Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #4 - Alafia

Eric G here with race report for FSC #4! (It's a LONG ONE)

After a trip to Gainesville last weekend, the busy 2012 FSC Series continued this week in Alafia River State Park (east of Tampa, FL) Good thing about back to back race weekends is that there's not a lot of time to dwell on the bad stuff. After a tough race in Gainesville, we were looking forward to moving on and Alafia couldn't get here fast enough!.

Twinloc would be handy today

Alex and I would make the trip this time, (with our WONDERFUL WIVES joining us to assist!!). This weekend was straightforward with only the XC races on Sunday so we arrived early on Saturday morning. The Alafia race has usually landed on an unbearably hot weekend, this time would be no different. While rains were usually looming in the distance, the sun was in full effect until just minutes before any passing showers. In the recent past, the Alafia FSC event has consisted of longer than normal 10-11 mile, usually technical and GRUELING loops for the racers. For reasons that I'm not aware of, race promoter Gone Riding mercifully shortened up the laps, and while they were still tough and technical, it allowed racers to pass their pit area for a refresher bottle or energy snack every 30-40 minutes or so. Additionally, the beginning "North Loop" would be cutout from the first lap, thankfully as it it often a source of tremendous bottlenecks that unfairly can ruin a racers day in the first few minutes. The start would instead consist of a half mile fireroad start before hitting the first trail, which ultimately seemed to spread out the racers on the effort alone. We took some time to setup our pit area and after a few recon laps and some lunch, we were happy with the bikes (remember only three weeks into life riding 29ers, Scott Spark FTW) we packed up early for once, beating out the rains and heading back to our hotel for a bit of poolside relaxing.

Last minute pressure check
Race day came and I had the jitters for some reason. I wasn't particularly concerned about anything, just excited for this race. Don't know if it was the long, fast start or relentless nature of the course, but the race time couldn't arrive fast enough! Start time was 11:30, and while this was announced from the beginning of the season, I'm still not used to starting late, so that could have been part of it. To top it all off, the early wave ran a little longer than usual, so our start would be delayed by 15 minutes!

Race time FINALLY arrived and we were ready to go. My XC3 30+ class was as small as I'd remember with only 21 riders at the start. I set the Twinloc on the Spark to full lock and was ready for the whistle. The next 2 minutes were the most perfect start I think I've ever had. I pushed off at the whistle and at first attempt I clipped my second foot in. It was so fast I even hesitated for a second to double check. Feeling it was in I absolutely hammered the start. My first holeshot in AGES!! Shooting to the first corner and continuing to pull the group down the fireroad. Reality set in right about here and I knew I had to back off. It was fun while it lasted and I let a handful of faster riders by just as we entered the first trail. I stuck their wheel for a bit and then had to settle into my own pace. Eventually I'd settle in and be alone for most of the first and half of the second lap.

Alex on down a North Loop drop
Alex would start in the XC3 40+ class which was as big as ever with 32 racers. He set off with a decent mid pack start and was in the low teens entering the first trail. He stayed in a close 9 man train that came through the first lap all within 1 minute of each other. On the second lap he would have a fight on his hands after getting caught up with no room to pass behind a slower rider in a tight trail for a few minutes. When he managed to get around he'd lost sight of the tight group and chased furiously to catch back on. At the end he managed to get them within view but not close enough to gain any positions at the end. In the final trail he did pull away from a chaser so it didn't come down to a sprint. Crossed the line 16th on the day.

Eric winning the sprint for position
With about half of the lap to go, my racing buddy Kirk Ivy caught me. When this happens with Kirk it's usually lights out for me, or some kind of crazy finish. What ensued then was a 20 minute cat and mouse game through the rest of the race. He passed me and I managed to hang on. He got hung up and I got by and tried to get away, and he'd catch up. Back and forth a few more times and he was in front. I tried a late inside move on a tricky corner that he covered well. I knew it would then come to the final flat section to the finish. We exited the final trail to a flat left hander and both absolutely crushed the pedals. I either timed my jump perfectly or this Twinloc is amazing, but I snapped to a quick gap and knew that I just needed to hang on to the finish tape area as it would be hard for him to pass once in there. The 1/4 mile dash was as hard as I've ridden in a race in quite some time with my heart maxing at 201!!. I managed to hold him off at the final turn and crossed the finish line in 15th. Could be better overall, but it was the best result of the season so far, and an amazing way to finish. (And a fun story to describe!)

McCarty chasing the leaders
The Pro race was another exciting show. Series co-Leader Ryan Woodall would not be in attendance so Bob McCarty had a prime opportunity for another win. At the start whistle Bob the POPPED his chain before the first corner. As the rest of the pro's sped away, he calmly repaired his chain on the trail side within 2 minutes and was off and rolling again in chase of the leaders. At the start of lap 2 Shawn Smith was in the lead followed closely by Alex Zambrana. Soon after, I'd see Smith walking back,  ALSO with a broken chain, this one he could not repair though. McCarty would still have a 2 minute gap but was continuing to chase. Fast forward to the last lap and Zambrana was still in the lead. After finishing the North Loop he still had a narrow 20 second lead on McCarty. Bob was on a mission however and would pass Zambrana and take the win by just over a minute. Brent Hall would ride a steady race and round out the podium for 3rd.

We came out of this race feeling a little better. Still have plenty to work on, but results keep improving. No mechanicals, no crashes. Just racing. Next up is a La Rooota Series race then a break until our home race at Markham Park for FSC #6! Short of Eric N's incoming child being born on that day, the full team will finally be together at a race this year as Julio Rodriguez will be back in action. Hope you enjoyed the read and enjoy some pics from the weekend below. Let us know how your race weekend went in the comment section!!

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