There are not many times that I ever crave rain before or during a race but Mansfield is one place that it's almost appreciated. After chilling as much as possible last night and then this morning attempting to stay in bed past sunrise I did my normal prerace routine. Spent a little bit of time stretching some slightly angry legs while watching the World Cup before topping up the travel mug and heading west. I was actually surprised when I step out of the house that I didn't start to shiver, after seeing weather predictions I'd packed so much cold weather gear along with a set of mud wheels I think I jinxed it.
Like any race I spent the first race getting caught up with old friends and meeting a few new ones that like to read the crap I write. I was aware already that it was going to be an interesting day as there seemed to be a slight haze in the air and it sure as hell wasn't volcanic ash. After doing all the mandatory sign up stuff I did my bottle prep work then headed out for my warm up. It didn't take long before I knew where my expectations of the day should be. A lot lower than were I should or could be. I wasn't expecting miracles having a just shy of 5 hour ride in the legs less than 24 hours earlier but as I continue to say, this is all for the great cause.
Rolled into the start coral and lined up at the back, I wasn't exactly concerned today on a good start. Chatted it up with Jeff, former MCC team mate before the roll up to the start. 15 seconds!!! The longest 15 seconds and we were off, it took all of about 20 seconds for the first pile up of the year. Let's just say that I got a really close up view of someone's 29's wheel as two guys went down in front of me. I managed to not barrel into them or get nailed from behind. Hmmm, not good. Clear trail it didn't take long for me to realize how long that start climb is, ok it's not bad I was just feeling it a little sooner than expected. Settled in the train somewhere in the middle of the group and hoped that was all the excitement I would see for the race, it wasn't.
First lap was pretty much clean, riding on the hardtail again had some good and some bad to it. I was loving it on the climbs but on those rhythm bumps I was missing my 4x4. Overall the hardtail was the bike of choice for today except for Devil's drop. The first lap I saw one rider in the bush and basically death gripped the bars and stayed off the brakes as much as I could. With no rain it was so soft that I could feel the bike drifting in directions I didn't want it to go. I got through clean.
Lap two was filled with exactly what I expected, my legs said, "were tired." Ok honestly they screamed at me and my mind had no choice but to listen. This was still training and I wanted to not blow up. I backed it down a little, to my favourite pace, 8 hour pace. It was good though, managed to pull a few riders in but of course had a few go the other way. As I made my way up the start climb for the 3rd time I actually thought "shit I'm going to go up this like 15 times in the very near future." Continued to push along and I actually felt not to bad, I hammered where I normally would, on the single track and backed off where I normally would, the climbs. This was when I got my second view of tire treads. On the decent heading into the second long single track climb I watched a guy endo, dismount, start running, and clear himself from the trail in what seemed like an eternity but was over only about 2 seconds. Of course I had riders behind me and I somehow again managed to brake, turn and not get smoked.
Coming into the last lap I was still in pretty good spirits, it's racing, it's fun, sorta. So lets just say that I was happy that the new drive train happen to have that triple on it. Of course my legs weren't to happy when I wasn't able to shift into it. This is where I liked being on the hardtail as I stood and it accelerated. A few more lefts and rights and I was heading into Devil's Drop for the last time. Again death grip of the bars trying not to smash into the back of the Quebec team rider who wouldn't let me past as we headed towards the top of the decent. As I came into the grass section I hit the lock out, shifted into the big ring and stood up. I swung wide with lots of speed and laid a little power on. The 3-4 riders ahead of me came into site very quickly as we went into the last couple 180 degree turns. The first one went smooth but coming into the 2nd I lost a little traction and was forced to down shift which sounded like someone through a wrench in the gears. I managed to get past 2 of that group before crossing the line.
Could I have continued for more laps, absolutely. Would I have wanted to, today, not really, another day, no questions asked. I finished back a lot farther than I would have liked to but this group is fast and today I was not. 23rd is not exactly where I would have liked to have been but I was more looking at times of others, lap times on myself and all other criterium. Should I see myself in the top ten in this group, I think so.
My temptation to go out for an easy spin is pretty much gone, I'm to busy right now coughing up dust. The nice pint of Guinness I just poured is looking a little more inviting right now. I'll probably have more miscellaneous stuff to talk about tomorrow.