As a racer, I think it is inevitable to dream about riding up front, but at the same time be honest about your capabilities. Well, Saturday was a reality check for me. Giving up 'training' rides for family and work, 2 operations on hip this spring, recently being diagnosed with the Epstein Barr Virus and having just dabbled in racing since my 'retirement' all stacked up against me on the weekend. Still I thought it were possible to be top 20 maybe top 15...
Should have known in the neutral start already things would not go according to plan, but still I hoovered around the 10 spot when we hit the first climb. And when we did hit the climb, I went backwards like a brick sinking in water, in fact I think the whole field went by me. There was absolutely nothing in my legs and nothing I could about it. My only comfort was that as the climb got steeper, I was already going slow, and the others slowed down and then I was able to match pace and even pick up a spot or two.
The first half of the course was pretty much all road, up and then back down to the Eibsee. The foot path around the Eibsee riddled with pedestrians made for interesting racing circumstances, when drafting others you had to hope that around the next bend there wasn't a grandma, kid or dog in your path... After the lake cam a somewhat fun double track, that showed the advantages of a 29er, rough and undulating the big wheels rolled nicely and made the ensuing descent pretty alright too.
Another slog gaining vertical meters found more riders pulling me in and passing me as a labored with my virtual lead weight tied to my seatpost. But again my pain was rewarded on the back side with the gratuitous some what technical section + singletrack (sometimes I think that the German promoters but these sections in just so they can toss the word singletrack into the race description although the course lack any kind of technical ability or real trails). Once again this section played towards my bike abilities hand and the lack of riding skills in those around me and I was actaully able to gain some time on people.
Seriously, I was ready to call it a day after 1 of 2 laps, I thought "what was the purpose of suffering another lap that will more than likely be worse than the first?" But quitting is not in my nature, so I pressed on. By now I had settled into a groove and had a few riders around me riding the same tempo. on some sections they would roll ahead, on others I would pull back by. It wasn't until the last climb that some real racing happened. A larger group was pulling me back in and I knew if I could just make it over the top either in front or near the front of the group, I had a shot at beating them back to the line with the 'technical' & 'singletrack' between us and the finish.
Making it over the top in 2nd, I held on until we hit the techy section and sure enough the first guy bobbled. I lept past him, but still had the groiup on my heels. Not too long after we caught another rider going much slower than us, but it was really muddy back in the woods and with no passing options, we sat in. Then with a small glimpse of daylight to one side, I popped past the slow rider and punched it (well as good as I could with my rubberband legs). There was a super slick slick descent and then about 1.5k back to the finish. My cagey move scored me the distance I needed on the group to bring it home. I guess this old dog can still teach others a trick or two.
I was beat and exhausted back in the finish, 17th in age group, 34th overall. Not a result I can live with, but a reality given where I am at. It will take some time for me to get back into riding and racing at a level I can be content. While I have no ambitions to make a fulltime return to racing it would just be nice to gain a glimpse of my old glory.