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Maybe writing shorter reports will help me not slack off like the end of last season?

First part of the two-fer: Barking Spider Mountain Bike Bash.

A nice short, fairly flat mountain bike race (bash). Marked last year by strong winds, blowing dust, and the only time Rich would finish higher than me in a race where I was present. This year, due to whining on the part of nameless Clydesdales (because I don't know who they are) there was created a new Sport/Expert Clydesdale class. Something I had been rather quietly agitating for all along, but it will be such a small class that I couldn't have done it without the whiners. So they get to sandbag in the Beginner Clydesdale class. Fine with me.

Two laps of approximately eight miles for the few, the proud, the four sport/expert clydesdales that day. Other than myself, there were Rich, old pal Bob Wood (last seen at a race in the 96 season), and Mark Stones, who has been foaming at the mouth for a chance to race against me again - he was in Clydesdale before last year, then thought he would lose weight so moved to age-group beginner, then won some races and made comments in Ronda's hearing and got kicked up to sport, didn't have much fun there. After the beginners had cleared off the course from their single lap, we started off with the vet sports, which means of course Super Dave and all his buddies.

Ever so surprisingly, it's windy again, but the dust seems to be taking a rest. Some of the vet sports take off in a hurry. I haven't been riding much so I sit back and watch my competition. Looks like I'll be chasing Mark and Bob, and leading Rich. So I settle into that. Pass Bob as we come around the smaller portion of the figure-eight course, then (after a tandem goes zapping by) he passes me and a couple other random racers on a bit of a short-cut in a descent. Was that part of the course, Bob? Back past the finish line, into the part where I really died last year. Pass Bob again, Mark pulls away a little, but the good news is Rich is nowhere in sight. Other good news, in a narrow sense, is that Aaron, the only one who could spank me regularly last year, has previously broken his leg by catching some inadvertent major air. He won't be racing for a while.

Through the bobsled-run, people stacking up behind me (including Bob) as I am all over the place. It opens out, and they whiz by. Other good news is that my new shifters and V-brakes appear to be working smoothly. One more climb, and it's over the "death drop" which is actually pretty fun, good traction and lots of runout at the bottom. Back past the finish line, where I have another lap to go. Hmm. Not feeling too bad, I suppose. There are handups of Power Gel offered, but the reminds me to use the one I had picked up before the start. Kind of suffer through the next bit, not making up much time on Bob -n- Mark. Pass by the start one more time, and it looks like I am now gaining on Bob. Pass him, he says he's dying, go to work on Mark. Well, I can't quite catch him before the bobsled run, so he's pretty much gone there, and then can't quite catch him before the death drop again, so he holds about 45 seconds on me to the finish. Can't maintain any speed on those whoop-de-doos. Bob comes in several minutes later, then some time passes before Rich comes in looking pretty tired.

Second place, not too bad. Medals this year have wooden laser-cut centers customized by event and place, so that's neat. Plus I got some yellow brake pads that of course don't fit my new V-brakes.

Then poof, everybody leaves, and I hang out for a while snacking on Ron & Ronda's snacks (sour cream & cheddar Ruffles are pretty tasty, almost as good as chili-cheese Fritos) and giving helpful suggestions. Ron presents me with a shiny new seatpost in appreciation. It's too pretty to use, but next in line for installation when a current seatpost retires, I guess.

Back to R&R's, snooze on the couch and watch the last part of the second semifinal. Utes shut down Tarheels.

Next day, supposed to snow. But it doesn't, just more wind and a little chill in the morning. But by the time the second part of the two-fer starts, that being Emmet-Roubaix, it's too warm for a jacket so I go with a lighter array. This is about 40 rolling miles, ending in, of course, a hill. With three miles of gravel road thrown in for that authentic Roubaix touch. Seems to be quite a bit windier than yesterday, in fact. 1/2/3s, then us 4/5s, then masters and women, unfortunately. This means I have to be dropped by my pack and then caught by the masters/women if I want to ride with girls.

I seem to have a handle on the first part of this task, as I let go when the pack accelerates up a hill into the crosswind. Did I mention half the field was over the yellow line? Do they think they are 3s or something? This behavior, in all fields apparently, causes a Monday bitching email from our new district rep who was in town for a post-race soiree. It wasn't me, I was a good boy and got dropped. So did some other people, and we kind of ride along until we pick up a 3 who had flatted, and he starts berating us to work together. Which I actually did know how to do beforehand, unlike some of the others apparently.

The pack recedes into the distance. We stabilize at five for a while, then drop one at a turn. Get to the gravel, which is pretty nice, hardpacked, and flat - doing 25 on it - and drop another. How can the wind be either a headwind or a crosswind no matter which direction one turns? It's a big square course with local variations, but you would think there would be some tailwind. Sure didn't find any. After the dirt road comes the windy narrrow goat paths through the orchards, still redolent with the heady aroma of some kind of pesticide. Yum.

Finally we get to the base of the hill, and I wave bye-bye to the 3. My other companion starts bitching about how numb he is and how he sucks at climbing, so he isn't leaving me just yet, apparently. It's a granny grinder for me at this point. As we get near the top, some masters finally appear behind us - where have they been all this time, we weren't going that fast since we got dropped - and he thinks it's fun to sprint with them the last 100 meters. Whatever, I'm just finished is all. Didn't get caught by any girls, and only a couple old farts. Supposedly there were some crashes in out pack that took out a number of riders, but since cash only goes to three places and I'm sure I am way outside that, I don't wait around for full results. Back to the car, and back to R&R's for another shower, then a catch-you-next-weekend call to Becky's machine and I head for home.