First, spoiler alert. I won the XC series for Clydesdale.
Now, on to the races.
Sister's StampedeFirst, the Sister's Stampede. As usual, it was over the same weekend as Simone's birthday. She and Simone gratefully helped me get to the race. It was HUGE - the promoters had to turn away around 150 people, but I had pre-registered and got in no problem (though I did miss out on the complementary socks).
I warmed up for a nice, solid, 30 minutes, weaving my way through the beginners as they started 30 minutes before the rest of the riders. I lined up with some 20 other Clydesdales, which was pretty amazing. I'd never raced with such a large group before - it was pretty exciting.
So, the gun went off, and the pros took off, then the Cat 1 guys, then the women, ... and various other groups until us big guys lined up. They said, "go" and we went. I was about a third of the way back in the pack and figured I should head up to the front. I worked hard and by about a mile and a half I was with two other guys in the front. I wasn't quite topped out, but pretty close. We had put a little distance between ourselves and the rest of the pack, so I felt content to hang with them knowing we were the top 3.
At about mile 3, we started catching up to the stragglers from the wave in front of us (Cat 2 old guys), passing them pretty easily. There's a straight away road section at 3.5, and we settled into a pace line, passing guys right and left. The guy in front took off, and I was in third and didn't immediately jump after him - I guess I was waiting for number two to do so, dumb of me. I didn't have much left anyway, so I don't know if I could have kept up with him, but I still felt like a dork missing my chance to stay with him. After about a minute I decided I shouldn't let the guy get too much of a lead, so I took off, and number two fell in line behind me. We were passing people quickly, but then number two (now number three) passed one guy too closely and clipped the guy's front wheel - instantly taking him out. I looked back to see if the guy was OK - he was swearing enough to confirm he was pissed and not hurt. I didn't (still don't) know the etiquette of what to do when that happens, but it wasn't me that caused the crash so I kept on keeping on.
I put a little distance between me and number two as the road continued to climb. At one point I thought I might be passing number one (it was a guy with crazy hair), but it turns out I was mistaken and number one was long gone. Number two eventually caught up with me - I couldn't put too much distance between us, because he caught me when we got slowed down by a group of Cat 2 guys.
So, we chatted a little, as we waited for opportunities to pass the choke points - we agreed to work together to catch number one. There was a lot of singletrack with small rock gardens sprinkled around. Every time we got to a rock garden things would back up quite a bit. It's like an accordion - the first guy slows down a little bit because of the rocks, the person behind him slows down even more, eventually someone is forced to come to a stop and then it's all over, everyone gets pissed off and folks start yelling.
At one point, when the yelling got real loud I snapped and went around the rock garden, with number two right behind me. It worked out - I was able to find a clear path around the rocks and made it through before the first guy left the garden. And we were off!
Number two and I chatted a bit, and then the trail started heading downhill. I tried to go real fast, but number two wasn't going anywhere. He asked if I minded letting him in front, and as he went by he said, "just hang onto my rear wheel!" - and then he disappeared.
Seriously, I don't know how to descend well enough - especially in the Bend/Sister's terrain. There was little to no chance of me keeping up with him. I caught up with him and passed him on the next climb, but he was in front again as soon as we turned down. The climbing was over for the most part by mile 14, and that's pretty much the last time I saw number two. oh well.
The rest of the race was fairly uneventful (plus it's been 6 months, so I don't recall much). I felt good, the descents felt better than they did the year prior. I rode most everything cleanly, passing fewer and fewer people as the day went on, and only two or maybe three guys passed me - all pretty small - so no worries about losing positions.
Long story short, I rode pretty hard. I left a little in reserve as I approached the end of the forest. I didn't want any Clyde passing me in the last 100 feet like the year before. I punched it pretty hard on the last little bit. I rode into the finish area, feeling confident about my position.
Turns out I got fourth. No idea where the first place Clydesdale came from, somehow he came in front of the two guys I was racing with. None of us recalled a Clyde passing us. We all lodged complaints (independently), but no change was made. I didn't really care - the difference between 3rd and 4th for me wasn't important (1st and 2nd - that's a different matter). The guy's story is that he actually started behind us with the Cat 2 women - only thing is, there are no pictures of the guy on the photo pages.
It was my second time racing that race, and I improved by four minutes and 6 places - boo-yah!