I had a decent result at the Tamarancho Dirt Classic this past Sunday, placing 5th out of a very stacked field. The lineup at the start had the usual suspects, including Levi Leipheimer and Mark Weir. The start was fast and furious, and I managed to hold my own, all the way up to the start of the first single track descent.
The first thing I noticed was that my shifting seemed a bit off. I never found that sweet spot on my shifter barrel adjuster. This kept me from concentrating on my handling as well as pacing skills throughout the entire race. I dropped my chain once, but it was enough for me to lose contact with the leaders and probably a couple of places on the podium. Lesson learned. Always check your drivetrain before a race. Everything worked flawlessly during SoNoMas a couple of weekends ago, but I had installed a new derailleur cable, and it must have stretched while I was away.
The real challenge of the course, not counting all of the technical single track, was the Dead Heifer climb, which we had to do three times. It's steep pitch that goes on for half a mile at a 20% grade. Unfortunately due to my faulty shifting, I wasn't able to get into my lowest gear on our last trip up the Heifer, but I managed to grunt my way up to the top in my second to lowest gear. Sadly, I saw my competition slowly get away, knowing I could have overtaken them and gained a bit of time if I had the proper gear.
The other tricky part of the course was the newly minted Flow Trail, a downhill single track section that's virtually a pump track pointed downwards. I had a lot of rolling doubles and big berms, but I hadn't ridden it before, causing me to lose even more time. At one point I was carrying too much speed and did this pseudo nose-wheelie-skid off a jump and almost off the course. It was a lot of fun, but definitely not my strong suit.
There wasn't nearly as much climbing as I would have liked, but I found my opportunities to gain time. I'm definitely getting better at descending, especially when the terrain gets loose. I didn't concede too many positions during the race, but my legs were paying the price towards the end. I could feel the twinges of cramps settling into my quads.
As soon as I finished the race I waited around, chatted with a few competitors, checked preliminary results, and headed back to my car. I had weekend plans to catch up on. I didn't see my official placing till a couple of days after. I knew I put in a good effort, just not enough to win or podium.