This past weekend we loaded up and rolled down to the ATL. We managed to arrive at a decent time for a change, around 9:30. After checking in we hit the pool/hot tub and hung out until midnight or so. Saturday morning came a bit early but the LaQuinta continental breakfast bar waffles made it bearable, somewhat. Why do these restaurants call these type breakfasts continental? I've never understood this. They did have the largest selction of breakfast items to choose from so far at all the places we've stayed at this year. Strawberry yogurt only is not a choice it's a punishment!
Anywho after breakfast we are in the van for the super-quick drive over to the Georgia Horse Park where Georgia Tech hosts their collegiate race. First up is the ITT. No one I know of that's a semi-serious mountain biker gives a rat's rear end for TT's, these are roadie events. (Although one could contest that a DH or DS event is the same) No! --- try doing a road race TT on a 40 lb bike.... see what I mean? All this said we rolled up at 10am... oh yea sleepin' in! Everyone suits up for an XC pre-ride. I wanted to get a real good warm up before my short track race at 12:30. We ride all over the XC course for about an hour and a half and I'm feeling real good. Schyler takes a wrong turn on the warm-up ride and gets semi-lost causing him to be a tad late for his STX heat so watches from the sidelines while Matt handles 30 minutes of short track bliss by himself. At this race we have two Georgia USAC refs that decide not to pull anyone and never mind telling the racers ANY info before they start them (in A's), good job guys. Up next, my class. I line up just staring at the ref waiting for any instructions..... any at all.....still not any...... still waiting...... yep still waiting................hey Mr. Ref aren't ya forgetting something? So.... I start asking questions that will force him to provide information to the racers on the line. Ya know like; how many minutes? extra laps? Are you pulling anyone? any special instructions? I could clearly tell they were a bit intimidated by MTB racing and probably had not ref'd many, if any, of these. Yes, I'm being a tad critical but it makes them look bad not knowing what they are doing and anyone could clearly see they were struggling. He starts my group (B's) and we're off. I lay back just a tad because there's a nasty funnel into the single track after the field sprint. Good thing I did because I passed three when they tried to run up one anothers rear wheels entering here. At the next technical feature (a dip and a climb) I passed several more and was setting nicely up near the front out of 12 or so. I held on and kept watching my timer on the bike. I wasn't hurting as bad as normal and wasn't falling off the pace like I normally do so I was pleased with my training as I neared the end. I did start to struggle with 2 laps to go and when I did big tall James from our team reeled me in like a 3hr fight with a sword fish on a charter. On the last lap he attacked me on the climb and then finished me with 1/4 lap to go. Still, I was very pleased with my result and felt like I had left everything on the track when done. I can't say when the last time I felt like that was. I also managed to make one of my goals for this season; not to be lapped by the leader and stay in for the complete time in short track (STX). This was a double win for me!
Next was dual slalom. I had legal issues with the course but wasn't racing so I kept my mouth shut. I know, you can't believe that huh? Well, I did! The course was totally illegal in that there was only one gate down the middle of the track, instead of doubles, just to keep each rider on their side of the course. College kids hosting a race should do a better job of knowing the course rules and layouts and the ref's should TOO because they let the competition continue.
Our riders, Shana, Matt, Schyler, James and Derek kicked butt and did a good job. Another student and I volunteered to help hold the riders at the start because there wasn't any form of a starting gate. Riders jumped the start, in which I pointed out to the GT promoter starting them, but nothing was done. After the third or fourth time I pointed this out to which he glared at me and said "that's just how it is". No sir! That's not how we do things! It may be how you do it but not I. After the first round of brackets the refs kept sending the fastest qualifiers in two classes down solo with a bye..... What in the world is going on??? After the second round I had to say something because they were making a mockery out of DS with the lack of knowledge and carelessness running this race. I better put on a muffler here because I can't say anything good so............. I will say that DS ended with several riders being disenfranchised and a few riders not getting a fair shake. It pays to know what you're doing. Once again our SECCC conference director did not attend, this was his 3 consecutive race being MIA, I hope everything is ok but he hasn't communicated any problems to any of the Presidents or coaches that I know of so I don't know what to think. It's around 7pm now after over 4 hours of confusion DS finally ended and everyone wandered/staggered back to their team vehicles and headed out for some much needed food. People were exhausted!
Sunday was a different story. Things started on time, the officials gave one or two instructions on the line and everyone was off. This year GT added the dreaded Georgia granite that was across the street where they hold the ITT. It's like a mini Georgia Stone Mtn Park just up the road a bit. It's rough, very bumpy, steep, non-forgiving, grips your rear tire like velcro and will beat you to death before you can get back to the other side so you can rip the pine single track to pieces. Just before the first lap ended I was feeling really bad. My lungs were struggling to get oxygen into me for some reason and I started to worry. Anything above a 140 heart rate and I was huffing and puffing like I had ran a 400yd dash. I let everyone pass me and just rode easy until the finish, I didn't care. Later I was told that allergies were giving lots of people grief but I'm not sure if I buy that or not. Nevertheless I had a very bad day in XC but one of my best ever since I've been traing in STX on Saturday.
This coming weekend we travel to Brevard for the last collegiate race for ETSU. Yes, there's one more SECCC race left in Gainesville, FL but everyone has qualified so the team agrees that we shouldn't waste our resources on such a long trip. I think I hear Pisgah calling?