Monday August 10, 2009
Stage 2: K2 Ranch to Nipika
Official Time: 7:40:27
My Ride Time: 6:40
Temperature: 50-75 degrees
Today's start was at 8am, so it was an early wake-up at 5:30am for me. Zeke had slept in the van and I with my parents in the tent. With my IPod earbuds in, I had tried to drone out the crescendo of snoring. I am just not sure how good a sleep I had gotten listening to Black-Eyed Peas, Pink, and the Flobots; I had forgotten to download my Enya and Loreena McKennitt CD's.
I awoke with a positive attitude but with sore quads. Zeke also seemed determined to have a good day. After washing down eggs and pancakes with Kicking Horse coffee, we prepared to do battle. I hopped on Indy and pedaled around the campsite making sure all was working well. Crap! The front end did not feel right. After checking out my fork a bit more closely, I realized that there was a tremendous amount of stiction and it really wasn't wanting to compress through the first half of its travel.
So I hurriedly dragged Crash ('06 Specialized Epic) out of the van, slapped the number plate on and checked the pressures and suspension. Oh, well, surely 3 more pounds of bike wouldn't make that much of a difference, would it?
"Highway to Hell" came over the loudspeakers and we were off! The first 15km was fast. After descending off K2 property, we were on pavement for 10km. Zeke and I marked the leaders and stayed right on their wheel. Once we hit the gravel climb up the Fairmont Ski Resort, we settled in to a good tempo. The 3rd place team was right there also. After 5km we hopped on to the XC ski trail system; very tight doubletrack with a lot of ups and downs.
I was enjoying the pace and soon we had put some time on the leaders. Zeke and I had hooked up with the Tinhorn Creek Crush Club team of Keith and Mark. They were great guys and very respectable racers. I chit-chatted with them on this section.
On the final descent down the ski trail, Team Cox had closed the gap. We rode together on the next section of rolling doubletrack. Now it was Zeke's turn to talk to Hans and Giesla. He discovered that they were 63 and 61, respectively, and that back in the day, Hans was a world cup XC ski racer. Uh oh!
Once we began the steep rideable climb up to Checkpoint 1 (40km), Zeke began to slow, allowing Team Cox to pull ahead. At about 37 km, I grabbed Zeke's bottle and raced ahead to the checkpoint. I was feeling really good at this point, and whenever I asked my legs for a bit more power, they responded delightfully.
Checkpoint 1 was about 10m off the road up a steep rise. I hopped off the bike, ran up the hill, refilled our bottles, grabbed bananas, peeled them, ate 2, and ran back down the hill, and deposited our fuel at my bike. Then I ran back up the hill and grabbed more food, including cookies and bananas. The film crew was capturing this all on video. Zeke arrived soon after; I put his bottle on his bike and began stuffing cookies into his mouth. All the while, the camera is right on Zeke's face.
I tried to motivate Zeke to go, go, go because I had bridged the gap back up to Team Cox. However, at this point I think his knee was hurting him and so he took a breather. Meanwhile, Team Cox was pulling away. Doh!
Finally we were on our way, but Zeke's pace had slowed tremendously. I tried to encourage him, but he was not in the mood. So I settled on his wheel and let him set the pace. We made our way up to the steep, steep quad trail that eventually became a hike-a-bike up the debris torrent.
The Swiss team caught up to us here and seemed to put a little fire into Zeke's legs as he was not about to let them pass us. The hike-a-bike lasted about 300m and the trail off to the right into the woods was easily spotted (unlike last year, when so many of us hiked an extra 300-700m).
This 5-7km of singletrack was so much more rideable this year ... and fun! I cleaned most of the super steep seven switchback descent. Only when I was so far back on the bike that my butt became the rear brake did I get off and hike/slide down to an area where I could remount.
At one point where the trail became easier, I waited on Zeke for a bit. He was not having such a great day as those descents really messed with his knee. He told me to go on and just wait before the next checkpoint.
I rode alone until I caught the leading women's team, Team Nipika. I followed their wheel to Checkpoint 2. Zeke came rolling along shortly thereafter. After refueling, then came another grueling climb up to the Bear Creek singletrack.
I was determined to stay with Zeke on this climb, but he would have none of it. He shoo'd me away like a stray dog. I know his intentions were good; he wanted me to have fun and he definitely was not. So I relented and motored on alone.
This 11km section of singletrack I would say had to be the funnest of the whole week. Last year, it was pretty miserably muddy ... and slow. But today, it was so dry, it almost did not look like the same trail. After a short technical climb, I rode some flowy trail through a beautiful meadow. I got to witness the 2nd place TR3 woman do a face plant. I stopped to help, but she was o.k.; more embarassed than anything.
I waited for Zeke again on a flat section of trail and watched the 2nd, 4th and 5th place team go by. I shouted words of encouragement, but deep down I whispered, "You had better ride like the wind, for I am the cheetah and YOU are the gazelles!"
After a few more minutes Zeke came along and I could tell from the expression on his face that he was a hurtin' pup. I asked him to eat and drink which he did. He told me that anytime off the bike or mashing the pedals only aggravated his knee; it did not bother him so much while he pedaled at a higher cadence/easy pace.
He told me to go ahead and that he would see me at the finish. At this point, I knew I would wait for him at the third checkpoint, but I did not say this to him. Right now my focus was on catching the leaders in this last bit of singletrack.
I attacked the mountain, put my skills to the ultimate test, and had an unbelievable ride. Last year I probably only cleaned 60%; this year was an easy 95%. I slowly picked off the Swiss, blowing by them on a descent that they were walking. Next came Team Cox, also walking a descent. The Bike Doctors let me pass them on a techy, rooty section. Then I came upon Team Derailleur Noir, from Vancouver. I rode in their wake for a couple km; poor David, age 63, must have crashed 6 times. But he would just pop right back up and remount quickly. I cannot believe that he did not hurt himself. They eventually let me on by.
I rolled out of the singletrack in good spirits and asked the course marshall if I could refuel and wait on my partner without getting a time penalty. He said that was fine. In that singletrack, I had gained 3 minutes on Team Derailleur Noir, 5 minutes on Team Cox, 7 minutes on the Bike Doctors, 10 minutes on the Swiss, and 15 minutes on Team Nipika.
The crew at this checkpoint were from Brazil and they knew how to PARTY! Dressed in crazy attire, with tunes blaring from their pick-up, they cheered everyone on. I enjoyed hanging out with them, drinking Coke and eating watermelon, peaches, and bananas.
After 50 minutes Zeke rolled on in. I was still in good spirits, but the legs were a bit cold and stiff. After a couple more minutes, we began the 13 km rolling descent into Nipika and my legs quickly came back to me. Zeke seemed to do pretty well here, although anytime the road pitched up, I could tell he was hurting.
We rolled across the finish line together in 5th place, now 57 minutes behind 1st and 33 minutes behind 4th. My body was still feeling great. I still was hopeful that we could challenge for 4th or podium on an individual stage. After all, we still had 5 days of racing and shit could still happen ... hopefully just not to us. We already had our fare share!
Just praying that Zeke's knee would hold up and perhaps would miraculously improve.
Dinner tonight was lasagna, green salad, couscous salad, pasta salad, and bread. Mmm Mmm good!