. For whatever reason, there weren't that many pro women toeing the line for either race. Rebeca G from Velo Bella took the win in the XC, with Sarah R of Yeti Beti in second and me rounding out the podium. For the STXC, Rebecca again claimed the win, with Sarah and I swapping spots. Nick also had a good weekend, taking 2nd in the XC and and 1st in the STXC. It was a great weekend with some fun trails, an awesome XC course and fun times all around.

Men's Single Speed XC podium - Mark, Nick and Doug
 
I was hoping to shake off some of the mental cobwebs from the Beaver Creek Xterra with Saturday's cross country race. My goal was to ride hard and still have fun on my bike. Nick and I eschewed a pre ride Friday in favor of watching the Tour and taking the very senic route to Keystone (Guanella and Loveland Passes). So all I knew when we started was that it was two 10 mile laps with plenty of climbing. We started with the pro men, ahead of all the Cat 1 Men. Rebecca and Sarah pulled away as the climb started and I settled in to a steady tempo and watched the Cat 1 Men pass me on the initial road climb. After about 10 minutes on the road, the course turned onto singletrack that switch backed through the trees and traversed the ski slopes. It was a fun, steady climb with smoothly bermed corners from the DH traffic and a few little technical sections in the pines. Nothing terrible, just a long sustained climb. I didn't push too hard because I didn't know where we were going to top out! Finally, we popped out of the woods for a last steep road climb before the start of the descent. I could still see Sarah, so I knew I wasn't riding too slowly.

Then time for the downhill. Again, because we hadn't pre ridden, I was being careful on the descent. I was seeing everything for the first time and didn't want to blow a corner or run into a tree. I started my personal dialog pretty early - "head up, weight back, relax arms, spot the trail, float and have fun!" And having fun I was, sweeping through the bermed corners, dodging rocks and roots, and flying along. I'll admit, I was having too much fun just riding my bike and focusing on a smooth descent to worry about time, position and the fact that I was really racing. A well timed dirt road climb broke up the fun, giving my hands and back a chance to recover from the long down hill. Sarah was a switchback ahead, but I wasn't worried at all. One of the Cat 1 women had already passed me, so I knew my time wasn't going to be stellar. But that wasn't the point of the day.

I was a little faster on my second lap - knowing how long the climb was and the descent helped with that. I pushed the pace a little more on the climb, and was comfortable enough with the descent to take a few more chances. Instead of slowly taking each jump and berm, I let the bike run to float down the trail. I even managed a few jumps on Logger's way. Not much air, but a little - and some were much neater then others! There were a few more of the Cat 1 women close by and another had passed me on the midway climb. But I was having way to much fun to worry about that. I wanted to take the lift up and ride it again, I was having so much fun! I finished with a huge grin. The point had been to refresh my skills and my enjoyment of racing, and to get some confidence after Beaver Creek. And while my time was pretty slow, it worked. Even last year, I would have had a lot more difficulty riding that course blind.

Nick just before the concrete curb
Sunday - time for the STXC, my "favorite" type of racing. This was a different course then most STXC courses, without a long climb to break up the field at all. There were a few tricky sections, with some fast gravel filled sweeping curves, two 90 degree black top corners, a long section of rocky double track that paralleled the creek and a high curb sandwiched between wooden barricades to bring the trail from dirt to blacktop. There were some good sections to pass, and some areas that I was pretty concerned about. After watching a few more of the races, I got even more concerned. There was some carnage for sure at the concrete curb, with all of the riders missing it at least once, and most missing it about half the time. It didn't help that tires were wet from crossing a small creek just before! I watched Nick's race - he was the only SS rider in the group, but did a great job holding his own against the 29 and under Cat 1 guys. Then time for a warm up and my own turn at 20 minutes of pain.



And they are off! Start of the Pro Women STXC

The three of us lined up with the pro men. I got the whole shot for the women with a good start and hard acceleration into the first gravel corner. Right away, I knew that corner would be hard as my rear tire slide a little. I held the lead for a few laps, then Sarah and Rebecca got around on the black top. I tucked in behind Sarah and took a lap to recover from the start. Then I started making up some time, finally re-passing her just after the concrete curb. Then I set my sights on Rebecca. I was bringing the gap down from 10s to about 5 seconds. My goal was to get on her wheel, tuck in and recover again, then try to make a move. Well, it might have worked, but I really screwed up the curb and somehow ended up in the bushes! Not sure how that happened. Got back on my bike pretty quickly, and hammered to get the gap back on Sarah. I knew catching first would be hard at this point, but wanted to make a go at it. I was slowly bringing her back, a few seconds every lap. Trying to coax as much speed from the course as I could, I got a little sloppy. Again, not sure how it happened, but on the sweeping left turn in the gravel just after the steep descent, I went down hard. Slide a few feet, managed not to hit my head on the ground - going down in a cloud of dust. Shaking it off, I checked my bike, then got on and kept riding. My whole left side was covered in dust and I could feel the gravel rash on my shoulder blade and back. My elbow and knee were already bleeding. There was about 5 minutes left in the race and I wasn't going to give up. I nearly got passed fiddling with my helmet, then pulled it together and started racing hard again. But with more focus on the trail and less on the other racers! Finally the bell lap and I was finished. The medic who'd been watching the race insisted that they clean me up there. And there was plenty to clean up! I also landed a lot harder then I thought. My neck was stiff for three days after the race. My mistake - focus on the trail and the course - not the other racers! 



My turn at the STXC - facing the curb

Going down in a cloud of dust!




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