Saturday was the next race in the Nebraska Lottery Psycowpath series, the Capital City Challenge at Branched Oak Lake. This was a race that I was looking forward to all season since it is the only race in the series where the riders from Lincoln, NE have an advantage over the riders from Omaha. A lot of the courses used in the series are in or near Omaha since they are fortunate enough to have a lot of great trails which usually gives them the home field advantage.
Branched Oak on the other hand is a place were myself and a lot of other riders spend a lot of time training and it is where we had the Flatwater Cycling Team MTB Training series so I had the course pretty dialed in.
When I woke up in the morning after sleeping about 2 hours longer than I normally do I didn't feel the best. I felt really groggy and unmotivated. Actually I didn't really feel like racing at all but I got myself together, ate breakfast which I changed from all my other pre-race breakfasts consisting of oatmeal that I just did not want to so I went with 3 eggs scrambled, 3 pieces of toast and a banana. I finished eating before 9 which was my plan since I don't like to eat anything substantial inside 3 hours of racing.
After driving over to the lake and getting gear set up under the BP tent I got changed and headed out for a quick warm-up/pre-ride of the course. The course was dry and was in good shape. Glad I stuck with the Conti Race Kings. Perfect for the conditions. Next thing I knew it was time to have the pre-race meeting and then time to line up.
They lined us up on a gravel road downhill from the singletrack. I took my usual position this season in the second row. When the gun went off I quickly jumped on the wheel of a couple of faster riders and was at limit right from the gun but my goal for this race was to really push myself to hang with the leaders for as long as I could. I went into the first section of singletrack which is a long prairie section that I just hate. My 26" hardtail is perfect for most of this course except for the beginning and ending long prairie sections. As we started to make our way through the praire section I was sitting in about 8th position. Shortly before we turned into the covered tree section I was passed by Ryan from the Souix City Velo team. I was a bit surprised that he was behind me. We went flying through the first section of trees and I had never ridden as fast as I was riding at that time still in contact with the lead group and surprised at how I was feeling.
As I continued through the first lap I was able to keep charging and could keep seeing Ryan in front of me which is all that I need for momentum. As we went through one tight section I did loose a little time as I went down through a tight tree section that has always given me trouble plus I had a bit to much pressure in my tires. I banged my knee when I went down but I just ignored it and kept on rolling and really felt like I had plenty of power to keep putting into the pedals. When we hit the second prairie section I lost some time on Ryan and then as we went through the start/finish line and hit the first prairie section again I could still see Ryan in front of me and felt that if I could just keep him close and then when we got to the trees and the climbs I thought I could chase him down.
About 1/2 way through the lap just before we hit the longest climb I could see him in front of me and then really pushed up the hill and got on his wheel as we went through a tight section were passing was impossible. As soon as we cleared the tight trees I jumped and was able to pull in front. He jumped on my wheel for a little while but I hammered on the down hill and the next climb and he shortly dropped out of sight. At that point I was feeling pretty good and was getting close to the second prairie section. When I got to it I could see the next rider in front of me had a good gap and I just kept in mind that he still could be caught.
I went through the 3rd and 4th lap just pushing as hard as I could to close down the gap to the rider in front of me and about 2/3rds the way through the 4th lap I could see the velo gear rider in front of me and I knew that a longer climb was coming up so I pushed up the climb and closed the gap and then right before the praire section I was able to get the jump on him and get in front. He quickly grabbed my wheel and as soon as we hit the short singletrack gully before the 2nd prairie and I just dropped the hammer through it and then really pushed through the prairie and by the time I hit the start/finish I couldn't see him anymore.
I was able to keep pushing through the rest of the race but wasn't able to chase down any other riders. When the results were posted I ended up 7th. It was a larger field and probably my best result that I've had this season. This race I felt like a XC MTB racer again and hope that I can carry it into the last race of the season.