First race of season.
It was a dark and stormy night, and then morning came and it was still dark with more rain on the way. The most people ever lined up for the start of Michaux Maximus’s Monster race. in the line up from IF was myself, Laurie Webber, Steve Schwartz. Buck was ill and played support. One big loop, 33 miles of wet rocks. Well maybe not all rocks, some gravel road and a couple 20min+ climbs. Michaux definitely lived up to its reputation as (in manys’ opinion) the most challenging course around. It’s the place where single speeders think about gears and fully ridged folk borrow suspension forks.
This year the race organizers, always the masochists, chose to make the monster loop the “money” race, which meant the competition was pulled from the expert race and placed neck to neck in the 3hr plus race of attrition. Trek Pros Chris Eatough and David Duval as well as local hotshot Brandon Dragulais showed looking for the green stuff.
Unlike the relatively casual atmosphere of previous Monster race starts this one went off at a high pace and felt more like a short XC race. My goal at the beginning of the race was to keep my bike together in one piece, because I have, as most people who have done a Michaux race or two, know the chances are good you’ll be walking out of the woods.
After about a quoter mile of gravel road to help sort out the field before the first section of trail. And then once in the trail its like a game of 52 card pick up. Bad line everywhere, I saw Duval go over his handlebars in front of me, people pass me then get passed 10 sec later. Everything gets reshuffled. Home field advantage comes in handy with all the false lines available and I still took some bad roundabout ways. I decided before the start to run some sections that I can normally ride, but under the stress of racing and with goons all around it can be better to run over the rocks. I came out of this section in about 4th place, but thought i was further back. The next 20 min of rocky off-camber ATV trail is a good time to set a tempo and I picked off two Getttysburg Riders, Jake Gettier, and Mike Kieffer, both longtime riding partners.
Once past them I resisted the urge to look back and just kept riding. It was going to be a long race and no need to worry about people yet. More trails, a new section was added, real tight and fun. When I came out to a water station I got cheered on and they seemed excited. I didn’t realize it but I was actually in second place about a minute behind Eatough. About 1.5hrs in we came to the big 20 min climb Dead Woman's Hollow. I could see Eatough ahead of me and I timed myself at a 1:20min behind. That was exciting since he’s a good marker, one of those people you just dream about hanging with. At the top it started raining and we proceeded down the backside of the mountain at 30+mph on gravel roads. The decent forebode another long climb back over what we just climbed but this time on single and dual track.
At the top I felt a fade and new that I needed to pace myself since I was two hours in and probably had about another 1.5hrs left.I stopped for the second time to put air in my rear tire which had a slow leak from the start.
For the sake of your time and mine; I’ll summarize the end. Super Technical stuff, then Super new Technical stuff, met up with the Sport riders, did final climb to the finish, came through the finish line and asked how much time Eatough had on me. Apparently None!! He made a wrong turn while putting his jacket on at the top of Dead Woman's Hollow. He assumed the course went the old way. Always keep your head up and never Assume. So I won my first MTB race of the season. A huge relief. It’s always nerve racking starting a new season, wondering if your training went well.