Submitted by Christine Fort
Dave and I arrived at the State Fair late Saturday morning fueled by a giant breakfast (Jersey does diners right) and carrying a sack of groceries for the rest of the day. It was approaching sweltering (not exactly ‘cross weather, of course), but we had jugs of water in the trunk of the car, and there was always the option of cooling off in the bike wash if necessary. I spent the morning and early afternoon walking the fair and watching races and MTB trials, and managed not to overheat.
The course became available for warmup shortly before 5 p.m., so I hopped on my bike to make a couple rounds. It was the same loop, but the terrain was totally different from the day before. Most of the slop had dried up into rutted dirt, but the morning and afternoon races had packed down a hard, fast lane about a foot and a half wide. If I could stick with that line, it would be smooth going; if I bounced over into the ruts while making turns, it was going to become painful. The giant puddle was smaller than it had been the previous day, but it was still there, throwing water on my feet and mud on my drivetrain. I noticed that, after two rounds through the puddle, my front shifting was a bit wonky. After pre-riding, I went to wash the mud off, then re-greased the chain and ran it through the gears. The shifting was somewhat better, but I was pretty sure that, given the course conditions, it would become an issue during the race again. So my working game plan was to jockey for position early on in the big ring as long as I could stand it, then make do after downshifting (not ideal, but it worked for me last year when I had shifting problems at Canton). Later, for the rest of my warmup, I spun out for a bit on the asphalt road behind the fairgrounds, and generally just tried to stay loose and hydrated. As the race was unsanctioned and it was sweltering for most of the day, bottle hand-ups were OK’d for the pit, and I took Dave up on his offer of feeds during my race.
Shortly after the end of the race prior to ours (elite women and elite juniors), the officials re-opened the course for warmups. I decided to save my drivetrain by avoiding the mud section (I’d already pre-ridden it like three times at this point) and sticking to the grass. Meanwhile, the event organizers gave us the news that they were going to combine our race novice/intermediate/45+ women) with the final race of the evening (novice men). Which, of course, meant that my friend Lang and I were having a rematch. The start got delayed about 15 minutes, but finally they staged us and set us off. I had a better start than the day before–I think I was about seventh coming into the hole shot. Eric Davidson passed me right after that, I think, along with another guy. Things were moving a lot faster than they had the day before in the slop.
I really wanted a repeat win, and I really wanted to stay ahead of Lang, so my goal was to race smart and minimize crashes. Yeah, oops. A couple laps in I lost Lang when I took a corner in the spiral too quickly, hitting a rut or something the wrong way and wiping out. I righted myself and hopped back on, but it definitely cost me several seconds. I also had another crash on the course as, at this point, it was getting dark out. The arena was lit, but the lights weren’t yet on over the grass, so we were doing 180s and jumping barriers in the twilight. Even though we were all fatigued, it was lots of fun.
The other awesome thing about the race was the fact that the announcers were narrating both the men’s and women’s leaders… so… I got air time, and so did QuadCycles! The women chasing me were also announced; because the course was so small, I could see Jeni Roosen, in second, pursuing me as I went through turns. I was nervous because the race was basically mine to lose, but I kept telling myself to stay smart and hold it together. When I entered the spiral in the arena for the final time, I tried to get through it as quickly and carefully as possible. Coming around the final corner, I knew I had time to spare, so I coasted across the line with my arms up. Great conclusion to one of my favorite race weekends ever.