(Al) Hemme and I rolled into the John Muir trailhead to tackle the WEMS 6 hour duo with plenty of time to warm up. We got a spot in the shade, got-in a decent warmup, then found Julie P., Ben and Molly in the lot. Ben was gonna ride with us while we raced while Julie P. took Molly for a hike. We ran into Gerred coming off a lap at the start line and he said conditions pretty sloppy but improving, but still a lot of slick spots. Mike was going to start for us to set the pace. The officials told us that the best lap time thus-far was about 1:04, so we had an idea of what to expect.
Lap 1 (Mike) WEMS races begin with a LeMans start, I got a good jump and made it to the bike first, but got hung up a bit trying to get around the bikes in front of me so I ended up starting 4th wheel. Maciej on team Polska took the lead and I set out to try and grab his wheel. The other three solo riders in front of me were pretty intent on blocking so when I finally got around I set out on the chase. The first half of the trail was real slick in the turns so it was a ton of accelerations out of corners. which I was figuring was at least a good workout for cross. Things dried up on the second half so I just kept a steady pace and tried to catch Maciej. I ended up a little short at 59 min, but put us in the lead for the 6 Hour Duo class.
Lap 2 (Al) Ben and I took off, and got a good run into the woods. The course was slick in spots, but still fast. It took us on a combination lap of the Blue loop connecting with the new Orange climb and back to the Blue loop a very interesting layout and not without challenge. The new Orange section is a very technical, rocky, rooty, twisty constant climb that offers little reward other than making it through without crashing. I made a couple of root/rock bobbles, but kept it up. I was passing politely, but not being passed for most of the lap, till a couple guys caught and passed me just before the last climb out of the blue. I stepped-it-up and hung with them as well as I could, but they are clearly a bit faster. Came in for the handoff to Mike at a 1:05-- nowhere near Mikes pace, but still pretty fast. Turns out the guys that passed me were rider 2 of the guys we had to beat, being led by his riding buddy. I soon figured out that the other team was turning laps in the 1:00-1:02 range, so w/Hemme at :59 and me at 1:05, we have our work cut out for us.
Lap 3 (Mike) I started a few minutes behind the 3 hour which meant I was going to be hanging out in a lot of traffic. The 6 hour lead rider went down in a corner while trying to squeeze between two 3 hour riders so I made the pass and set out to try and pick up some time. Trails were in much better shape and I was riding a lot smoother, but there was so much traffic out there it was hard to keep a rhythm. As soon as I started making up time I was slamming on the brakes so I wasn't able to get too much time on the rider behind me. Despite the traffic, the trail conditions were a lot faster so I had a good lap time, but not much of a cushion on 2nd.
Lap 4 (Al) I bust out again to see if I can improve. Before I left, I see my competitor and his buddy and I realize that when they passed me on lap one, the unregistered buddy was leading, so I look over at them both and say, "No pacing guys, OK?" and take off. The conditions continue to improve, and I feel quicker, but I feel the pain on the climbs too. So I am pushing along as fast as I got it with another 3hr guy that is really quick, till he drops his chain, then I pass till he fights back only to drop his chain again. We go into the Orange loop together and I hear two more guys catching up to us and as I look back, I see the riding buddy leading my competitor again - nice. I try to put me head down and stay ahead, but the guy has more leg on me in the climbs and passes while his buddy sits behind me. I stay with him pretty well coming down out of the Orange till I drop my chain on a downshift on a climb and lose about 10-12 seconds getting it going again, and I lose sight of them. I pushed as hard as I could, but felt bad that the hard work was going back to Mike to try and regain the lead, as I knew we could only get one more lap in.
Lap 5 (Mike) Final lap and I had about a minute and a half to close so I went out fast. About the time I hit the orange climb I realized I was pretty worked over. I kept trying to close gaps, but unfortunately it was never the lead rider. The course was perfect, and even though I was tired I rode a lot smoother so I brought the lap time down to 58. I took 30 second out of the lead group, but they still had us by a minute.
(Mike) 6 hours later losing by a minute stings a little, and I kept wondering where in the laps I could have picked up some more time. There were some opportunities, and mostly in these endurance races it seems to be a mental challenge to push a little harder when no other riders are around, but in the end Al and I both put in really strong laps. It was a lot of fun to keep it close and made us push a little harder every lap. The event itself was a blast, and a great Saturday.
(Al) I was a bit disappointed, but considering this was my first ride on the Titus all year, there were 8 teams in the duo, the payout for 2nd was some cash back, we had a great time with our friends and team mates, and I just found out my Garmin (lost on my first lap) was found... not to mention we had FUN. I guess Ill take it!
!http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4032/4719595593_d121e580d7_m.jpg! (photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19091172@N02/sets/72157624197526297/">Amy Dykema</a>)
-Al Thom & Mike Hemme