Last weekend’s race at La Crosse had some changes from the previous years. Some of the trail had been destroyed due to heavy rain eliminating the long, fast downhill in the Cat 1 and 2 race. This worked out well for the Cat 1 race since it began raining at about 1:00.
The morning of race day began as usual. We watched the Junior and Citizen race begin. By the time the Sport race began, I could see that the sky was not as promising as I had hoped. During the Sport race, I watched several parts of the course to see how they flowed with racers close to each other.
At about 12:40, I began my warm-up. As I was riding around, I was watching the sky. It looked like rain to the west. Part of the way through my warm-up, I ran into the Paterson brothers and rode with them for a bit. At about 1:00, it began to sprinkle. I lightly rode back to the vendor area so I could go to a shelter if it began to rain harder. By about 1:10, it was pouring. The temperature had dropped about 5 degrees, and I was wet.
At about 1:20, all the riders rode out from under the shelter and down to the race start. I had my grandpa clean my glasses so I could see and did my best to stay warm. When the Cat 1 Men were called up, the Cat 1 Junior Men forgot to stay back because we were so eager to get out on the course. I rode over to the right side of the start chute so I would be on the inside of the first corner.
Right when we started, I sprinted up the right side and secured a good position. The first corner was packed and there were almost several crashes. The next straight section was very bumpy, so I did my best to hold my position in these slippery conditions. After a short climb, we jumped on a more worn and hard packed trail. The problem with hard packed wet dirt containing clay is it is almost as slippery as ice. Pretty quickly a rider went down, and I barely managed to avoid crashing. The rain made the first steep climb interesting since it was so slippery. I made it up the hill and gained several positions. The next section of double track was the last good passing spot before the first section of single track. I made several passes and jumped into the first section of single track in a good position.
The single track was very difficult because it was wet and slick. Everyone was sliding and doing their best to stay on the course. I made it through without any crashes. The second section of single track had a different challenge since it was more protected and dry in spots. It had a lot of roots. This section was the driest part of the course. The trail for the remainder of the lap was slick and wet. I had to unclip several times and run my bike at least once.
By the time I had completed the first lap, the rain had pretty much stopped. What I did not know going into the second lap was that the course was even more slick since it was a bit torn up. There were even more spots I needed to run my bike since I could not get enough traction on the back tire. I made it through the lap safely.
The last lap was definitely the most interesting since one of my competitors had caught up to me. Most of the trail had started to dry out so it seemed faster. Towards the end of the lap, I could tell it was going to be a sprint to the finish. In the last section of single track, I rode at a lighter pace to let my legs rest. Right when we burst into the last section of double track, we began to sprint. My competitor passed me on the first hill. Since I had about a ½ mile left, I drafted and waited. About 500 feet before the finish, I passed him back. I remained at a sprinting pace. On the final corner, I chose the inside line. My competitor took it a little tighter and almost passed me. We finished only about 3 feet apart. We were all grateful that we and our bikes had survived the muddy race.