This was my fourth single speed race and the first time I used a gear combination other than 42×18. I pitched in to set up the course on Friday and took a couple or three practice laps. It was pretty obvious the 42×20 I thought was going to be the bees knees would be too steep a gear. The second (non-consecutive) time up the big hill I was bogging down. That night I installed the 22t cog I hadn’t previously used and only bought because I thought I might do some light trail riding with my cross bike.
There was light rain overnight and some morning fog. The clouds burned off by noon and a light wind progressively dried the course from race to race. By my start time at 3pm, it was tacky wih only a few trouble spots. Once again employing my just in time warm up, I hit staging as the Bs were getting their call ups. I got about fifth or sixth call up in the single speeds and slotted in on the second row — I wasn’t planning on killing myself on the paved climb at the start. Official Terri Camp started the Bs and then two minutes later she started us.
Short flat section, little dip, then fairly long climb before we turned off the road. As soon as the road turned up, I started losing positions. By the time we turned off to head back down the swoopy turns, I was probably 18th, 19th wheel out of 25 guys. I held position down the turns and up and down through the “N” feature. Coming out of the top of the “N,” I started racing. I passed a couple guys on the long climb and was closing in on my friend Terry K at the top. I didn’t respect the wide, slightly downhill off camber sweeper enough and slid out. Raleigh Dave shot around me and I was up fast and back in the chase.
Coming up the long hill the second time, I settled in to a battle with Raleigh Dave, TK, and Scott Barker. TK was having a hard time of it because he was over geared. He managed to keep it going for three laps before his gear got the better of him. At various points in the course (usually the long climb), I’d pass Barker or Raleigh Dave, and then they would zoom by me somewhere else. Barker eventually fell off the pace — he might have had a mechanical since he took a bike change — and Raleigh Dave and I pulled in more SS riders.
Eventually, with three to go, I got a gap on Raleigh Dave and the couple of others that were trying to stay with us. I was railing the curves and riding the hills strong. I was surprised how strong I was on the hills since I’m a bit oversized and do not currently fancy myself a climber. It may have had more to do with gear selection than total fitness. I kept overtaking riders through laps 5 and 6 but was generally disappointed that they were B racers. Coming up the climb for the bell, I closed in on another SS racer and was about to go by him at the tree before the barriers when I rolled my rear tire.
Only a small section, perhaps five inches, came loose and I flipped it back on the rim. While I was remouting the tire, I considered my options; I could either quit since I didn’t have wheels or a bike in the pit (conveniently located only a few steps away), or continue with a compromised rear tire. With only one to go, I couldn’t quit. I ran through the barriers and took the bell. I babied all the corners and questioned the sanity of bombing the gravel road climb. On the paved climb, I passed the dude I was trying to get by when I rolled my tire. By the time I exited the “N,” Raleigh Dave and one of the hangers on were within a few seconds of me again.
I drilled it on the final climb since most of it didn’t require risky cornering. Coming around the blackberry bush near the end of the lap I looked back and my gap was back to a comfortable distance and I rolled it in for a solid eighth place finish.
The venue was great, the course was a lot of fun, the racing was challenging and the weather was beautiful. Perfect day of racing, I’d say.