Well, when I was on the line getting ready for the race start, I looked around at all the cyclocross bikes and a couple of the road bikes lining up with me and my Cannondale Flash. Hummmmm.... I thought, maybe I was at the wrong race?? Or maybe I missed the memo about the preferred gear for the day?? Huh?!
But, I was warned that this was half road and half mtb race and it would be a very fast off-road mtb venue. What I didn't know was that, literally, the locals picked cyclocross bikes because they knew that there was more paved road than offroad, and the offroad was almost like it was paved. In hindsight, it was the smoothest off-road trail I've ever ridden!
As I looked around, I didn't recognize very many of the guys lining up with me. The guys mostly had high end cyclocross bikes, and here I am ready to go, feeling less confident with each cross bike lining up with me, but I made the best of the day and had a blast on the fast fun course. It was also a very painful day.
I'm proud of myself for fininshing 9th overall and did the best I could to survive the event. It was at high altitude and I had my mtb gears set up with a 42, compared to the 50's on the cross bikes, and I also had knobby tires. I was spinning my a** off!!
When I was hurting the most was when the guys were catching up and passing me on the climbs. But I was able to make some time up on the descents, even though I'm fairly cautious on the descents, but my Flash was like a rocket down the hills and during that part, I had the better equipment. I knew it was the only way I had any chance to keep the loss as minimal as I could, so I did the best I could to gain a little just to loose it again when they caught me on the road. Unfortunately, there were not enough descents to hold them off very long and so I just kept saying to myself...'here they come again', and kept spinning as fast as I could. I think there were more climbs than descents.
Just wanted to say it was GREAT to be able to race with my teammate Tim Johnson, who also rides for Cannondle Factory Racing. I've known him for a long time but he's a cyclocross racer, and I had not previously raced him before. It was great to line up with him. He was looking strong and riding fast, but got a flat early in the race. It was a long while until he caught me, but when he did, he was strong as ever. It was an honor to ride with my teammate, and we finished together with him in 8th place.
So, did this prepare me for Leadville? Well, you won't see many or any cyclocross bikes at the Leadville 100, so it was a super different race. Like Leadville, the race was at 10,000+ ft, which reminded me that there is no way for me, who lives and trains at sea level, to show up a couple of days early and expect to do well. I have to make sure to either show up the day before the race or acclimate for at least 7 to 10 days before the race. The second or third day at altitude is always the worst for me, and it always gets me bad, so I know I will prepare by acclimating before Leadville. It also reminded me about the road team tactics used at both races, and how I'll have to work to make sure and take advantage of that. I also need to remember to eat and drink enough, because when I'm on my own like I was at the Crusher, I don't always fulfill the plans...but I'll have the Cannondale team support at Leadville, which is always a lifesaver. So the bottom line is, that any good quality, fast, hard race at altitude is excellent to help prepare for something like Leadville, so yes, I hope it helped.
I just want to thank Burke Swindlehardt, the promoter for having me there and for putting together a fantastic event on a fast course. It was fun and I learned a couple of new things! I better do my homework a lot more and read up on what the locals have to say about the race. I'm not much of a web lurker and I had no idea what to expect. It was a last minute decision to participate, and as far as I knew, it was a mtb race, so I brought my mountain bike! Ha! But this was a first time race, and I did not tap into the local knowlege as I should have. Thank you to all the excellent volunteers, race sponsors, and staff. It was a great race and I do hope you can do this again next year. I'd love to see what I can do on a cyclocross bike!