This makes year four in a row for me racing the Pinnacle. It’s what I would consider a “classic” mountain bike race. That is, all aspects of rider ability is tested. Endurance, climbing, and downhill bike handling skills. The loop is approximately 6 miles and consists of 3 large climbs, followed by a brief downhill followed by a small uphill traverse before a longer more sustained downhill section. Large berms await you followed by the Pinnacle Plunge which takes you back to the start finish where you’ll get to do it twice more.
Fitness this year has been good for me and unlike last year I haven’t burned out with over-training. The new Scalpel has over 400 miles on her now and is serving a purpose.
Course conditions were wetter than in prior years. Good for me, as I usually do well in adverse conditions. There’s always concerns though. For a few weeks now, I’ve expressed concerns on the skinny Racing Ralph’s. I’m running them tubeless and they are aired up on the Reynolds carbon hoops. Due to the lower volume I’ve dared not run them less than 25 psi. This race would be no different.
Not only is the Scalpel the quickest handling bike I’ve owned since my old Klein Attitude back in 99. It’s also the most air pressure run in my tires since Summer of 09 when I ran little wheels, tubes, and big travel. Over the last three seasons racing 22 psi and 2.3″ tires have been mainly the race tire of choice.
They lined us up Vet I and Seniors. My guess was 20 riders in all with no real way of knowing who was in your group. Other than Carl there wasn’t one other familiar face in the crowd. Immediately there is a crash on the dry grass. I knew better and was off to the left. Whole shots in mountain bike races with this much climbing are overrated. Especially on this start where you just climb. Flat field sprint, into the woods, false flat pavement, to false flat double track to a punch in the face.
I felt ok out of the gate in the initial first few minutes as the line began to form. Single file with a few stragglers out off the side doing their own thing. The large climb on lap one had me 20 seconds off the leaders at the top. No problem, I thought, I’ll make up some of those seconds on the down hill sections. It was wet and muddy on the way up. Lots of extra energy due to rear wheel slippage and front root deflection. On the first downhill the course would show me how slippery it was. There is a small open rock face on a slight left hander. First time through I nearly bit it into the tree just beyond. Further down on the second down, I lost it and went off course. I saved the fall and got right back on.
As each lap ends a new one begins. Each one a little slower and a little more tired. The more fatigue the more mistakes would come. Still, on the water tower turn I could see the JRA jersey Carl Devincent (2nd place) Just ahead. I was feeling good, maybe I was reeling the leaders back? More dabs in the darkness. It was dark in some sections. I wrestled with maybe taking off my dark sunglasses a few times. Looking back I probably should have. I would follow a single speed guy for the entire down hill on lap II. He was going just fine and I had no desire to risk a pass.
At the start of lap three I grab my last gel and some additional hydration. Unknowingly running in fourth and just out of podium range. Matt chandler came from nowhere and passed me on the first punchy climb just after the start finish. I tried to stay with him but even on the flat sections I was slipping and sliding. More suffering would ensue on the final climb and towards the top the top Vet II’s caught me. On the final descent and in a line of 4 or 5 guys on the first downhill I went down. My first hard crash in many races. I got up got back on the bike, chain was dropped , and left lever was spun all the way around and was now facing me.
In the end all I could muster was a 6th place finish. I was really hoping for a podium. My legs have been so good for me so far this year and I’ve been climbing fairly well. Upon closer look my times were comparable to last year when the conditions were a little warmer but dry.
Sunday I didn’t fair so well on the technical descents and wet exposed roots. I suffered my first crash of the season. One thing that everyone will tell you is that these bikes are made to climb. It felt at times like absolute amateur hour on the descents. Modifications are a coming.