With the school year over and the loads of grading and writing behind us, J and I headed north to the Coloma/Lotus Valley for a few weeks to enjoy the river and mountains. Our first day here, though, I headed up to 6,000 feet to race the Sawtooth Challenge. I'd never ridden this course and was pleasantly surprised to see that the course would be laps on an 8 mile course composed of really windy and technical single track and very little climbing.
I did my best to get a warm-up in but I was admittedly feeling the elevation and so ended up instead with about a half hour spin before I hit the start line. Not great. And I could feel it when we took off and one woman went off the front and I sat fourth wheel gasping for air.
Eventually, though, my legs did wake up and as we worked our way through the course I started to get impatient with the pace. The woman sitting second was clearly struggling with the rocks, something I'm really comfortable with, so it felt like every time the rocks increased we slowed way down. So finally, at a bend, I passed the girl in front of me, and a short while later, pulled around second. Eventually, too, I caught the men ahead of us and could feel some fall in behind me. Much to my chagrin, when a man in front of me bungled a technical section, the man behind me picked up his bike and ran around me, which was frustrating since I wasn't the reason we were stopped. I rode his wheel until we hit the fire road we started on and then put my head down for the short bit of uphill, dropping that guy and making up some of the ground I had lost due to my poor start. For the next few laps I just kept pushing it, really hoping to reel in the woman who had gone off the front at the start of the race. Finally, with a lap and a half to go, I saw her red jersey through the trees. Sweet! But, just as I pulled up behind her, I could feel my rear rim hitting every rock I went over. I must have burped a tired. Argh! I had no choice but to stop and put air in so I did. By the time I was back on, first was gone. I took a deep breath, told myself I still had a lap to catch her and by the time I crossed the start line and headed off for my final lap, the announcer told me she was about a minute and a half ahead of me. I pushed through the final lap, and with about a quarter mile of singletrack to go, caught first again. She looked tired and I pulled right up behind her thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could get around her before the fire road finish. But the course was windy and tight and so I had to wait for the fire road. As it neared we both shifted down, and then we were on the fire road and up out of our saddles. I was right on her wheel going into the fire road, but only had about an 8th of a mile to get around her. Sadly, I couldn't pull it off. Ciest la vie.