I really had a fantastic day today. I can’t thank my wife enough for her support. She has let me chase something I wasn’t ever ready to let go.
As a bit of history, although I had never done WF 100K before 2015, I had looked to it as an ultra cool event that went over some of my favorite roads. I always regretted not racing it when I was in shape. As many of you know I stopped racing due to some health issues in 2010 after already quitting bike racing in 2007. After many years of sloth, banjos, and mustaches I had Sam with my wife in 2014. Quickly I realized he would never know me as an athlete. I wanted to change that and WF 100K and qualifying for Leadville was my goal. It got me running, biking, swimming, and racing. In 2015 I raced and qualified after finished 10th some 15 minutes down. It was pretty emotional for me to do that. In 2016 I finished 4th and went on and did Leadville to earn a belt buckle. After that, I raised the bar some more to see if I could win the thing. See if I could really get back to some sort of elite level and prove to myself the rider I was in 2004 was still somewhere still inside me.
Returning to the race this year was Mathieu B-B who won the last 2 editions of the race. In actuality, he has won it every year I have raced. So I knew from the start the pressure was on him. I knew he would be the one to chase, control, and go when he needed to. If I watched him I was safe. On the opening decent to Bartlett road there were the usual swarms and near crashes of 380 MTB’s riding in a pack produces. I kept a buffer and knew I could jump up the outside when I needed to. Going over Bartlett the race usually breaks up a bit as people test their legs. I stayed a few wheels back from Mathieu and tried to be invisible. We regrouped on the rollers to Styles brook and a little group rolled off before the climb. Somewhere in there a guy in a Placid Planet store jersey chopped me and almost crashed me. So there was that. On Styles Brook the break came back immediately and pro Dereck Treadwell and Mathieu rode a steady pace which caused the group to fracture again and you could quickly see where people’s fitness was. Anyone riding cross-eyed up the climb there wasn’t going to be a problem later on.
There was more regrouping on the flat to Jay Mountain and again Dereck and Mathieu rode a steady tempo up the climb. The final pitch of the climb is pretty steep and loose. I went up the outside and road my own pace. At the top it was just Mathieu and myself. No longer invisible, but I learned if I went up the road, Mathieu was not going to get any help. No one else was going to be strong enough. I descended down Jay Mountain behind Mathieu with some amazing single speed guy that caught on over the top. That guy was baller. At the bottom of the initial Jay descent Mathieu pulled over to nature break. I don’t know what he was thinking. I had another guy on my wheel and we were a bit behind the SS guy going into the next descent so we kept rolling. When we got to Blood Hill I looked back and people were in 1’s and 2’s spread out. I knew Mathieu was probably trying to catch back on. So I hit Blood Hill pretty steady rode away from the coalescing group. I have actually “attacked” here every year I have done the race. I like getting a head start on the Blueberry trails.
I settled into tempo till the trails and rode the trails steady and smooth. Looking over my shoulder on every straightaway. Coming out of the trails I still had a gap and I got 2 high speed feeds. I pulled out a PB and J and munched on that while I decided what to do. I decided to ride steady to the top of Jay Mountain which was going to be about 40 minutes of steady climbing. I figured when Mathieu caught me he would have had to burn some matches and I would have stayed at a sustainable pace. I again looked back often and found no one. I crested Jay Mountain feeling good and concentrated on food, water and staying “aero”. I bombed the descent and narrowly missed my next feed as Sam Liz arrived just in time from E-town at the Upper Jay feed. Still no one in sight. I knew from there I had about an hour left and I had already been solo for an hour and a half. I felt pretty good still so I focused on riding the flats at 300-340 watts and the kickers of the climbs at 400-440. Going over Bartlett road I got my first time split of 2.5 minutes. I had lost more than that in the last 30 minutes of the race last year to Mathieu. So it was a good gap to have but could easily be lost in the end. I stayed after it, hitting my wattages and made my way up to and through the Hardy Trails nice and smoothly, leaving some in the tank for a final push. Coming out of the trails I got a time split of 3.5 minutes. It was then I realized I could do it.
I opened the throttle and emptied what I had left. I rode everything cleanly on the finishing loop for the first time and crossed the line holding my bike above my head. 5:26 ahead of Mathieu. 4 hours and 4 minutes was my final time with a normalized power of 340 watts. Really good day.
Tomorrow I do the hill climb. There is a prize to the lowest combined time of the WF100K and Hill Climb. Mathieu is doing it. So we will do battle again on the mountain. Plus a bunch of fresh guys.