|Jeremy Cook catches me leading the field on lap one, before things got muddy... View Jeremy's entire Ponca gallery.|
|On the start line, listening to Roxz give us pre-race instructions as storms loom in the distance. Photo: Jeremy Cook|
The four hour marathon race started at 10am with an approaching thunderstorm booming overhead. Light sprinkles began falling almost immediately after the race start, but rain began in earnest on lap 2 and it got messy pretty quick. Troy Krause made a solid move for the lead on the initial climb during lap 2, just as the skies opened up. Troy is a fantastic 'cross racer, so this was a move I was more than a little afraid of. But we were also less than an hour into the race, so I was careful not to open up the throttle too hard in pursuit, so I waited until the next downhill to catch and pass him back without any extra effort. I think tire selection was a big factor here. The Maxxis Ardent 2.4 I was running on the front was aces in the mud.
|A "before-and-after" comparison. Here I am, clean before the rains came. Photo: Jeremy Cook|
|The "after" shot: Michael McColgan catches me later in the race (about lap eight) ripping a manual wheelie through a slippery root section. Nate Woodman was jumping this entire section!|
Overall, my Giant Anthem X-29 0 was working and handling great in the slippery conditions, but I noticed the vertical uprights in the rear triangle were beginning to collect a lot of mud. This was causing a lot of friction on the rear tire. Initially I thought I could knock the mud out while rolling, but by lap 4, it became clear I was going to need to stop, pull my wheel out and clean it all out, or I wasn't going to be able to continue.
|Troy Krause, by M. McColgan|
This was perhaps the low point of the race for me, as while I was pulling the rear wheel from my frame, Noah Marcus came up and took the lead in the race, quickly climbing up and out of sight as I aggressively scooped at least 5lbs. of mud out of my rear triangle. I could see Troy Krause coming up the switchbacks behind me, so I quickly reinstalled my wheel and got back underway.
|Noah Marcus, 2nd place marathon. Photo: M. McColgan|
It took me perhaps half a lap to catch back up to Noah, as I was at least three gears faster everywhere once I cleared the junk out of my rear triangle. Amazing the difference it made! I was stoked... My mood was immediately improved and better yet, it seemed like the mud wasn't re-collecting as it had initially, so I was hopeful I wouldn't need to stop again (which turned out to be true).
As my fourth lap ended, I heard the gun go off for the Cat 2 men, so I led their charging field into the singletrack. It was kind of fun, except for the fact that I was now on my fifth lap, while they were charging into their first. After about five minutes of leading that craziness, I politely moved aside and let the top seven or eight guys by, until a break in the line allowed me in. Incidentally, I was able to jump in just behind my friend and Cycle Works/Moose's Tooth teammate, Kyle Hansen.
|Mike said "give me your pain face," so I gave him this... Photo: M. McColgan|
Once the pace settled in a bit in the Cat 2s, I started to work up through their field, until I was effectively running 4th in their race. It was good for me, as it helped me maintain a high pace in the middle part of my longer race and gave me some fun head-to-head racing action. At one point about a quarter though my seventh lap (the final lap for the Cat 2s), the actual 4th place Cat 2, Brian Johnson, asked me if I'd help him bridge up to the third place rider in his race. I told him I'd try, but that I felt like he was climbing stronger than I was, so when it came time for him to go around, to let me know.
There was a big, slippery, three-pitched climb on the back side of the course that quite a few riders were walking their bikes up. This gave anyone riding up an immediate and sizable advantage, and it was here that Brian and I successfully bridged to his third place rider, The Bike Way's excellent prospect, Bobby Brown. It was his prerogative to walk the climb, while I led Brian up the left-side ridable line and into third place. As we approached the third and final pitch of the climb, I moved left and waved Brian past to his podium place. I followed him closely and congratulated him on his fine finish, while I continued on for my final three laps, which passed relatively uneventfully.
|Enjoying the primo late-race singletrack... Photo: M. McColgan|
By my tenth and final lap, the course had dried into near perfection and I was able to enjoy a lap soaking in the atmosphere of victory. It's a special day when you get to actually take time to enjoy a victory while still racing. Fortunately, Saturday was one of those days. Getting to that point was not easy, but after four hours of hard, persistent work, I succeeded in winning the state marathon championship against a very talented field.
|The 'hardware' from Ponca... That little gold medal is pretty cool.|
This season is turning out much better than I could have hoped, with three wins to-date on the mountain bike and a sub-14 hour finish at the Dirty Kanza 200 on the gravel. I'd like to thank the folks who have stuck with me with support during this crazy period of my life, including Cycle Works and The Moose's Tooth here in Lincoln, and Rob Versteegh at Oakley. I'd also like to thank everyone involved with the Ponca's Revenge race. It was a fantastic, very well run event, especially given the challenging weather conditions, and I want applaud you all for the awesome effort. Thank you!!
Thanks for reading! I hope to see you out on the trail in the midst of an awesome adventure.