This was it - the big one. Mike was off to race in his first mountain bike national championship, despite having a very tough time with the course at Mount Snow just three weeks prior. A few needed course changes and some drier weather seemed to help.
We arrived on Friday, and managed to connect with most of the other NEBC racers - Scott B had finished 4th in his race, with teammate Jason close behind in 6th; Teri was 9th in her race riding the entire course and finishing it in much less time than last year; Wayne had technical issues on the course, but still finished 17th in a strong field, and Libby captured the Junior Women's championship! Mike went and pre-rode the course, but was back in time for us to see Scott on the podium.
After the awards (and showers), we all headed out for some dinner (and beer - beer is good pre-race food, right?). It was fun to hang out with friends, and we were all surprised when Dave M (one of our sponsors) picked up the tab for dinner! Thanks a TON, Dave!
Overnight, the skies opened over the mountain, and I worried that the dry course would be really tough for everyone in the morning. Luckily, the sun was out by race start time, and there were only a few nasty mud puddles in the staging/start/finish area (although the roots and rocks were also deemed pretty slimy). My job for the day was to sit in the feed zone and make sure Mike had enough liquids and any nourishment he might need for the race. I had set up my chair and cooler early, which turned out to be a good thing - the feed zone was a literal traffic jam during the race!
I went down to the start to wish Mike luck, and to get some photos. It was amazing to see so many people lined up to take a shot at the infamous Mount Snow course - racers in multiple age groups from 19 all the way to 75! The officials marked the calf of all the racers with a number for their age group - allegedly to help them know who was in their field out on the course. As the waves of riders rolled out, and racers continued to move toward the start, you could tell the race was already on, with riders jockeying for position on the front of their field.
They were off, and I ambled back to the feed zone along with about a zillion other people. The officials warned us all of the rules - no running in the feed zone, no throwing water on the riders, etc., etc. Mike came through and didn't need anything, so I walked up to a higher part of the course where he would soon pass by, and tried to tell what his position was by counting the numbers on the riders' calves (which were covered in mud...). I saw Jonny B come through, and shortly thereafter was Mike. I thought that he was in about 5th place, and told him so, hoping that would help. Back to the feed zone until he passed again, and then packed up to head to the finish - watching for him and Keith, who was racing in another field (and finished 11th).
Keith and the feed zone mayhem; Jonny B
Kevin H went on to win the 45-49 Championship; Mike riding strong
Colin R from IBC; Keith
Now I needed to concentrate, and count the number of racers coming through with the number 9 on their calf. Unfortunately, I missed one, and assumed that Jonny B, who roared through the start/finish on the wrong side of the finish chute with authority, was first. And who came right behind him? Yahoo! Mike finished next in his field, and I thought he had taken second! What a race! (As it turned out, I missed the first finisher in their field, and Jonny was 2nd with Mike 3rd - still an excellent result at a national event).
The 40-44 Expert Men's Podium - Jonny B 2nd, Mike 3rd and Mark S 5th
We enjoyed hanging out afterwards, watching some of the pro-women's race (although we missed Mary sprinting it out with Georgia for the win), and participating in the awards ceremony. Congrats to everyone who raced so well, and a special congrats to Mike - I'm proud of you!
Photo credit to Serene - stolen from Teri's blog ;)