This last weekend was the 6th stop on the Pro XCT tour at Cascade Mountain in Portage Wisconsin. Cascade Mountain is actually in fact a ski resort, yes thats right a ski resort in Wisconsin. Usually ski resort style courses are a long (steep) climb up then a longish (steep) descent, but this course was one of the more “flowy” ones of the season and it had a couple significant climbs along with a lot of short ups and short downs.
Friday night the promotors put on the short rack race, and by friday night I mean 9 o’clock at night, like its dark outside I need to turn the headlights on in my car if I were to drive right now. After we got lined up for the start we were sitting there getting eaten alive my mosquitos, everyone was whining and we were even slapping each others backs trying to take the little guys out. The organizers were trying to light up a completely dark section of the course so they sent us on a little parade lap so we weren’t all welted up from the bugs.
They eventually got the section of the course lit up, with the headlights from two four wheelers, and we were off. Everyone was pretty antsy the first two laps and most of the group stayed together for some tight racing. I was pretty fast through some of the longer, fast turns on the grass, and moved up without exerting much energy as often as I could. Eventually some guys started getting popped off the group and you had to start working to stay with everyone. With people getting tired and starting to make more mistakes I eventually found myself off the main group dangling around, eventually Ryan Woodall from Pros Closet caught me and we ended up working together for a couple laps.
Right as we were about to make contact with the leaders again, which at this point was down to about 10 guys from the 30 or so field, someone put local Joe Maloney into the fence and caused us to hit our brakes on an uphill section. With only 3 laps to go it was gonna be darn near impossible to bridge back up. Joe, Ryan and I ended up riding in a group until the last lap when I got to the front on the last little climb, before a decent, and straightaway to the finish. At the time I wasn’t sure exactly how many guys were in the top group but thought I may have had a shot at a top 10 so I dug in and sprinted to stay in the lead of our group. The money goes to the top 10 and I ended up 11th. All good though as its more for fun anyway and the xc race was the main focus as always.
I was so jazzed up from racing at nine at night that I couldn’t for the life of me fall asleep friday night, and didn’t get to bed until around 2:30, which the night before a race is no bueno. I slept in and laid around as much as I could but had to check out of the hotel at 11, then went and tried to sleep in the car some before the start of the race at 4.
There were only about 50 riders at this event and I was stoked to have a top 20 call up, and was raring to go as I know I had a good shot at a top 15 (which is what UCI points and money go to). After swerving around the moto that stalled out at the start, which was supposed to lead us up the first climb, (which is pretty funny cause at the start I said what if this dude stalls out in front of us, and then he did) I found myself in a not horrible position! My legs were definitely a little dead and not feeling as stellar thanks to lack of good sleep, but I felt good enough to get through the race in a good position. After the first couple laps (out of 6) I had made a few more passes and was in a solid position for a top 15 and riding strong.
Then at the beginning of the third lap is started raining. At first the trails were holding it pretty well, then it started to get slick. I found this out the hard way at a fast left handed turn in the grass, right near the pits, where just as I was about to straighten out my tires lost traction. Being as fully committed to the turn as I was (I didn’t think it was gonna get slick yet) I hit the deck moving along pretty good. I just slid a little bit, still clipped in, and only lost a couple of spots. I made sure to let everyone around me know that the grass was, in fact, actually getting slippery and they should be careful 😉 Shortly after that about halfway through the lap I somehow managed to burp my front tire pretty good on a slippery little gulch. Still not sure how it happened as I took the same line every time I road the course and didn’t see any significant rocks. But it had lost a good bit of air and I had to ride super conservative on the descents as I felt it could roll at any moment.
Thanks to Enve’s awesome bead lock design my tire stayed on for the two or so miles to the pits where I managed to try to put some air in my tire. I had some Co2 stashed in a bag and the guy that was helping me in the pits had it ready for me. I was trying to twist the Co2 onto the adaptor and it wasn’t making the ‘cracking’ sound and definitely wasn’t working. Turned out this one was already used at one point, F#uck! I had another one and eventually got some air in there, then had to stop again 10 feet later cause I forgot to close the valve stem 😉 Ohh man was it one of those races the last three laps!
I lost a bunch of spots going slow and fiddling with the flat and the course at this point was oil slick. I did a full on 180 on one turn and started to ride halfway off the trail to find any bit of traction I could. If you didn’t have momentum going up short hills it was hard to get traction to even pedal up. Spots became barely rideable and a lot of guys started walking. It was just downright sloppy, but pretty awesome at the same time.
As bummed, angry, upset that I was knowing I wasn’t going to reach my goal of a top 15 I still had a lot of fun. I don’t really get to ride in the rain on trails, well ever really, so I tried to enjoy sliding around as much as I could and just learn as much as possible. I was the last guy to finish on the lead lap and ended up around 26th, but was truthfully just stoked to finish cause it was pretty brutal.
After that I washed my bike off as best I could, and luckily there was a break in the rain, and I packed my bike in the parking lot and drove to Milwaukee so I could fly out the next morning at 6am. On the way to the hotel I encountered the hardest downpour ever, it was so bad we were going 35mph on the highway cause you couldn’t see anything.
Im skipping Nationals in PA this weekend cause it really is pretty pointless without any points, although it would have been good experience. I’ll be at Vermont though the following weekend for the Catamont classic to finish out the tour. Its been fun so far!