I woke up before my alarm feeling rested and un-sore. Breakfast went down easy. We got kitted up seeing rain sprinkles outside and clouds over town. I threw on an undershirt, a rain jacket, and off we went to commute up to Fernie Alpine Resort.
Start was delayed like 20 minutes as a moose was on one of the trails we were scheduled to be on. They tried to scare it away (they=game warden) but we ended up re-routing. I started about 30 people back, which was fine given the long ski hill climb start, but for once looked up and thought those are the people I'm going to ride with "up there" and I'm back here. Oh well. Took me about 15-20 minutes of climb to get to the spot where I'd finish - 4 seconds behind Houston Peschl.
I entered Verboten off the ski hill track with Pat Doyle behind and egging me on, and Houston in front jammed up in a long line. This is part of my logic that for me, a hardtail is better. I need help climbing. I can descend a hard tail sufficiently well in a logjam of riders - but passing is often unavailable on tight trails. It's different where you're riding lots of horizontal single track.
After aid 1 we did a heinous climb on gravel utility access track is my guess that just kept going exponentially up in grade. Pat was behind egging me on, and Melanie McQuaid and Devin were in front. Pat was motivated for us to get into the trails ahead of Melanie, so I busted a gut to do so. I didn't catch Devin for probably half the descent as my brain was scrambled from the effort of climbing. We hung a left and went right back up the hill, doing the climb Shawn, Devin and I did as a warmup on Friday night. Devin and Pat took off, Melanie was behind me, and was pushing. She asked how far it was to the downhill... ie. should I pass your slow ass now, or is another downhill section going to save you. I couldn't remember if we went up or down when the trail exited onto a gravel road - we climbed a few meters, rode next to each other, shouted up to the trail marshall "does it go up or down". He said down, she said "go for it", and thus I did. Took about half the downhill to get some flow after really taxing myself on the way up. That was 3 climbs done - and the fourth was the monster.
I stopped for a half bottle fill, wish I didn't, but its like my safety blanket. That and starting back were the only issues today, so not much to complain about. We did the standard climb from the provincial park road up to Fernie, I knew it was long and increasing steepness. Melanie passed me half way up, and I struggled to keep her in sight for the rest. 25 minutes in, Trish was at the corner where you do an off camber right, hard to get traction as you just climb basically right up a run and need to really dig in. It flattens for a minute, turns, and I saved myself relative to the guys around me for the second part where it feels like it goes nearly vertical. We kept traversing skiers right, and went... right past that downhill I thought we were going to take. Hmm. Then kept going up - steeply. Got to some "stair" ups that were like 10m super steeps with flat spots I went as slow as possible on to get 5 seconds of rest. I kept Melanie in sight - she walked one and I was determined to stay on. Traversed more, then photographer standing at the top of another steep that many walked. I saved up some gas and rode that. He said "more up ahead". It was really getting laborious... until finally we turned down a lift access run "rumplestumpskin" in the rain. The wood features were slick, I think carnage would have ensued later in the group. I passed a couple people, came up behind Melanie again, and she said "are you the guy who rides this sketchy stuff". I said that'd probably be right. So off I went. Fun trails till the end, arms got really tired, then we got to 100m of gravel road descent. Houston came around me pedalling his big gear hard, going super fast on the sketchy gravel. I coasted behind not longing for the place that much. Into forest for a few last turns, then down the giant roll out ramp into the finish 4 seconds behind him.
Devin and Pat were about 3 minutes up which was awesome. I think Shawn was about 10 minutes up. We ditched out pretty fast to go get showered before our late check out expired.
I was 13th on the day and 15th overall according to zone4. Kate rode into third overall which I'm so happy for her for. Devin got his top 10, Pat and Tim are podiuming in their categories, and Bunnin did a 4th overall. It's funny - I did my usual thing of feeling like I accelerated. Under the assumption that the women's field would be a somewhat stable reference marker, I was behind all of them day one, middle of them day 2, and ahead day 3. Side note here on this: some cheering fan, whom I'm sure meant well to be out cheering in the woods, yelled at me "you're about to get chicked" as Melanie McQuaid was honing in on me on the last climb. I said "thanks for cheering, but that's really dumb - she's world class and it's awesome to ride around women like that". She probably thinks I'm an ass, but everyone needs to ride their own thing, and I've never been antagonistic with the ladies I end up riding near.
More importantly, with the race being relatively short, we had time each afternoon to eat, massage, sleep, cook, drink, kibbutz, laugh, talk about bikes, bike parts, bike racers, bike races, bike adventures and solve the world's problems.