2014 Warda Race Report

Bluff Creek Ranch

The Warda Race at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, Texas is the finale in the Texas State Championship series. This particular course is pretty flat and wide open. An all out hammerfest with only minor technical features. Not a course that plays to my strengths.

But it was still a chance to get out and ride my bike with some good and fast competition thrown in. With this being the finale, I had crunched the numbers and knew what I needed to do to defend my 4th place overall in the state series.

There was only one person I had to watch out for. Michael Adams would be bagging his 5th race of the season at Warda and thus, all of his points would count. Michael is a fast rider and I felt pretty sure he’d beat me, but since he hadn’t done Pay Dirt, I was ahead of him in the standings. I calculated that I needed to finish no more than 5 places behind him. Which meant a pretty strong finish if he finished in the top 4-5.

The race was going to hurt, but I was ready to embrace the pain in order to defend my position.

With all of the wide open, and often straight and flat sections of trail, I planned early on to draft as much as possible. I just needed to make sure I set myself up properly for those.

The day of the race, I awoke at 5:30am and began to get ready to head out. It was a fitful night of rest, even with melatonin, but I didn’t feel tired. I have gotten into the habit of making sure I get really good nights’ rest the few nights leading up to the race. As long as I get good sleep the days prior to the race, I don’t feel tired the day of the race even when I don’t sleep well.

I took my time getting ready and heading out. I knew I’d have plenty of time to get out and get ready for my 10:30am start time, or at least so I thought. I get to the venue around 8:30 and still take my time getting dressed, kitted and registered. I’m talking with folks, talking with Chris W. about what to expect on the trail since he had never ridden the course.

While talking with Chris, I hear the announcers say Cat 2 starts at 9:30. It’s about 9AM at this time. I joked that someone had the wrong time, to which Chris and David O. both affirm that our start IS at 9:30!

Oh shit! I don’t know where I got 10:30 start time in my head, but now I’m super crunched! I’m not even fully ready and haven’t even begun to warm up.

I haul ass back to the truck and set about mounting up my GoPro with my KEdge mount. I’m feeling rushed but I feel like I take the time to make sure the mount is nice and secure. I get my water bottle ready by taking the top off and dropping a Nuun tablet in. Then put the lid back on and put it in the bike. I finish final prep, put a Stinger in my back pocket, and head out to try to warm up. It is 9:10 at this point. I am near the first singletrack section which is 3 miles long.

I figure this would be perfect timing so I warm up through the singletrack, catching our series leader, John C. and riding with him through the singletrack. We pop out of the singletrack and it is almost 9:30. Perfect timing! I head over to the start line and get ready.

They are part way through the earlier age group call ups, but we make it no problem. I take the opportunity in the staging area to grab some additional video footage of some of the other racers in our group who have been coming out and getting to know everyone. I get lots of great candid footage that I plan to put into the race video.

I look around our group. A solid 20+ racers and I know about half of them. So that means there’s half that I don’t really know, and surely some fast roadies in this group as well. Also in the group is Miguel A. who is the unfortunate rider who had the high speed crash at the end of last year’s Warda race. Chad B. also is here, and he’s another strong rider. With these 2 and others that I see, I’m a bit worried about my decent finish chances. Ah well, suck it up and ride hard!

We line up at the start and the top 10 are called up. I line up on the far left, with no intention of hammering hard. The start loop is a mile long and into the wind for much of it so I’m planning on playing conservative and drafting until the singletrack.

The gun goes off and the race is on! I had a nice clean start but didn’t hammer hard. John C. and Michael G. (#2 in series) are off the front. I’m #3 but not going hard. I slot in behind Michael with plans to ride him for a bit until someone else comes around for me to grab ahold of. As we come around the 180 degree turn and head into the wind, nobody has tried to make a move so I just keep riding Michael. He and John are humming down the ranch road, pulling hard into the wind.

I’m going a little harder than I like so I look over my shoulder in hopes of ushering someone else around that I can let go of Michael and grab a hold of. But when I look back, we have put in a pretty decent gap.

Ugh! That means I either have to keep hammering to hold onto Michael, or I let off and catch the wind until the pack catches up.

