Wake up. Coffee, eggs, bacon, headache, grab as much clothing as I think I can get away with without having to wear a pack to carry it later, freeze our asses off riding over to Loose Nuts Cycles. Register, more coffee, highly anticipated bathroom moments, go to my bike minutes before roll-out, find the front tire almost flat...
Why did I break the bead to mount those new valve stems, find it going flat the next day, just add sealant and hope for the best instead of being more thorough about finding the problem and fixing it?
Run around, find a floor pump, jack the pressure through the roof, get back to ready position for roll out, share my frantic story, Nick Dip 'n Spray Barlow admits to letting the air out of my tire, release some of the air I just added, but without a gauge, I can only get somewhere north of my favorite 17PSI without going too low. My funny friends.
Out from the shop, through a park, across an easement, into some woods to some scabby patch of land behind an old prison.
photo cred: Ed FrayerFive laps around this torn-up, rutted four wheeler track after a prologue lap around a stake and a tall guy. Not wanting to get caught up in the argy-bargy, I line up towards to front of our 70+ rider group to make a safe separation from the largest part of the field . Into the main loop, I'm sitting around fifth place, watching Zac at the head of the race duking it out with some Atlanta folk. On the third lap, I hit the final climb to see if I could close down the gap.
photo cred: Chris KellyI do, but my lower back said that doing so was no bueno. I back off and watch the leaders ride away. One of the front guys gets taken out by a lapped rider, and I settle in for what would end up being fourth place.
I stand around for awhile stretching my back, eventually give up, and lie down in some tall grass to sulk. We finally get rolling to the next stage and stop underneath a giant train trestle.
photo cred: Aaron ChamberlainAfter a regroup, we line up way-wide and looking up a hill. Wanting to stay away from any chaos that I haven't created myself, I take off and crest the hill ahead of everyone. Coast down the backside, see the giant rock formation that we need to ride over at the bottom, realize that I have no idea if it has a backside, cyclocross over it, hear Zac yelling at me that he's coming (Zac does not need a backside), get out of his way and let him through.
And on that lap, what felt like a lot of riders come by me. Huge mud pits, boggy climbs, and only one gnarly burger descent. My back getting angry at me when I try to plow through the mud and no time to recover on the rally back down to the start/finish.
photo cred: ToddAs I come through on my first lap, they yell for me to call out my number. I reply "85!'... which is my number from last week's race at Santos. They give me a stupefied look that tells me I'm crazy, I think for two seconds, and then yell "10!"
Two more painful laps to go.
Come across the line in fifth place. Things are looking like I might have a decent finish, no podium, but whatev.
Stand around, get beer, get burrito, Ask about the big 25% hill climb prime coming up. Is it a stage? Are they scoring it? One person who's in charge'ish says "yes." I go with that. Then get caught up in a conversation with Zac, see everyone lining up for the hill climb, panic, he says it's not scored, I say it is, I run all the way to the start, get there right before"go," and drill it to finish way back...
photo cred: Yoni Pollakto discover it wasn't scored. Dip 'n Spray wins the $100 and Zac wisely takes his sweet time getting to the top.
The next live stage is back down the same hill we just climbed, alongside the road, sorta slaloming down rather vaguely towards some taped-off corners... mass start. It sounds like death. At the get-go, I sort myself towards the front. Zac takes the lead. Passes rarely happen. I stay up towards the front... mebbe 5th place. Insane.
Regroup at the bottom, one more slog over to the final stage. We get there, sort ourselves out, long run-out on a paved greenway before going into the woods. Gonna be hard to stay out front of the geared riders. Go, I do what I can, entering the trail around fifth or sixth place.
Make a move. Make another. Dunno how many, but I'm catching the leading pair of Zac and Chris...
and then I loose my shit in some mud, hit a tree, get back on, find that my bars are twisted when I awkwardly try to get over a log pile, stop, twist them back, get back on, see that I went too far the other way, almost die trying to get over another log pile, stop, twist them back to normal... look ahead at all the riders who are getting away from me... no more Zac and Chris in sight.
Fueled by some frustration, I fight my way back through the field. Without any super deep mud and only one punchy climb, my back says "go ahead and do whatever."
By the last lap, I've got Zac, Chris and Kevin in my sights. I get into last wheel position and start yelling ahead. Not "get outta the way," just "let's get moving.!" I don't want to mess up anyone's points, but I also don't want to be caught by anyone I just spent the last lap and a half putting behind me. No good. Thick Leg Monster is coming up on my ass. I yell up to the front that he's coming... fast.
Chris pops off, but it's too late. Thick Leg Monster comes around hard on the three of us that are left at the front. Kevin tries to grab his wheel. Zac is blown. I let him know that I won't pass him and take his points, but if someone comes up on us, I'm leaving. He puts in his full effort, grunting and arrrggging his way to the finish. Nobody catches us. I get another fourth place.
photo cred: Wayne WhitesidesWe roll back as a group to The Trailer Park (an incredible bunch of jumps, stunts, berms and mayhem in someone's backyard) and start drinking immediately.
photo cred: Chris KellyBefore the train goes entirely off the tracks, they get to awarding the podiums. First, the top three in each stage. I never did better than fourth place. Nothing for me.
Then the top three overall. First name they call? Me.
Generous prizes. More beer. Fire.
photo cred: Aaron ChamberlainI've always wanted to do a race like our Tour duh Charlotte. It always looked like so much fun from the outside. I can now confirm that it totally is. Faster Mustache: ATL really pulled it off. Fucking sweet.
More tomorrow... mebbe.