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Fitzy’s Bike Team News: A.J. Finishes NUE Singlespeed Season in GA Racing with Fools

A.J.’s Race Report from the Fool’s Gold in Georgia, Sept 2013

The Stats:
96 Miles or 102 Miles (depending on whether you believe Garmin Connect or Strava.)
12,500′ of climbing
1st-Place Singlespeed, 3rd Overall
8:19:08 to the finish

The 2013 NUE Series came to a bittersweet ending at the Fool’s Gold 100 in Dahlonega, GA. I was amazed by the riding in north Georgia, and astounded at the lengths people will go to in sabotaging a mountain bike race. What the hell? It’s hard enough to stay upright on a bike in these races, let alone deal with goons taking us miles off-course. Aargh.

My body was slow getting started on the neutral spin away from the Montaluce Winery and the early stages of forest service road, which allowed Gerry Pflug to get a pretty good gap on me by the time we started the Cooper Gap climb.  Thankfully that was when things started flowing and my legs woke up, so I was able to reel in Gerry and Drew Edsall just before the top of the climb and ride with them over to a key turn in the course where the course markings had been sabotaged.  When we saw the arrows pointing right we all said, “Aren’t we supposed to go left here?” but then we saw pink course-marking ribbons continuing down the righthand fork and that was that.

Those guys opened up another gap on me descending the forest service road there; not sure what was going on, but somehow gravity provided them with more downhill momentum than me.  Maybe they’re riding faster-rolling tires?  Maybe my bigger body catches more wind?  Maybe I’m just a big sissy?  (Golf-ball gravel is scary!)  Either way, by the time my Garmin had beeped at me enough to make me seriously question our course direction, they were too far ahead for me to communicate with them.

Trusting a Garmin while riding in the forest is always a little weird; with the tree-cover the satellite signal comes and goes enough that the GPS beeps “Off-Course!” with some frequency.  So it took me a long while to believe that I was actually miles away from the course, and turn back.

A couple of geared riders joined me there and we dicked around trying to decide what to do, ultimately continuing even further down until we reached a fish farm and finally accepted that we were hosed.  (The GPX file shows that we descended about 5 miles and 800′–brutal.)  We picked up a few riders, then more riders, and more riders as we climbed back out of there (including the entire singlespeed field) ultimately accumulating a pack of 30 or 40 lycra-clad, cursing cyclists.

I gapped off the front with a geared rider named Josh Fix (who would take 2nd in the Men’s Open), pulling eachother back up to the course and back into the race.  After that, the rest of the race was awesome, other than running short on water before reaching Erica and my first re-supply at the Bottom-of-Bull.  I rode with a couple of 50-mile singlespeeders for 15 miles or so before pulling away on the first Bull Mountain climb, and they were the last singlespeeders I saw.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur–I kept spinning and spinning and working and working, and the miles went by and it got hot and humid and my body hurt and I loved it.  Michael Danish passed me at the mid-course aide station after leading the race down the wrong turn (riding a couple of miles beyond where I turned back) and raced to the overall win, finishing 13 minutes ahead of me.  Pretty impressive.

When I came through the Bull Mountain aide for the last time Erica told me that Gerry had dropped out of the race once he realized how much time he had lost in the wrong turn with the lead group–that was a bummer.  I felt badly for Gerry and was super disappointed that our opportunity to finish the season head-to-head was gone.  Aargh.

But Erica also told me that Ernesto Marenchin was only 5 or 6 minutes back! Rallying the last 15 miles to maintain my lead was some of the biggest, and most painful, fun I’ve had on a mountain bike in a long time. I’m discovering that I really like riding the margin of control–bobbing, weaving, pumping, pushing, cranking, sweeping, one-wheel drifting, two-wheel drifting, pedal-pedal-pedal, stay off the brakes, push through the corner, float those roots, momentum is your friend, whoa that was close!

Mountain biking is fun!  Enough to forget about the heat and cramping. And then it was a cruel uphill finish on grass to the end of a solid NUE season.  Bittersweet, but good.  I managed to hold my lead over Ernesto and Dwayne Goscinski to take the singlespeed win, but when it comes down to it I had a great race in Georgia and was one chip-timed minute away from competing for the overall series singlespeed win.

That stings a little bit.

It was also frustrating how much the sabotaged course markings altered the outcome of the race–I really wanted to see how Gerry and I would end up competing with each other.  Next year…

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