I was in Wisconsin for the weekend having some “fun” in Elkhart Lake but I guess I was having a bit too much fun and got up Sunday a little later than I should have.  We hustled down to Crystal Ridge with no time to spare.  I really hate not getting a warm-up, and here I am 20 minutes before race start and I still have to register and suit-up!  Paul-Brian stops by to say hey, and he is running behind as well.  I pretty-much had time to pedal to the bottom of the ski hill and up to the line.  The 50+/Clydesdale wave is pretty far-back in the field, but I get a good slot behind the call-ups, get the gooooooo! and man I just cruised right up that hill thinking wow, this feels good!

I am in 4th at the top heading into the first turn and it looks like they are all clydes in front.  I zip past two of them before the singletrack, and the two in front aren’t holding me up, so we get caught up to the tail of the last wave halfway through the really dizzying singletrack and start picking them off as best we can…me and number 2 clyde are working the traffic pretty well, we get by a few that were holding us up, clyde lets me by and I drop the hammer in the twisties just until I hook my left pedal on a root, get crossed-up and practically endo into a tree.  I kept it upright, but bashed my left shin into my eggbeater and another shot behind the left knee.  With that, the two I passed, pass me back – but other than that nobody has overtaken me yet.

We emerge from the woods and into the switchback climb up the ski hill.  I re-pass the two and start picking-off some 20-29’s and 40-45’s, etc.  We crest the hill and I put my head down, take a feed, grab the big ring and pedal hard to get by as many as I can on the open section before we head into the back-side singletrack.  I think I got 6 or 7 more, and wasn’t held up too bad in the twisties.

Heading back to the hill, I hear some, ahem…encouragement from Hemme, then a couple “go Half Acre!” yells as we make the dive back down the hill to start lap two.  Another surprisingly good climb up the hill (thanks Coach Bob!) and I am feeling parched, but better than expected.  A superb hand-up from Kristin and some cowbell from Evan and I am charged-up for another lap.  Nobody in front and a couple guys a ways back and I feel I have the class lead under control.

As we plunge into the woods again for the rollercoaster singletrack I am hoping that the road ahead is clear so I can set my pace and some fun at the same time.  I then see Jason carrying his bike – flat tire – Damn! Then my plans for clean singletrack are ruined by two riders that are not racing each other and are at a slower pace – I say “coming through” and get nothing.  Be patient – don’t force it, I tell myself - I try encouragement, like “lets kick it up a notch, guys”…slight improvement. Then we catch 2 more…damn!  So I get a bit louder…”come-on guys, lets pick it up!” – “leaders coming through!”. Still no help…I notice one from the first group is a Master Lock guy, as is one from the second group.  Knowing it’s a Milwaukee company, I say “hey Master Lock Dudes, you should know the trail – LETS GO!”  I now have a couple guys on MY tail and this seems to be taking forever.

Me and a guy behind really start railing on them and finally one pulls-over and lets us through – another cracks from the pressure and trips up, then we get a short, straight, wide break between sections and I get by the other two as I say “thanks for the help” (NOT).  Out of the woods – same drill.  A few passes on the switchback climb that doesn’t feel quite as easy as the first time round – yet better than those around me, crest the hill and pass a few more into the back.  I stay hard on it and pass another 5 or 6 guys on the flats and think - not long now and only one climb to go…as we come out of the woods at the bottom, I pass a couple more but get re-passed by one of those skinny-little-Expo kids who is climbing up the kill like a frickin’ goat! 
I try to hang with him up the hill and we pass two or three more as I start to hear the yells from Kristin, Evan, Adrian, Erica and Helge (thanks guys!).  They push me past one more guy that tries to fight back but I stay on it to beat him across the line.

I am met at the line by Jason and Amber with the cold, wet towels (thanks guys!) and I think I bagged another win.  Not only did I win, but I had over three and a half minutes on the next guy and even with all that traffic out there I ended up 37th overall out of 219 starters – a pretty satisfying race.  I felt bad for Helge and Jason flatting, as we had a good dirtbag showing for HAC, but I am counting on even more for the Palos Meltdown!

 -Al Thom