Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Mohican 100 2014

Ultimately, the goal of almost every cyclist who races is to win, especially if the same event was won previously.  I must admit that after winning the Mohican 100 last year, I really wanted to win it again this year.  I knew it would not be an automatic win because nothing about winning a 100 mile race comes automatically or easily.  But, I did know certain steps could be taken that could be very helpful in giving me the best race possible.  One decision I made, for a little more advantage, was to do the race on a bike with multiple gears rather than on a singlespeed bike.

My decision to do the Mohican 100 on a geared bike was not an easy one.  Racing singlespeed bikes has been good to me and I do love the simplicity of a SS.  But, I've got to say the ride of my full-suspension Specialized Epic with the SRAM xx1 11 speed drivetrain is so incredible.  The Epic just makes riding a whole lot more comfortable and faster for me. Additionally, I found that riding my singlespeed was a lot more difficult after my rib injury occurred three weeks before the Mohican.  I found that sitting and spinning up a climb was a lot easier with my injury than standing up and pulling on the bars of my singlespeed to get up any sort of hill.  So, with all these issues at hand, the Epic was made my bike of choice over the SS.

My decision to use gears was solidified even more when four days before the race I started to suffer from symptoms of a respiratory infection.  First, I just had some sinus congestion and a runny nose, but the infection soon moved into my lungs and I was painfully coughing up mucus.  And, with my cracked rib still healing, it was like a painful punch in the chest every time I tried to expel some mucus from my lungs. On Friday morning, my conditions were so bad I started to wonder how I was even going to race the next day.  I did know that I was now even more happy about making the choice to use gears because I was going to need all the help necessary.

Amazingly, however, when I woke up on Saturday, my energy level didn't feel too bad.  I was still painfully coughing up yellow mucus chunks the size of small animals, but at least I wasn't feeling too drained.  I did my normal pre-race routine of drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bunch of French toast to fuel up for my long day of racing a head.  I arrived at the camp ground about an hour before the start, but somehow just barely managed to make it to the starting line before the crazy-fast start would roll down Main Street in Loudonville.

600+ riders rolling down Main Street.
The first few miles of the race were new this year because of some issues with riders poaching trails on private property apparently.  I liked the new start and thought it allowed the race to calm down a bit before entering the woods.  I guess there was an issue at the bridge crossing for some riders further back in the peleton, but it was not an issue at the front.  Luckily, I made it into the woods as one of the top ten riders and my plan was to just ride as smooth and consistently as I could to stay near the front of the race until the trails exited onto the roads leading to checkpoint two.

On the trail with Gordon in hot pursuit.
My plan seemed to be working and I actually moved up a few spots before hitting the road and by
checkpoint #2 was riding in the third place position overall with my singlespeeding friend Gordon Wadsworth riding along with me.  We pretty much rode everything in the first 50 miles together, which I thought was an impressive feat for Gordon since he was using a singlespeed.  After Gordon and I went into checkpoint three together, we somehow got separated when he started to follow the 100K instead of the 100 mile course markings.  Initially, I thought my direction of travel might be wrong, until I arrived at the turn for the long, hard and unforgettable grassy climb off Wally Road.

After being separated from Gordon, I rode by myself from checkpoint 3 until the finish.  During this time, my Rare Disease Teammate, Christian Tanguy and Tinker Juarez were leading the race.  I was getting times from the checkpoints saying the gap between us was about 10 minutes.  I figured it would be hard to make up that time by myself, but I continued chasing hard anyway.  During the second half of the race and my pursuit of the two in front of me, I definitely noticed how nice it was to be able to shift into a big gear on all the fast sections and also into an easier gear on all the steep climbs. There were so many times I questioned my sanity for ever attempting these sections on my singlespeed bike.

Well, the rest of my race was pretty uneventful.  Christian finished in first place, Tinker in second, and I came in third.  The first thing I noticed at the finish was how less taxed my body felt doing the race with a geared full-suspension bike over a rigid singlespeed bike.  I also noticed the next day my body felt like it was ready to go again instead of feeling pretty beat and tired.  I may not have gotten the win I wanted at the Mohican, but I had a blast doing the race and getting a chance to experience the course in a somewhat different way.  I've decided change is good and I'm excited about trying the other NUE courses on a bike with gears this year.

Happy Trails...  Gerry

Thanks to Butch Phillips for the photos above!

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