Since 1990, Nebraska's Psycowpath mountain bike series has given off-road cyclists the opportunity to experience some of the best riding in the state during its races. I started racing the same year, and aside from the years I spent living in Colorado in the late-90s, the races in the series have been a mainstay of my mountain bike season ever since.
The recent Tranquility race weekend signaled the start of the second half of the 2010 Psycowpath series. It was a three race weekend, but it wasn't a stage race. Each race was scored as an individual event, giving racers three opportunities to score series points. The first event of the weekend was a time trial on the steep, forested bluffs of the Missouri River, at the Lewis & Clark Monument. Then, racers moved to Tranquility Park in Omaha for a short track cross country race on Saturday afternoon. Sunday's event was the cross country and three hour marathon event.
I mentioned the fact that racers had three opportunities to score series points... Well, that didn't really apply to marathon series competitors. We only had one opportunity to score marathon series point, which was in Sunday's marathon race. For Saturday's time trial, I had to run in the Cat 1 Open class. Not a bad thing, but an interesting twist nonetheless...
Unfortunately, my performance in Saturday's Lewis & Clark time trial was defined by my arrival time to the race. After getting lost on my way to the venue (it had been five years since I'd ridden there -- my bad) and thinking I was going to completely miss my start time, I made it to the venue literally 12 minutes prior to my start. Fortunately, all of the driving time while being lost gave me plenty of time to get into my team gear, so when I popped out of the car, I had my helmet on, ready to ride. All I had to do was throw on a number plate and go...
MG...ready to suffer?
...but without a proper warmup, going hard was a brutal awakening. That said, the trails at Lewis & Clark Monument were absolutely primo and my El Mariachi Ti was handling so good that I couldn't resist laying it all on the line. I couldn't believe that, for all the calamity getting there, I was actually riding pretty well on the trail. It was about at that point of revelry that I could hear myself being caught from behind by my minute man, Ryan Feagan. I could tell he was on a rocket ride and if he kept it up, he very well might end up on the top step of the podium.
Little did I know, Minnesota pro, Jesse Reints had thrown down a blazing fast time earlier in the day that would beat Ryan's time by ten seconds, but out on the course, when it was just Ryan and I, and I knew he was putting it all out there, I had to holler for my brother. Once I let him around me, I absolutely buried myself so I could keep cheering "Go Feagan!" and "You can do it!" for as long as I could. You see, Ryan and his wife Roxy are the promoters of the Psycowpath series, so it was very cool to be able to witness this awesome performance from Ryan.
The effort was good enough to help pull me up and around my minute man, and into a fifth place finish in Cat 1 for the day. I guess the way I look at it, any day I can finish 'in the money' is a good day, so I was happy with my ride. And the course was so much fun, I went out for another lap after all the other racers had gone. All alone on the trail, riding at a 'normal' pace, I was able to take the time to enjoy the challenges and the beauty of the Lewis & Clark trail. It was one of those 'this is as good as it gets' moments.
I had to skip the STXC race Saturday night due to my 20th high school reunion... an event I simply couldn't miss.
Sunday's three hour marathon race was brutal. If you ask me what defined the day, it was the heat. At the finish when I got back to my car, the thermometer said 105 degrees. Unfortunately, similar to other times this season, I was not stellar in the heat.
I went into the race feeling confident that I could pull off a victory, but at the end of the day was left standing on the second step of the podium after being soundly beaten by a better prepared competitor. His name is Dale Pinkelman and he was even riding a Salsa -- a 2008 El Santo to be exact.
After taking the lead on the first lap, I had eaked out about a 45 second lead through the first two laps. Then, on the third lap of six we completed that day, Dale came back to me as I began to falter on the course's longest climb, a wide-open, switchback-filled beast that featured an absolutely sweltering with-the-wind section. He made his pass here, and almost immediately had a comfortable gap. I meanwhile, was in trouble. I'd gone out harder than I'd intended to go, and now was paying the price for my earlier effort in the heat. It was going to be a long next three laps. I had plenty of time out there to appreciate how well my bike was working though -- at least it was dialed! I couldn't believe how fast it was letting me flow through the serpentine singletrack on the back side of the course.
In the end, I was able to salvage my runner-up position, despite my challenges with the heat. I have to give a lot of credit to my equipment for helping me get to the line safely, because I was a wreck! I can't remember another bicycle race I was more glad to finish, and as soon as I did, I made a bee line for my Subaru and its ice cold air conditioning. Oh yeah, that's the stuff! In fact, I fell asleep so fast in the A/C that I almost missed the awards ceremony! Fortunately I got back out there just in the nick of time.
Next up is Gravel Worlds on Saturday, Aug. 21, right here in Lincoln, Nebraska. Are you gonna' be joining us? I sure hope so.
------------------ UPCOMING EVENT: TONIGHT AT NORTH CENTRAL CYCLERY, DEKALB, ILLINOIS ---------------------
Tonight, Wednesday, August 18th Salsa will present a preview of some never-before-seen products at an event hosted by North Central Cyclery in Dekalb, IL. Salsa sales manager, David Gabrys will be present with the Mukluk, El Mariachi Ti, La Cruz Ti, the new steel El Mariachi and the background behind our Adventure By Bike direction. He will also be sharing some cool stuff that can only be seen by attendees of the event, so it will be worth your while to make the visit and see what’s happening for 2011.
The event begins at 7pm and will be followed by a campfire (and hopefully S'mores). There will be beer too! RSVP at email@example.com. North Central Cyclery, 534 E. Lincoln Hwy, Dekalb, IL (815) 758-2403.
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Growing up the son of a wildlife biologist gave me a jump-start on my appreciation for the outdoors and I still count the day I first pedaled a bicycle as one of the best, most empowering days of my life. And while I enjoy the lure of big challenges like TransIowa and the Colorado Trail Race, I want to help cyclists see that great adventures are waiting right outside their doors. Discovery by bicycle is a beautiful thing. Matt Gersib: The Dirtblog http://dirtstories.blogspot.com/