WORS kicked off in fine form this weekend! The weather was perfect for riding hard, the course flowed well, and I somehow managed to hang with the competition.
I had never raced the Iola course, and wasn't able to preride due to work commitments here in Madison. Add to that the fact that I had not yet been on the mountain bike this year (and I am not a very experienced single-track rider!), and you might begin to catch a glimpse of my pre-race nerves. I found Chris Strout from the Pony Shop team and got a quick rundown of the course about 20 minutes before the start, nervously lined up and glanced around for the reassuring purple jerseys worn by teammates I didn't know, and tried to relax while chatting with another very nervous rider at the start line.
The course was fairly open for the first half, with all the major climbs inside the first 4k of the 10k loop. (my markers for judging distance are what I assume were the kilometer markers for the trail run. Any racers who feel like correcting my errors are quite welcome to do so!) Climbs were steep and often a little bit loose. Just enough so that I would lose traction if I stood up to climb. Not remembering how to climb those slopes, I spun out on one climb fairly early in the first lap and managed to step off right in front of an oncoming rider. Sorry!! A couple of the other climbs had roots across the course, and it took me a couple of laps to remember how to ride over those properly, too.
The second half of the lap was winding singletrack with short open sections fairly regularly spaced, so passing racers could get by relatively easily. A few unexpected sandy sections and some loose downhill switchbacks made the first lap a little more interesting than I would have liked, but somehow I cleared most of it having never seen it before.
Laps 2 and 3 were much smoother for me, as I settled into the rhythm of the course. My legs felt great on the climbs, other than those sections I mis-judged and grabbed the wrong gear for. I could make up places on most of the climbs, though riders caught back up to me in the singletrack. I played leap-frog with a few riders around me, and was glad to have the competition to motivate me to keep going hard. It always helps to have that little extra bit of motivation, and I managed to pull around a couple of women when one of them bobbled at about 3k to go, holding my advantage until the finish. I came in not too far behind two FORCs, Deb and Kerry, who stopped at the end of the finishing shoot to share some oranges and introductions. Great rides ladies! My apologies to Kathy, whose name I see in the Sport results, but whom I don't know if I talked to.
I ended up third (of three) finishers in my age category, so I even got a medal for my efforts!
Thanks so much to everyone who cheered me on. Thanks especially to those who recognized the purple jersey though not the face. I'm proud to be part of such a supportive and fantastic team.