Monday, September 3, 2012
NUE #11, The Shenandoah Mtn 100
But, with a fast field of singlespeed racers and a forecast of heavy rain coming from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, I knew winning the race was going to be difficult. To complicate the matter more, the NUE Championship Race, Fool's Gold, was scheduled six days after the SM100. NUE rules make the championship race more important than other series races because it is used as a tie-breaker to determine the overall series winner if points are tied between two or more riders. There was a chance Ron Harding and I could be racing the championship race for the series title if he could win Shenandoah.
With this in mind, I wondered a few days before the SM100 if I should even do the race, or if it would be better to rest up for the Fool's Gold race in case Ron did win Shenandoah. But, I've always done well at Shenandoah and thought if I could put a good race together, I might be able to lock-up the series title before the championship race. So, I decided to head down to Harrisonburg and give the SM100 a try even with the mess of weather in the forecast.
The race started fast and hard like it always does. By the top of the first long climb, Ron, Pat and I were able to get away from the other SS racers. We were definitely watching each other closely and marking the moves of each other. The lead in the SS race switched back and forth during this time and it was tough to tell which of us was riding stronger. But, about halfway up the long climb after checkpoint #2, I lost contact with Ron and Pat just as the rain really started to come down hard. This occurred at around mile forty, so I decided to stick to my pace because I knew there were many tough miles ahead.
At checkpoint #3, I learned that Pat and Ron had already gained four minutes on me with their fast riding. There were no other riders around me at this point, which forced me to ride a long paved road section all alone. Riding alone on a long stretch of flat road with an under-geared singlespeed is never much fun. It was torture for me to think about how much time I was losing to the guys ahead of me. It was during this time I knew my hope at catching the two in front of me would almost be impossible and that it would be difficult for me to recover from this hard effort before Fool's Gold if I didn't win the race, so I decided the best thing for me to do was to save my fight for another day.
As I finished riding to checkpoint four, I dwelt on the thought of quiting the race. It was kind of hard to convince myself it was the right thing to do. I hate quiting and after already not finishing the Mohican 100 earlier this year, the last thing I wanted to see was another DNF next to my name in the results. But, I finally convinced myself that I had more to lose from continuing to race than I did from not finishing. So, I rode to checkpoint four, 56 miles into the race, and got directions for the quickest ride from there back to the finishing area. As I did the 15 mile ride back to the campground on a combination of paved and gravel roads, the rain began coming down super hard again. It was at this point I knew my decision to quit was the best one and would give me the best chance for winning next weekend if it became necessary.
I must admit as bummed as I was about not finishing the race, it sure was nice to get back early to clean off all the mud from my bike and body. It was also cool to watch the fastest racers finish the race in person rather than reading about it a couple of days later somewhere. I could tell by the condition of the bikes finishing the race that the mud on the course had certainly got a lot worse from the additional afternoon rain. The most amazing thing to witness, as I watched the riders come into the finish, was to see Patrick Blair arrive as the first singlespeed rider. Not only was I happy for Pat, but his first place finish also gave me a lock on my fourth overall NUE Series SS title because his win knocked Ron out of contention for the series title.
Yeah, I'm happy to have secured my fourth NUE Series SS title, but I must admit it was not how I wanted it to happen. I would much rather have won the series by winning races than by having others lose. This was the toughest overall NUE Series win I've had out of all of them. Not only was the competition tougher than previous years, but I've had a host of issues to deal with this racing season that at times made my goal of winning the series seem impossible. But, through it all, I stayed positive and focused on my goal because I enjoy doing these challenging races.
If someone would have told me four years ago that I would be the NUE Series SS Champion for the next four years in a row, I would never have believed it and probably would have laughed at them. Now here I am thinking about taking a run a fifth straight championship. But, I know with guys like Patrick Blair, Ron Harding, A.J. Linnell and many other fast SS racers in the mix now that winning again will not be easy. But, is doing anything easy really any fun? Not for me...I'm looking forward to the challenge and excited about all the new and fast competition ahead in the 2013 NUE Series.
Happy Trails.... Gerry