What a weekend at the Oz Trails Epic Rides Event! It had been two years since lining up for one of these events because of the Covid-19 hiatus. It felt so good to be able to line up on these start lines again. First off, the Fat Tire Crit on Friday night.
Fat Tire Crit:
The Fat Tire Crit on Friday night always delivers an exciting dose of fast and close racing for the roaring crowd. It’s so fun to fly through laps of the downtown course seeing the spectators cheering lap after lap of the race.
The Fat Tire Crit lasts approximately 25 minutes on a fast, pavement course which we ride on mountain bikes with slick tires. Averaging speeds over 20 miles per hour, the race can be spicy really quickly. Throughout the last several years, I have loved these races because they have given me a great place to learn to strategies, take chances, and learn tactics.
Leading up to this race, I thought of several different goals and strategies. Should I just gun it at the start and make the race fast and exciting? Should I attack and take several laps flying off of the front? Ultimately, I decided that the only real strategy I could try, was to win and that’s a scary goal because usually it’s the goal everyone has in win, and only one person can capture it.
As the race unfolded lap after lap, the pace was fast, but I felt calm. I managed to stay near the front and out of trouble most of the race. About half way through the race, I felt like the pace had slowed and I felt tempted to make a big move, but I looked down at my power and noticed that the pace was indeed, very fast. I took a moment to look around, people were suffering. This was good. It meant I felt good and was riding strong. I decided to bet on the finish. I continued to follow moves, take my turns on the front, and play the long game for the finish line.
With three laps to go I went to the front and put in a long pull for one lap. Then I slotted back in 2nd wheel. Two laps to go there was a strong attack and I followed, but so did everyone else. 1 lap to go and another attack, I was right on the wheel. With three turns to go, I was sitting second wheel and I felt the pace slow for just a moment. There was a slight downhill followed by a small riser and the corner to the finish straight. As the pace slowed for just a split second I knew it was the moment. I dropped my gears and sprinted like there was no tomorrow. As I came around the last corner and saw the finish line ahead with no one in front of me, I felt all of the adrenaline you could imagine. 1st place for me in the Fat Tire Crit! I’m really proud of that one!
The Fat Tire Crit started at 5:30 pm on Friday night and the Backcountry race started at 7:15 am on Saturday morning. It was a fast and furious turn around. Huge shout out and thank you to the Orange Seal Off-Road Team for dialing in all of our equipment and making this tight schedule even possible.
When alarm went off at 4:20 am, I had almost already forgotten about the night before, it was time to race again!
We huddles in the team tent in the early hours of the morning before the sun even came up. We were all packing nutrition neatly in our pockets, discussing final bike set ups, and putting on extra layers in the cold morning air.
As we rolled out of the start area and paraded through downtown and out onto the trails, I couldn’t help but think of all of the possibilities that the day could hold.
The pace became fast early. The ladies meant business as we ratcheted up the pace on the rollers going out of town. On the final big climb before the singletrack, the pace became hard. My breathing rate increased and once again I reminded myself that everyone was hurting. With a quick look around I confirmed my theory. It gave me the confidence I needed to hold the pace to the trail. There was a small group of three of us who entered the singletrack with about a 5 second gap. I knew that gap would close soon, but it felt good to know that the strength was there early on.
Early one we entered the section of the trail called “The Ledges” which is an extremely rocky trail with very narrow passages and high consequence drop offs if you make a wrong move. The rain from days prior made some of the rocks extra slick and a small mistake early in the trail caused me to lose the wheel I was following and made me a little extra nervous. As I exited that section of the trail I knew I had lost time and I felt a little flustered. I took a moment to mentally gather myself (while I continued to pedal full gas) and eventually found my way back into a group fighting for position 4-6th.
With this group I felt confident and I could feel the race shaping up. I felt my strength was on the climb and on most of the climbs I could create a small gap between me and the other riders. On the descents, they would typically close the gap down. I had just secured a decent gap when I missed two turns right in a row. Just flew by the entrance of the trail, had to stop, turn around, and go back to the turn I missed. It wasn’t a huge deal, but just enough time to enter the trail in 5th place (instead of 4th). This trail was very wet and technical as well and exposed a weakness of mine as I was nervous about slicing a tire on a jagged rock or hitting the deck. I made it out of the trail unscathed and picked up a place from other woman who had flatted in the section.
As I climbed up the final hill I knew I had secured 4th on the day and I had a smile to prove it! I think a podium should always be celebrated! Thank you to Epic Rides for coming back after the hiatus! It was a great day on the bike.