Photo Cred

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lapping It Up

The Stats:

Aah, Lemans starts.  Such a wonderfully antiquated way to ruin the beginning of a perfectly good bike race.

The potty shot.  Good access from the start line!
Photo: Erica Linnell

We stood a mere 20 yards from our jumble of bikes at last Saturday's 12 Hours of Disco, almost able to feel the rubber in our palms as we listened to the countdown and yearned to just sit on our steeds and pedal out onto the course.

"5 minutes 'til the start.  We're going to be on-time!"

"1 minute."

"15 seconds."  BLAM!!!  Promptly after the announcer gave us the 15 second warning a barrage of shotgun blasts went off, and we all spent a brief moment wondering what happened to those 15 seconds and why we were just standing around and then we were off in a cloud of dust, arms and legs a-flying and pedals turning down the straightaway, around the flagging at the turnaround and back over the start/finish tabletop.

As seems to be the trend lately I got stuck mid-pack, trying to work my way forward while avoiding getting tossed off of my bike in the scrum.  I managed to make a few passes on wide stretches early in the course, and then settled in for the first lap.

One of the wonderful features of this course is its high-quality singletrack; it's fun and flowy, and there is very little double-track or dirt road riding--maybe 1/2-mile at the end of the lap .  The flip-side is that it can be challenging to pass, especially if there are more than one or two riders ahead.  So when I rolled up to the rear end of a string of 6 riders about a mile into lap 1, I just accepted that it would be a warm-up lap and adjusted my pace to match theirs.

It was actually pretty nice to spin around the course in the morning light, taking in the verdant greens of springtime and surrounded by the smells of dew-laden sage.  I also discovered that fighting my competitive urge and leaving 20' between me and the pack kept me from sucking their dust, and improved the view.

Once we hit the stretch of dirt road heading into the base area I was able to pass my Lap-1 compadres and crank it up a bit.  Erica fed me the info that I was 2 minutes back on the solo leader, so with a fresh water bottle in hand I put in a chase.

The Flynn brothers hand off the baton, with Tom and Ryon from the Pro Leisure team chomping at their heels.
Photo: Erica Linnell

One of the other interesting features of this course is the incredibly long views you get.  The singletrack winds through sage-covered hills with no tree cover--at times it's possible to see the course a mile away.  So when Ben Parsons came into sight midway through Lap 2 it took a remarkably long time to reel him in.  Great motivation, but sometimes it felt like I was just spinning in place.

After finally catching Ben and making the pass things got lonely out there.  With 12 hours of riding to do, there were times when I wouldn't see anybody for 20 minutes, and then catch a pack of a few riders, and then see nobody again.

"Thanks, team!"  How Erica manages to take photos while handing up a fresh bottle is a mystery.
Photo: Erica Linnell

Kris Quandt chose this event as his return to racing after a few years' hiatus.  That guy is nuts!
Photo: Erica Linnell

The laps rolled by, with Erica and Rue boosting me as I rode through the base area, handing up a fresh bottle and some info about how things stood in the competition.  For many laps Ben was consistently 8 minutes back, and then somewhere around Lap 12 the gap started to open up to something more comfortable.

Oof.  Still smiling, though.
This was my first race on the futuristic contraption Lauf fork, based on leaf-spring suspension.  ("Lauf" is Icelantic for leaf.)  They claim 60mm of travel, with some interesting engineering in the progressive suspension.  Though the Angry Singlespeeder was unimpressed with his test experience on one, I really like it.  It's sub-kilo weight is immediately noticeable, and it was remarkably effective at smoothing out the choppy stutter-bumps on this course's descents, even when they became massive potholes.  Good enough to carry me to the day's win!
Photo: Erica Linnell

Somewhere around Lap 12 was also when my body started feeling like I had been riding for a really long time.  Minor cramping, the urge to take a nap...  The post-hundred mile laps definitely felt hard.  

But I only had to look down for a dose of suck-it-up-Sally; usually that's precisely what I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and just keep turning the cranks.

The one-lap-to-go headshot with my eternally-stylish wife.  (Yes, I could have used the term "selfie" there, but I think I'd rather neuter myself with Erica's rusty garden trowel.)  Yes, that is dirt all over my lips.  Erica refused to kiss me.

And then I rode through basecamp at the end of Lap 16 and somebody said, "One lap to go," and I smiled.  Somehow I had gotten the idea that a final lap would count if it began before the 12-hour cut-off (one approach to time-based racing), which would have meant riding an 18th lap.  But when I learned that the final lap had to be completed before 7pm there were no delusions of disappointment.  Sure, I had paid to race my bike for 12 hours, but 11.5 hours would do.  I was damn tired.

So Ben and I headed out for the day's final lap together, which hurt just about as much as I thought it would, and then the 2014 12 Hours of Disco was over.

Photo: Erica Linnell

Photo: Erica Linnell

When I came to a stop and finally stepped off the bike and my body realized that the day was over I felt no qualms about embracing gravity in the dirt with Rue rather than continuing to remain upright.  And I was pleased that after 20 minutes or so of loafing around I actually felt human again--even had energy to be social.

The Flynns took second in the duo-team division.  I have no idea which one is Bart and which is George, but these dudes rip!  And they're fun to hang with--none of that fast-guy cyclist douche-baggery here.
Photo: Erica Linnell

The hay bales were a touch wobbly, but no injuries were sustained on the podium.
Photo: Erica Linnell

The awards ceremony was fun, if a bit chaotic--good to catch up with friends I hadn't seen since last summer and hear about everybody's plans for the summer racing season.

Kicking back in a camp chair with the sun setting across the valley, I thoroughly enjoyed a "gourmet" hot dog with shredded carrot and basil topping for dinner, and then it was time to pack up and head back to our world-class campground for a hard night's sleep.

Next up: a few weeks at home, and then I'm trying out a new race: the Bailey Hundo down in Colorado.

Have fun, go hard, then go harder.