Over Labor Day Katie and I headed west to South Dakota for an extended weekend of biking and relaxing with some of my family and friends. The first part of the trip was spent in Custer where we stayed with my Dad for 2 nights. It was a great time, the weather was nice, the scenery was beautiful and we got to do some really leisure riding on the Mickelson trial. The trail is made up of more than 100 miles of old railroad. The ride was a lot of fun. I would encourage anyone to check it out, it is a great way to see South Dakota.
Did I mention that Smokey the Bear is the official race starter?
Needless to say, I raced the course, no ride or tour for me. This was the 3rd time participating in the event and every time on my single speed. I have had good results in past events finishing second in the Single Speed class both years and this year I was hoping for a win. Just like last year, I was planning on riding the majority of the race with Joe Meiser and wait until the final 10 or so miles to see if I could pull away. Well I off the start I was felling good and pulled away early and rode with the lead group in my sight for the first 10 miles. I knew I was riding well but knew there was one guy ahead of me who was on a SS, but rumor had it he was not in the Single Speed class but in the open class. This would mean I was in 1st, but it was a long race and I knew there were some really strong riders behind me.
After the 20-mile marker someone told me I was the second Single Speeder, so I still didn’t know if the guy ahead of me was in the open class or not. It really didn’t matter after around the 30 mile marker I passed the one single speeder ahead of me. He was resting on the side of the trail and didn’t look like he was feeling so hot. He had popped.
I continued riding and he stayed with me for a while but eventually he fell out of sight.
My lead didn’t last long, before I knew it a different rider came from nowhere and snuck up on me on a long climb. There was about 15 mile left of the race and I was starting to think after about 3 hours of riding it was going to be just that, a race. The two of us shuffled back and forth for a while but eventually I pulled away and didn’t see the rider again.
With 10 miles to go, I was feeling tired and knew there was at least one racer who could close the gap on me at any time. I finally reached the final section of single track and was riding with a local rider who was in the geared class. He knew I was riding single so he was very accommodating when I need room on some of the up hills and I quickly let him pass on the down hills. We worked together through the last section of tight trail before the 2-3 mile decent back to the finish line. With about 5 miles to go the other rider let me lead. I don’t know if he wanted to help me out by creating space if the other rider caught me or what, but I took the lead and continued to ride hard.
My legs were starting to cramp at this point but I was still able to keep spinning, maybe I need to re-evaluate what I am drinking on long races, I seem to cramp a lot. Anyways, I was so happy to be coming to the final stretch of the race, all I could think about was bombing the down hill and it was over. I was starting to think about my first victory at the five-O when I heard “the sound”. Any biker knows the sound of air leaking out of your tire as it goes round and round. I got a flat, ¼ mile before the paved downhill and I flatted, the race was over!
As I pulled my bike to the side of the trail my new companion knew what was wrong and said his condolences as he rode past. I walked the trail a little further, found a place where I could switch my tube and that is when I almost started crying. This is when I watched the first chase man pass me, then I saw Joe again for the first time since the start, then the guy in the open class riding single, finally another Trevor, a local mpls rider, passed as I was pumping the last breath of air into my tire. I did my best to catch Trevor but I didn’t have any confidence in my tires cornering the downhill at 35+mph.
I crossed the line in 4th place. It hurt for a while, but I did enjoy the race and was proud of Joe and Trevor. I rode hard and knew I belonged in front. Flat tires suck, but they are a part of racing. Now I know two things I need to work on, drinking more fluids, and fixing flats faster.