The Wild Rockies Invitational Race Of Champions, open only to the top ten in each classification from the North, South, and Intermountain series. As winner in the South and runner-up in the North among sport/expert clydesdales, I did receive an invitation which stated that it had to be returned by September 21 This invitation arrived on September 21 itself, so I just called and left a message indicating my intention to attend. The race was originally planned to be in Sun Valley, open to the top five per class, and taking place the first weekend in October. But things changed, and it ended up at Pomerelle, top ten, a week earlier. These things conspired to limit attendance to about 120.
Ron was happier than usual though, because (other than the NCCA MTB Natz) this would be his last mtb race promoted. He is passing on the Wild Rockies series to a small consortium of racers, might do some consulting next year, might put on some road and dirt-bike races, might even get a real job.
I had never been to Pomerelle, south of Burley, before and it was difficult to find on that particular Friday night due to some low-flying clouds. Actually not all that low-flying, because the base lodge sits at 9000'. But the tricky thing is that it is not at the top of that mountain, if you miss the turnoff you end up 5 miles later at this culdesac with a Forest Service observation tower. It's easy to miss the turn when it's on the other side of the road and you can't even see over there because of the fog. But eventually find it I did, and commenced to pitch my tent in the cold rain. How wonderful, really looking forward to racing now.
But it didn't quite rain all night, and the morning sky was only slightly threatening. There was a definite late-September-9000' chill in the air, though, and so it wasn't all that bad standing near a stove in the lodge as the new staff tried to figure out registration. Luckily I didn't have to remind them too much that I should be comped.
The sun was trying to peek through the clouds, but I went with armwarmers and the double jersey in case it didn't succeed. Also found that my rear shock was making odd clunking noises. Perhaps related to all the oil that leaked out past the seals? Hmm, didn't seem that bad last time I rode it. Showed this piece of clunk to Jay, and he said I should borrow the identical (except working) unit from Monica's downhill bike. This swap was accomplished with at least ten minutes remaining to start - there are only two mounting bolts, then I had to add air to compensate for the *slight* weight difference.
Rode around the parking lot a bit - hey, lots better! - then wandered over to the start line. Seemed to be three others to race against, Al the North champ, Zell the South beginner champ, and some guy from Evanston obviously representing the Intermountain series. I was pretty sure I could have my way with Al, but Zell had been whomping on the other beginners pretty good and the Evanston guy was a complete unknown.
Following the established pattern of late, beginners went first at 10:30, two laps of the six-mile course, experts and sports at 12:30 doing four and three. The sun was being more successful peeking through the clouds, so the armwarmers went in a pocket.
Off we go, the initial climb is almost reminiscent of Park City. Not quite as bad, though with all the shock-swapping I neglected to check for smooth shifting operation of my front derailleur. So I get to grunt up this little climb in the middle ring. At least I'm ahead of everybody else, because they are not so foolish and want to maybe save some energy for later. There's a slight increase in slope right at the top, and I finally hop off and push there, trying to shift into the little ring as I jog along. Several people go by, of course, though not any of the other clydesdales. A short flat fire road leads back to some more doubletrack climbing, not quite so steep this time, that dumps into some slightly uphill singletrack.
Despite the rain, there wasn't too much mud, a few little puddles in the doubletrack and slippery branches in the singletrack. Coming out of the trees on such a section of singletrack, making a sharp right to head up a ski run, my front tire slips out on one of those slippery branches and sends me for a tumble. I'm quickly up, but Zell and Al both go by while I am rolling. No apparent damage, I catch Al immediately, so I go chase down Zell and sit on his wheel for a while.
Up into some sagebrush, more climbing, then some singletrack dives off that trail into the trees. The next open area is a sidehill singletrack with a couple tricky rocky spots, then one more stretch of uphill singletrack with a few little grunts before the first long descent, a grassy and bumpy doubletrack. I had fallen off Zell's pace through the more technical sections as I was practicing them for the first time, and I couldn't really see him on the descent because it had a bend in the middle.
Then it turned off into some forest singletrack again, and this one traversed across some ski runs making for fun little dropoffs before winding up on the liftline run down to the bottom. A zig and a zag around the lodge building, and back the hill again. Zell is 40 seconds up, I am informed, and I can see him only partway up the first climb. So I go catch him, using the little ring this time but still walking that part at the top there. I get him at the sagebrush after not falling this time, and get out in front a little bit. But I am still a little slow through the tricky spots, and he catches up on the descents. He goes by me on the liftline run, then I pass him back at the start/finish and head up that climb one more time.
The third lap is, as one might expect, the smoothest, despite the occasional backwards glance looking for Zell as several pro/experts lap me. But he's not back there as I come down the liftline for the last time, a zig and a zag and I'm done. Just in time, for it's now threatening to rain. He comes in almost two minutes later, followed at length by Al and the other guy.
Then it does start to rain, so I go get out of the rain, change and look for shelter. The finish tent is shelter, so I get stuck with waiting for the last couple of people to wander in.
Action moves to the lodge after all riders seem to be accounted for, and inside it is quite warm indeed, maybe too warm. Awards are begun, and I am called out by name to move the tagboards so Ron can read off names. For first place I get a XXXL (that's right, triple-X) yellow jersey with some sort of Schwinn cruiser-bike motif and a set of Ti chainring bolts. Whee.
After dispensing useful advice to the people running the dual slalom qualifiers, and some convenient spaghetti, I decided to head over to Twin Falls because I had heard that their theaters didn't suck as bad as the ones in Idaho Falls. Took Sabrina and a couple of her boy toys with me. It's true about the theaters, we saw "Ronin" and the sound was decent. Good car chases, even featuring an Audi. Got back nice and late, but no trouble finding Pomerelle this time.
In the morning the dew on the car was of a funny white consistency. Hmm, a little cold up here but not too bad in the tent.
I got sucked in to working the downhill and dual slalom again, despite plans to the contrary. Ronda even put in an appearance, said I could work at the Reno NCCA MTB Natz if I want.
After everything was packed away and the 1998 Wild Rockies season was all over, I drove home in an adventuresome way. Not only was the previously-observed CV joint noise getting louder (though legend has it they rarely actually fail until after being *really* loud for a while), but the 120-mile round trip to see a movie had left me little reserve in the tank. After refusing to pay $0.20/gal more at the Albion exit and passing a closed gas station at Raft River, I barely made it to American Falls and "civilization". But I did make it, and how exciting it was to think briefly that I might not. Then a few gallons at only a mildly inflated price got me all the way back home.
So endeth the biking season, except for the 24 Hours of Moab RUCT reunion tour coming soon. So I will throw a few more parts at the bike for that, like another set of chainrings (non-Shimano this time, we'll see if they last any longer), chain, and cogs, the required bike headlight, and a new rear shock with a climbing lockout as found on new Y-22s.