Ponca’s Revenge, a Three-for-One Race Deal

Pre-ride team photo for Emily’s first ever race. Photo: Matt Gersib

Ok, before you read my post about the Ponca State Championship MTB race, go read Emily’s. It’s amazing. Seriously, did you do that yet? Ok…read on.

While southeastern Nebraska finally got some much-needed rain Thursday night and Friday morning, up in the northeast, they’d only gotten a trace.

“What if it rains while we’re out there,” Rafal asked at the start line.

“Unless it’s bad lightning, or it really becomes impossible to ride, we’re going to keep going,” Roxanne replied.

We started the race on dry and dusty trails, nevermind the looming storm clouds and occasional thunder. So dusty, in fact, that right after the upper road crossing on the first lap, I slid out so bad I nearly lost it in the loose stuff. Fun. fast. And through some bad luck for Anne, I’d put a bit of a gap on her, holding it steady by cranking up the climbs on my 1 x 10.

Crazy rooted descent. Photo: Jeremy Cook
My Colorado weekend definitely had me doing much better on the few technical sections this year. It was especially awesome to come through that section with singletrack superstar Rox watching, saying “nice” with every line I successfully picked, closing with “yep, that’s it!” as I made it to the bottom.
Ok, so dry & dusty, right? Well, then it started raining. Light at first, which felt pretty good, but then it got heavier. After leading through lap 2, and then having a funny slow slog through now crazy greasy sections with Anne on lap 3, she overtook me on the long climb after the feed zone, when my need to stand on top of my gear was thwarted by my completely mud-packed and therefore tractionless tire. I was frustrated to watch her crank by in a granny gear, more frustrated because in cyclocross, I love the mud. But a thick mountain bike tire full of mud, well, that’s totally different. Late in that lap, CX superstar Troy Krause came up to me, and we commiserated that point a bit. This was no muddy cx race. 
Climbing up to the road. Photo: Michael McColgan

As usual, some of the middle of the race is a blur. My bike slid out from under me a few times, but with how soaked and muddy I was, I hardly cared. With the start/finish and feed zone being in separate places on the course, I got thrown off on my lap counting. Emily was all done racing and was great giving me bottles and food, and at road crossings, Megan, Rafal and April gave me updates on my gap to Anne. Their estimates varied from 4 minutes one lap, to closing in on 2 the next, to 10 maybe? I slogged through as the track dried out and the Cat 1s and 2s joined us. I took my fourth-hour pee break. I envied their cleaner bikes and how awesome the trail was getting as I was getting too tired to enjoy it.

Righteous descending. Photo: Michael McColgan

Some parts of the course were rocking fun, and on the last lap, many of them were totally climbable for me once again. I made it cleanly over the steep jump to the road crossing at the top of the bluff for the first time on my last lap. And wow, that was awesome. I knew I was flirting with the cutoff time, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to make it, not wanting to have to decide. I kept watching my clock, wondering how far up Anne was and guessing she’d be going out for another. I really didn’t want to have that happen and have me miss the cutoff, but I just didn’t have it in me to push harder. Gersib came by me, saying that even if he made the cutoff, he was done. That probably sealed it for me, and I eased off the gas for good, cruising into the finish 2 minutes after the cutoff, 4 minutes behind Anne, who’d been hoping I wouldn’t make it and be crazy enough to go out for a 7th lap.

“You’ve got a little something on your face.” All done. Photo: Jeremiah Grell

I finished soaked, pruned hands, tired, and happy. Thanks, as always, to everyone who makes this as special as it is to me. The smile pretty much says it all.

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