The Official Idaho State Championship as far as NORBA is concerned, in the disciplines of cross country, downhill, and dual slalom. Got my butt kicked here last year by Aaron, who unfortunately broke his leg in March. And Dave is still in Europe so no carpool buddies. And at last the GTI is fixed so I could take it but after studying the map and noting elevations of the planned route - IF - Arco - Ketchum - Stanley - Lowman - Banks - McCall - I decide that one more trip in the turbo quattro might not be such a bad thing.
Not a terribly bad thing, avoiding Boise cuts the travel time to six and a half hours even with some construction. Part of Ron's deal for putting on the race up at Brundage is a lakeside condo in town for the weekend, about 50 feet from the shore of Payette Lake. Much nicer than the condemned motel in Oasis. The beds are pretty hard though, and with the 3am thunderstorm I might have slept better in Oasis, trucks going by on I-80 and all.
Anyway, up bright and early in the morning, help with registration as usual. Rich puts in an appearance, even bringing his wife along. They both have brand-new bikes. Mark is late, as usual.
Time passes, and I go outside to get ready. Though a little chilly in the morning after the recent warm weather, it's nice and sunny again. Yay! The beginners had started at 10:30 to cover one 11-mile, 1000' climb lap, and as the sports attempt to line up behind the experts for our 12:30 starts there are still a few beginner stragglers to let through and cheer. Sports do a lap and a half, experts two full laps. Ron remarked the night before that many sports were unable to figure out the half lap deal, when all they had to do was follow the signs (some reading ability required, but XC riders should be smart enough - DHers on the other hand you might not expect to be able to read). We'll just see about that signage then, I suppose.
The fields appear a little larger than the poor turnouts of late, and off they go. Quite a few vet sports again, and two other sport clydesdales - our largest field yet, five! The start goes half a mile downhill to a chair base, then starts up. I sit behind Rich and Mark through the thundering herd. Then we hit the climb (smack), I go around Rich, and Mark shifts from his big ring all the way past his little ring and has to wait for everybody to go by. Sucked to be him. After an initial steepness, it levels off a bit, remaining doubletrack/ fire road that you can actually get a pretty good spin out of. This is where Aaron spun away and dropped me last year as I whined about mud in my eyes.
Then there is a turn onto some climbing overgrown doubletrack. I'm still in traffic, but it seems to be a fairly good pace. I pass a few guys anyway. This pops out onto a cat track briefly and heads downhill at a good clip for a mile or so. In sight of the start, some traverses and hmm, the half-lap split does look confusing. I follow the guys in front of me but it seems we take the direction pointed to by the second-lap-only arrow. However, there is no you-are-on-the-second-lap-sport-cutoff sign so things must be all right. This is a relative term, for now the course heads up last year's downhill (different this year, apparently) almost all the way to the top of the mountain. A long grind, mostly yo-yoing with the same few people, pass expert women, get passed by skinny juniors and one blazing master.
Eventually that ends, leaving the downhill back to the base. Which I attack with a little more enthusiasm than last year, have a good time while not even crashing. Even pass a couple people - it's true! Switchbacks, roots, and that one front-wheel-eating creek crossing. I'm actually kind of parked behind a guy for the last half mile before I can drop him as we break out into the parking lot, then up one small-looking hill to begin the second (shorter) lap.
Hey, much less traffic this time as I spin out down to the first climb again. My chain is starting to suck once more, though. I am puzzled and annoyed at this, the chain is still fairly new and I even lubed it before the race. I grunt up the climbs in my middle ring, remembering how I caught Mark at Idaho City when he had no little ring. Middle ring is also sucking a little, not fun at all.
Top of that climb, and I can shift to the big ring for a bit for the descent. Still haven't seen any clydesdale-type people pass me, I have been pacing off a long-haired vet sport. We come again to the semi-confusing sign, which I now see indicates to turn left for second lap, not right as it seemed before. Ok then, this cutoff goes above the finish a bit and up to merge with the Elk Creek downhill a mile or so up. Judging from the people coming down this short climb to the merge, it's part of this year's downhill. Merging back on to Elk Creek, I manage not to endo in the creek crossing though I do catch a bit of mud in my eye for old time's sake. Squinting along for a minute until I can get it mostly out of my eye, I pause briefly enough that no one passes.
Twist around down to the parking lot, up that "little" hill behind the lodge to the finish. And I'm done. And first, apparently. Mark comes in after about five minutes, following the winning pro/expert (Stacy Stuart, who did not lap *me*, ha ha). But there was another in our class ahead of him, he says, and when the tags go up it seems I beat that guy by just over a minute and a half. Will puzzle over chainsuck some more. Rich comes in fifth (behind another mystery clydesdale) with a dirty face; it seems his shiny new bike has not quite enough preload on the (Girvin) fork so that when it gets fully compressed something touches the tire. Took him three endos to figure this out, he says. zzzZZZ POW, at least it made a warning noise.
A bit of rain cools everyone off, then it's a little too cool so I duck inside the finish tent for the duration, about 15 minutes. And the sun comes back out. For the awards I find a spot next to Tony Perkins from Rexburg and winner of the vet expert class. Turns out Tony had a similar chainsuck problem last year and traced it to the aluminum chainrings on the new Shimano 4-arm cranks. Aha! Despite under 200 miles of riding with three new chains, the large percentage of time spent in the mud has ground away my soft aluminum chainrings. Steel rings take so much longer to wear that I had only ever replaced one set of them. Have to get this fixed before the NCS race in Deer Valley coming up in two weeks.
After awards we set up and run qualifying for the dual slalom, then back to the condo for dinner.
Sunday I am busy all day working on the downhill and dual slalom finals, then teardown. Finally down the mountain at about nine pm. Good thing I was already planning to stop in Boise for the night. After a staff pizza dinner in McCall, I blaze back to Boise through the twisties in 90 minutes.
Monday seemed to start out well, then a rock thrown out by a garbage truck on the way out of Boise shatters a golfball-size hole in my windshield, lower left corner. Both glass layers broken, there are a few glass fragments floating around on the speaker grill. Does my comprehensive insurance cover this? And a 10-year-old boy who nearly became a hood ornament (where was he hiding before he ran across the freeway, and why would he do that right in front of me?) made me glad to just get home.