I decide I’ll just hold onto Michael and suffer until the singletrack. After we drop off of the ranch road onto the little path around the pond, I hear something and feel wet on my legs. I look down just in time to see the lid of my water bottle flying off the side of the trail, and my currently very full water bottle sloshing water all around…

As we start heading up a straighter section of the trail before the singletrack, a couple of strong riders come around. Clayton P. (#3) zooms past, followed closely by Dr. Greg D. and Michael Adams. I head into the singletrack in 6th place. I am hoping that I can hold this position.

In the lead up to the singletrack, I was redlined, and in holding my position in the group in the singletrack, I was staying redlined. I’m running too hot and I know I can’t sustain this pace. Chad B. passes me, followed by Travis D. I’m now in 8th, but I think my saving grace is that Michael A. doesn’t appear to be running hard today. As long as I can stay within 5 positions, I’ll hold onto my 4th place overall, which is the goal for the day.

As we near the end of the first portion of singletrack, another rider comes around. He looked like a roadie as he was a bit sketchy through the turns. However, he comes around at just the right time and I grab a hold of the his wheel as we enter the open area with plans to draft the field to Gas Pass.

* Pic from 2013 Race

* Pic from 2013 Race

I am able to hold his wheel for a while, but he’s too strong and begins pulling away. As we go around the pond, I actually let him get even further away. I know Gas Pass is coming up, which is one of the only technical sections of the trail. I think that if he is a roadie as I suspect, I will give him space here so I can flow efficiently and not have to slow down through this section.

Dropping into Gas Pass - Photo by IngotImaging

Dropping into Gas Pass – Photo by IngotImaging

Sure enough, I’ve timed it just right and I catch up to him at the very bottom. I was able to pump the rolls without having to worry about slowing down.

Here is another field and I again attempt to draft. I hold him for a while, but he again gets away from me. Coming up is the only real climb of the course. A short and steep doubletrack ascent called Mule Trace. He blasts up the climb and is gone from my view.

I spin up the climb and make the descent. I hear another rider behind me and look back to see Miguel A. In the next field area Miguel comes around. I grab his wheel and draft as long as I can, but again I cannot hang on and he eventually pulls away.

Up and across Paydirt Bridge, around the tight turns and across the narrow bridges. I’m just riding at this point, keeping it pegged as much as possible. Looking forward to getting a water bottle when I finish the lap.

Pay Dirt Bridge

I ride through the BMX area of the trail, which is pretty fun. I feel much better here than I did at this section last year and I get to enjoy this section a little more, working the berms and pumping the little rollers.

I finally finish the line for lap 1 at around 37 minutes. I figure I need to turn the next lap at least the same speed or better in order to have a decent finish. I’m a little sad that I haven’t been able to push harder, but it is what it is.

I roll through the barn and am relieved to finally get a water bottle. I take a deep guzzle and sprinkle a little on the back of my neck. I look down the trail leading back into the singletrack and don’t see any of my group racers. I’ve fallen quite a ways back…

As I near the singletrack, I look behind and see a few riders, but nobody I recognize so I don’t know if they are in my group or the older group.

In the singletrack I focus on efficiency. I am work on going faster by going slower. No braking, efficiency through the turns. Riding smoothly. This approach works wonderfully and upon reviewing my ride data, while I was just a tad slower through this 3 mile section, I was able to recover quite a bit.

In the singletrack the first of the older group catches up and gets a pass. Another catches me just as I’m about to pop out into the field. Another perfect timing option. He passes and I jump his wheel to draft through the field. With this guy being the #2 guy, I don’t worry about following him through Gas Pass, and sure enough, he rides very smoothly. One interesting thing about this guy, he has his iPhone or something in his pack playing music as he’s riding along. I didn’t think this was allowed, but whatever. Didn’t bother me, just found it interesting.

It was also in this area where my camera mount comes loose and starts flopping around. I try to force the mount back onto the ‘fat’ part of my bar, but once it came loose, the piece of inner tube I had mounted underneath fell out and now the camera has no chance of being tight enough.

