In order to even be last you have to finish. Unfortunately I didn't, nor did my racing partner Jay Jones. Even though we didn't finish we still had a good time.
Jay and I drove to Loudonville with my regular traveling companions Shari and Robin Scurr. Shari is the consummate pit crew, having done it now for the past several years while Robin and I raced. This time Robin wasn't racing but went along for the vacation and to enjoy the racing scene from a different vantage point.
We drove down Friday afternoon and checked into the motel. I had forgotten that the motel advertised it as a get away spot to enjoy the natural setting; there were no TV or phones in the rooms. But we didn't expect to spend much time in the room anyway.
We headed over to the registration area to check in, receive our number plates, and do a short ride to stretch the legs. Jay and I rode while Robin and Shari ran some errands. After the ride we headed back to the motel where they were putting on a spaghetti dinner. We managed to get to bed before 10:00 in anticipation of the 5:15 alarm the next morning.
After stopping at McDonalds in the morning we made it down to start in plenty of time and got a prime parking spot right by the start line. In fact, right after we got there they blocked the entrance to our parking area so we pretty much had it to ourselves. Jay and I got ready and got in place with the other 400+ riders.
At the gun all the riders proceeded down the main street in town and out to the big hill that soon separated everyone into a long line. I was taking it easy since there was nothing for me to gain in a 100 mile by going out hard at the start. Other than when we finally got to the first trail section it seemed that we were with a lot of riders that didn't have very good technical skills.
The weather was the best it has ever been for this race as long as I have participated in it. The trails were also dry, a first for me. Usually rain has been a part of the race somehow. I was riding at a steady pace and enjoying the trails instead of pushing too hard like I have don in the past.
Jay got past me and disappeared up the trail. I was surprised when I came to the first checkpoint quite a bit earlier than I had last year. I think the drier trail had something to do with it. Robin and Shari were waiting for me and I felt like a pro as they quickly took care of everything I needed. They said Jay was about three minutes in front of me and I figured I would catch him once we got to the road sections since I was on a geared bike and he was on a singlespeed.
About 15 minutes after leaving the checkpoint I was surprised to see Jay walking toward me pushing his bike. His bottom bracket had gone bad and he was not able to continue the race. I gave my condolences for his bad luck and rode on.
It couldn't have been more than another 20 minutes when I heard a loud crunch by my rear wheel and felt the wheel lock up. I slammed on the brakes and looked down to see a large stick had jammed in the rear derailleur and had broken the hanger. Fortunately I was carrying a spare so I pulled the bike off to the side of the trail and bent down to examine the damage. To add injury to insult a rider came by and crashed, causing the rear of his bike to swing up and strike me on the side of the head. It rattled my cage for a while and I had to get the cobwebs cleared before working on my bike.
Try as I might I could not get the bolt out of the old hanger as rider after rider came by. I resigned myself to trying to shorten the chain to make a singlespeed out of the bike and at least ride out. I was between two aid stations in the woods and had no idea where I really was. It was either SS or push. Once I finally got the chain to stay in the cog without binding I rode, or pushed depending on the steepness, as much of the rest of the trail I could before finally deciding to try and find a way back to the start.
I recognized the state route I was crossing but wasn't sure which way was back to town. I pushed on a little farther before finally asking someone standing in their yard how to get back. Fortunately it was only about another five miles or so along fairly flat roads. The ride back was actually very scenic and I was enjoying the ride.
Once back I sat by the Cannondale tent and wondered how to get in touch with Robin and Shari who were waiting for us at another aid station. I asked the promoter to call out there so the workers could let them know. No one at the aid station answered the phone so I just had to wait.
A little while later Jay pulled up in a ranger's car. He had been helping the ranger at a road crossing and the ranger brought him back once the racers had passed. I used Jay's phone to try and reach Robin and Shari but they didn't answer. Jay and I hung around watching finishers of the shorter race come in and then we got to see the pro's finish up the 100 mile race. Normally I am still two hours or so behind them.
Cannondale was well represented as four of the top six riders were riding Cannondale bikes. And the top women was also on the Cannondale Factory Racing team. Michigan put up a good show as both second and fourth place in the Men's class went to Michigan riders.
Robin finally got the message about jay and I and they came back to the finish. All of us hing around the finish for a while soaking up the sun and talking to other racers while we enjoyed the free food and beer. We went back the hotel room to take a nap before returning for the awards.
We decided not to hang around for the prize drawing because they were taking forever and we wanted to go into town for dinner. Jason and I found a little place our first time down there and we have eaten there every year. This time we noticed that it was up for sale. The owner is looking to retire and we hope they find a buyer that can carry on the excellent food. While we were eating several of the Cannondale pros also came in to eat.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and the bar/restaurant to see if we could catch the rest of the Redwings game. Everyone was tuned to the TV when we walked in but it was the Cavalier's game as they were losing to Orlando. We convinced the bartender to switch the TV behind the bar to the hockey game and we were able to catch the last period of the game.
Heading back this morning we all agreed that the trip was still a good time in spite of the race results. We all wanted to return next year and would try to convince others to join us so we could rent one of the cabins near the finish area. And we are talking about coming back down some time just to ride the trails.
The next race on the schedule is the Lumberjack 100. Hopefully this race goes better than Mohican.