Things continued to go downhill (literally) after I got my ticket Friday which turned out to be 165 bucks! Well not everything; I did have some good moments.
The start was bad. I got to the start about 5 or 10 minutes early to discover everyone including sport and beginner were already lined up. I carried my bike over my head and tried to squeeze past the sport racers who were starting after me. I ran into Rachel Cieslewicz, who also races XTERRA, and squeezed in next to her. She told me they would start the pros and all-mountain first and then we would be able to move closer to the start line. We could not hear anything the announcer was saying and the race started, including ours. It was so congested we had to walk with our bikes for a couple of minutes before we could mount them on the uphill and start climbing. Rachel was moving pretty fast and passing people from the start so I stuck with her. We soon got fellow Truckee racer Amber Finch in the mix as we continued to pass people up the climb. This was my first Expert race and I imagined all of the guys would be in front of me from the start not the case. It's a long 4,500 foot climb on exposed fire road and breathing in smoke didn't help. There was also only one good line to take and if you tried to pass people you risked coming off your bike and having to wait for racers to pass to get back on. Amber was being really aggressive and passing people which motivated me to stick with her. It's easy to just get comfortable and stay behind riders on the climb.
I picked up my pace on the last part of the climb before the saddle and put about a gap between myself and the other girls. I was now riding with single speeder Erik Thunstrom and was in 7th place overall, I was happy with that. Erik was drafting off me on the flatter sections at the top because he couldn't shift into a bigger gear like I could. Was pretty disappointed to hear a teenage boy cheering say "show us your tits!" doesn't he know sexual harassment is SO 30 years ago?!
We soon got to packer saddle and onto the Sunrise trail, as singletrack section we did not ride last year. I was super nervous because had a pack of guys behind me but I was also catching people in front of me. Eric was also super nice and telling me I was riding well. Someone on the side of the trail said, "Want and energy drink and handed out a Bud" did not take it unfortunately :)
We got back on fire road and toward Baby Heads where Erik left me in his dust... did I mention he was also on a bike with NO suspension? ...Started to relax and just pretend I was on a ride. Amber passed me going through the creek and soon after that I went over a rock and heard a hissing sound from my back tire. No that's not a flat, no that's not a flat... OK that's a flat but maybe my Stan's will kick in and save me? NOPE. Soon I had no air in my back tire. I pulled over in a safeish spot and looked at my tire as the wheels in my head turned — this was the first time I have had a flat in a race. Maybe I can just put some more air in and be on my way.
That didn't work. It was leaking air from the rim and there was a little nick in the wheel so I prayed it wouldn't stop me from racing and I would have to walk 10-15 miles out. Another guy had flatted right after me and was fixing his 30 feet down the trail.
"How's it going down there?" I said jokingly.
I proceeded to take off my tire and struggled to get the valve out (I was running tubeless tires)
"Do you need help? he said.
"Actually yes," I replied and I ran down there with the tire.
He had just fixed his flat and started to help me, well, he actually fixed the flat for me which was extremely kind but also embarrassing at the same time. I was running back and forth from the spot where my dismantled bike lay. Racers were riding by us in handfuls, all that hard work on the climb gone.
We introduced ourselves, John Cordoba of Crank Brothers.
I got back on my bike and knew the race was over and I just needed to get to the bottom. I had no more tubes, so I feared I would get another flat and be stranded.
I was riding behind a challenged athlete who was biking with a prosthetic leg, pretty impressive and made put my mechanical difficulties in perspective.
Soon there was an uphill where I managed to get around some riders. I saw Amber walking her bike up the hill. I asked her if she was OK and I thought she said "I got a t-bone", but she was actually saying "...my tire won't hold air". She had flatted also and ended up walking about three miles until she got air to hold in her tire.
...Started to get back into it a little bit and ended up riding not too badly for the rest of the race. I crossed the finish line in 2:54 – guessing I lost 5 to 10 minutes with the flat — which meant I could have ended up about 4th overall!
But you never know.
I was pleased to be injury-free but disappointed as I felt this was my only race of the season to prove myself as a mountain biker. It feels like the Downieville crowd knows very little about the level of mountain biking ability in XTERRA.
Next year, next year.
Went and rode the XTERRA USA course Sunday with Rachel and Art which made me feel better.