Sunday, June 24, 2007

On Planning, Pain and Perseverance at Ponca...

Magic Carpet Ride -- my Salsa El Mariachi -- I love this bike.

Back in the saddle -- I returned to racing action this weekend, after a month without competing. Ponca State Park and the Psycowpath 4-hour Enduro/Marathon event was the venue. Photo: MG

... and this was the outcome -- Third-place in the Solo category, behind 18-year old phenom Aaron Grady and stalwart singletrack speedster, Cam Kirkpatrick. My goal for the race was to finish on the podium, and in that respect, I accomplished my goal 100-percent. Photo: MG

Ridin' and Smilin' -- Like every race I do these days, my #1 goal is to have fun, but after my disappointment in Missouri last week, I was out to prove (to myself mainly) that I was capable of putting together a clean race, where I was strong wire-to-wire. No flash in the pan, fast on the first lap, finished by the third lap racing for me -- I was there to go the distance. I knew I may not have the ultimate horsepower of some of the other power players of the season (namely Aaron, Cam and Kevin Limpach), but I knew that consistency can count for a lot in the longer races. And at just over 4-hours in length, Ponca just qualifies as a 'longer' race in my book. Photo: DK, on CVO's camera.

The expected battle between Cam and Aaron materialized almost immediately. After going into the singletrack in second place (to Cam) off the start, I quickly was passed by a torrent of riders eager to move to the front. Aaron bridged up to Cam almost immediately, and Kevin, Jay Chesterman and a couple other guys went around too. I wasn't maxed, but with four hours to go, I didn't think it was in my best interest to run 'er into the red zone too far. Photo: DK, on CVO's camera.

At this point, I'll just cut to the chase -- Aaron Grady showed uncommon speed, skill, patience and resilience as he withstood attack after attack from Cam. He won by a solid TEN MINUTES.

As Aaron told it post-race, when Cam couldn't attack anymore, he simply went around and rode away. Cam tried valiantly to hang on, but on this day he'd have to be content knowing he did everything he could. But there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Grady.

It had to be incredible to see as a spectator.

My mental race plan was to finish the first lap in or near fifth place, so as the first-lap fireworks erupted, I instead focused on finding my own groove for the day. It was a task made easier by the merry, mellow music of Widespread Panic pumping through my MP3 player. And just 20 minutes into what was to be a 4-plus hour race, as I approached the finish of the first of eleven laps, I caught and passed the first two victims of the fast start pace. I was now in fifth place, exactly where I wanted to be.

Keeping it pinned -- I ran my Salsa El Mariachi 1x9 for Ponca, with a 34t on the front and a 12-34 nine-speed cassette on the rear. This hateful, steep little climb was one of three spots on each lap where I was reminded that I should have run a granny. But in hindsight, perhaps that wasn't so bad. Not having ultra low gears forced me to simply attack those steep sections. There was no room for soft pedaling. Photo: DK, on CVO's camera.

Even on the fastest downhills, I had plenty of gearing with my 34/12 big gear. I didn't spin out a single time, but I did run in the 12t cog on a couple fast sections of the course. Ponca's got an awesome mix of ups and downs that is super entertaining. Jay Chesterman did a great job of maximizing the best of Ponca's singletrack with his innovative course layout. Great work Jay (and nice riding in the race too)! Photo: DK, on CVO's camera.

Dos Amigos -- Post race, in camp, with coffee. Oh, purdy good... We had a phenomenal campsite after the race, and a super fun group of people too. I shotgunned my first beer since college days, and remembered why -- nothing gets your buzz on faster than a shotgun (a kegstand works nicely too -- not that I'd know or anything...). And that was the start of a night, the stories of which I'll have to tell later. I've gotta' go to bed. I'm exhausted... But it's a good exhausted.

I hope it was a great weekend for you too.



Bruce Brown said...

Congrats on your podium and "in the money" finish, Matt!

3p0 said...

congrats on an awsome race dude, you looked strong all day.. even at the end you looked like you had some left... way to go buddy.

it was nice gettin to see you out on the course when you were in eye sight at some cross sections.. you could tell you were having a good day.. if I'm not mistaken you were singing on your last lap.. I swore I heard you behind me....

congrats again..
see ya tuesday if not sooner

MOD said...

Nice race man.

MG said...

thanks guys... i was happy things worked out the way they did.

mod and bruce - missed both of you up there. the weather and the course ended up being just about perfect. i love the flow that course has and the traction was as good or better than it's ever been up there.

cvo - you put in a great ride, my friend. thanks for the encouragement out on the course. you were looking smooth out there every time i saw you, and finishing with ten laps was super impressive.

it was fun getting to camp too... we had an awesome group and the campfire was first-rate courtesy of syd's boys.

Butcher said...

Great job MG. We missed you at the BallyHoozle but it looks like you made a wise choice and raced this weekend.

Thanks for flying the Salsa colors and attitude!

Rasmussen Bike Shop said...

Great race bro, it's great to see you cats from Lincoln ridin' so well! You and CVO got me thinkin' that beer might make me faster.

See ya at Manawa,


debaser said...

If you don't have a smile after racing, its not worth it, regardless of first or last. I'm glad to see you're digging it this season, and you're fast to boot.

Ponca was always a blast. Did you visit S.H.Longs memorial on the way up?

MG said...

lol... sadly we didn't make it to memorialize the s.h. longs, bryan.

jason, thank you for the kind words, and for the opportunity to make fun my number one priority in my racing. i still pinch myself when i walk into my bike room and see my stable of beautiful green bikes too. thanks again, my friend.

you'd have been stoked at how many salsas were out there saturday too. i counted five other salsa riders, in addition to myself. emily and stephanie both rocked their salsas to podium finishes, third in the women's 4-hour solo class for em on her dos niner, and the beginner (2-hour) class victory for steph on her blue el mariachi. i'm pretty sure it was steph's first race ever... incredible!

and cam... you were awesome out there saturday. you fought valiantly 'til the end, and even after your body was spent, you kept a cool head and finished a strong second. every dog has his day, and it just happens that last saturday was a to-date defining performance from mr. aaron grady.

we're going to hear more about that kid, i strongly suspect, and it's not just because he's going to be winning races in nebraska. he's cut out for way greater things in the sport if he chooses to accept the challenge.

and i hope he does. he deserves the opportunity to see how good he can be.