Every second counts, and today we learned just how much those seconds count and just how tough the VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. mountain bike team is. On a near picture-perfect day down at Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia, John, Luc and myself (Emily rambling here again) took on EX2 Adventure‘s 12-Hours of Cranky Monkey in the 3-person co-ed division. We knew going in that this was going to be a tough, long day on the bikes, as there were 18 teams in our division, with some seriously fast cyclists on them. There were teams from 20 Twenty up in Baltimore, Evolution Cycling and The Bike Lane all riding strong and with previous wins and podiums in similar races. There would be no letting up today.
Luc stepped up and started the race Le Mans style for our team, coming in top-10 in the run and getting us off to a solid start.
John was up next and put in a blazing fast lap, and when he came through, there was only one other 3-Person Co-Ed team ahead of us – the team from Evolution Cycling. However, I saw Joe P. from The Bike Lane waiting to head out and knew that I was going to have to ride hard. The Evolution team’s 3rd member took off about a minute before John came through and at first I thought I was going to jinx myself when I turned to Kathleen with a grin and said “I’ll get her…this’ll be fun.” We handed off the timing key and I took off, I think karma played with me a bit for my moment of cockiness as on the first gravel climb I dropped my chain. Ugh. Not the best way to start a race. But it was a quick fix and I was back and on the bike and on the chase. I had never ridden Quantico before, so it was a bit of an adventure riding it for the first time and trying to keep race pace. Luckily for me, the trails flow and are smooth and fun with enough climbs and descents to keep you on your toes but not make you go crazy. I passed the 2-Mile sign and checked my watch – 9 minutes in, not bad for a mountain bike race. Another gravel climb and I thought I saw my competition’s jersey just ahead, I crested the hill and turned onto a straightaway where the first rest stop was, and yup, I was right, as she slowed slightly to grab water, I dropped it into the big ring and made my move. Now here’s where being in front is a slight dis-advantage, you don’t want to look back, as it lets your competition know you’re nervous, and well, in my case riding a mountain bike course I’d never seen before, I didn’t want to take my eyes off the trail and risk having a close and personal encounter with a tree. So I put my head down and just gunned it as long as I could. Soon enough, I reached a point where the trail headed up a series of switchbacks on a slight climb, I could take this opportunity to look behind and see that I was clear, so now, I could breathe a little, but not too much. The rest of the lap passed quickly, as the trails at Quantico are incredibly fast and fun to ride. I did have a bit of that jack-rabbit syndrome going on as everytime I heard a stick snap I glanced behind me to see if it was Katy from Evolution or Joe from The Bike Lane coming for me, but no one came. I rounded the final corner and headed toward the timing tent, grinning from ear to ear when I saw Jen and Scott cheering while volunteering at the timing table. Apparently my 57-minute lap slightly surprised the boys, but luckily Luc was ready and waiting to take off.
John was waiting for me and grabbed my bike, giving me a high-five as I had put us into an early lead. We passed the crew from SEAVS heading back to our camp, and as they asked me how it went, I answered honestly that I was about ready to throw-up. I don’t know if it was the 4-cups of coffee I drank to get me through the 4:30am wake-up call, or the nerves of not wanting to let John and Luc down by riding slow, but my stomach was not happy. A banana and some recovery beverage later though, and I was feeling good enough to down a PBJ and get excited for what was next. Chris also grabbed my bike and fixed the pesky little shifting issue so I would be riding smoothly my next lap.
Luc turned another quick lap and sent John off for his 2nd, but the Evolution team was breathing down our necks. One of their team members was turning laps in under 50-minutes – and while Luc, John and I were all consistently turning laps in under an hour, we hadn’t quite hit the 50-minute mark, so it turned into a game of keep up, stay steady and catch up. After his 3rd lap John started to cramp a little and when I got back from my 3rd lap, we sat down to talk strategy. Luc was out for his 4th and working to make up about a minute or so on the Evolution Team. We knew we couldn’t match or catch Randy from the Evolution Team and John‘s legs weren’t happy with him, so with really nothing to lose, we decided that if I went out instead of John and kept it steady, and then we sent Luc out again for a 5th lap against Katy we could possibly pull off the win. Game on. I downed a Red Bull pulled out a fresh pair of sunglasses to ride in and got ready to roll. Luc came in blazing and I took off with cheers from Luc, John and Chris. I knew that Randy would soon catch and pass me, but all I had to do was ride steady and I could do that. About 2 miles in Randy caught me and laughed how we had changed things up on them – I guess they weren’t expecting our team to send me out again already…but either way, he rolled past me with ease, and while I wanted to try and stick to his wheel, I controlled my competitive nature and kept my pace. I came in a few minutes behind him, and we sent Luc off again, but they had sent their other guy out, seeing our slight change in riders, so it was going to come down to a finish-line show-down. Talk about tension! In the end, the Evolution Team got us by 2 minutes, but I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed as I know that Luc, John and I all rode a great race, pushed ourselves and pretty much left everything out on the course.
Looking at the results, turns out I had the unofficial fastest female lap of the day coming in at 57:38, VeloWorks-Spokes, Etc. finished 2nd in 3-Person Co-Ed to an unbelievably fast team from Evolution Cycles, and 5th overall for the day, again to the Evolution Team, a super-fast DCMTB team and the great guys from SEAVS, so needless to say, we were in the company of a fast and also incredibly cool, nice and fun group of racers at the top.
True, it’s always nice to come away with the win, but it’d be hard to find a nicer team to come in 2nd to. Kathleen‘s team – Crank Addicts, rode a great race as well, coming in 4th in 3-Person Co-Ed, and Alexander from the Ashburn Spokes wrapped up a solid 5th in Solo Single-Speed. Great day all around on an incredibly fun course – HUGE thanks to EX2 Adventures, staff and volunteers for putting on an amazing race, and thanks as well to the Marines at Quantico for even allowing us to race there. AND an even bigger THANK YOU (and brownies!!) to Chris for taking the time to come wrench for us, keep reminding me to eat, making my bike fast and providing amazing support that you couldn’t ask for. There’s a lot that often goes on behind the scenes of a bike race and while it’s only those of us who were turning the pedals that get to go up on the podium and smile, we couldn’t have done it without our support – so thank you!!
And now – perhaps a small hiatus, but keep an eye out for us at Wednesdays at Wakefield and out and about on the roads!