It will flop around, rattling and annoying the crap out of me for the rest of the race. Not to mention scar up the finish on my Enve flat handlebar as well…

Berms and Rollers on Gas Pass

Through the fields I keep an eye behind me. Sure enough, here comes someone that has to be from my age group. I shout out to make sure and sure enough, he’s in my group. We are nearing another large field ride section. I slow up a bit, intentionally to either reserve my strength a little, or to get him to come around so I could draft. I’ll find out after the race that this is Gabe A., who I actually met at my 2nd race ever out at Pace Bend.

It is here that the 3rd older group leader comes around. He comes around Gabe and then me. Since I had been reserving a little here, I easily grab his wheel. He’s powering hard, but I hold strong and draft through the field. We drop Gabe and motor on.

As we are climbing Pay Dirt Bridge, there is a younger age group back marker at the top of the climb. We close the gap quickly. There is no safe spot to pass here, nor for a while until we get out of this narrow twisty section with narrow bridges.

The back marker does the considerate thing and pulls over to a stop to allow a pass. He does this right before a narrow bridge.

The leader was right in front of me and as he came around the back marker, he’s a little sketchy on the narrow bridge. This particular bridge has a railing and the rider is delicately trying not to hit the rail. We all know the feeling when you’re just balanced on edge of trying to hold your line or not. The rider manages to hold his line until the very end of the bridge. At this point on the bridge the railing stops, and there is about 3 feet of rail less bridge before you reach the other side.

It is at this final section of railing that the rider clipped the rail and nearly flies over the rail and off the bridge. It is a good 10 foot drop or so. He’s literally hanging OVER the rail. I am stopped and I grab him and pull him back over the rail. I still don’t know how neither he nor his bike went off the bridge.

JP from IngotImaging was right there taking pictures. I can’t wait to see if he managed a shot of the whole affair.

UPDATE, doesn’t look like JP got the shot. Here’s a pic of me right after.

Bridge area at Pay Dirt Bridge - Photo by IngotImaging

Bridge area at Pay Dirt Bridge – Photo by IngotImaging

In the meantime of wrangling him back from the brink of a fall, Gabe catches up on the bridge. Gabe was now right on my wheel and we don’t have much to go.

I’m tired from the effort of holding the leader’s wheel, but there is no time to relax now. Gabe is right with me. I give it everything I have left and push as hard as I can. My heart rate pegs out. I fly through the BMX section and see that I’ve put a little space between Gabe and I, but I keep pushing.

I go as hard as I can and as I reach the final open area around the last pond, I look back to see I have a comfortable gap on Gabe. I hold the gap through the end to finish in 10th place. Lap 2 was also 37 minutes, so at least I was fairly consistent through my two laps.

I am really whipped and I sit after the finish hacking and wheezing for a few minutes. Gabe and I chat a bit. He wanted to catch me and I obviously wanted to hold on to my position. I see Chad and Travis and inquire as to how Michael A. finished. I’m told 6th place, which meant he wouldn’t manage to finish ahead of me in the final standings! I am wiped out, but relieved thinking that I’ve secured my 4th place position.

The final standings are posted, and what’s this? I’m bumped to 5th overall. Travis D. has an awesome race and finishes 5th, which was enough points ahead of me to allow him to leap frog me in the final placements. I hadn’t even considered that Travis would be able to jump me because I had a good lead on him and we typically finish really close to one another. However today he finishes 5 places ahead of me which enough to seal the deal.

I remove my camera and go to take a couple more videos. But when I look down, the GoPro flashes NO SD CARD. Oh feck… Sure enough, the card slot is empty. I use a skeleton housing during races to get more external audio from the race and the skeleton housing does not cover the SD card slot. While the camera was flopping around, the SD Card must have ejected or fallen out.

GoPro Skeleton Housing

I am quite possibly more disappointed in that than anything else =/

5th Place Overall

5th Place Overall

I can’t be disappointed in my race series finish. I’m happy for Travis. And I’m actually proud of my final placement. I never would have dreamed that I would have managed a top 5 in my first year of racing Cat2. Of course it was only possible because the consistency of racers showing up in this group was pretty low. There were really only about 6-7 of us who showed up to many of the racers. All it really takes to place well was to get your 5 races and do Pay Dirt.

The one thing I was a bit disappointed and discouraged with was how my performance arced over the season. I’ll go into that in a future post, but I had honestly hoped for better returns on the level and consistency that I trained at this spring.

And that’s a wrap! The Texas State Championship Series is over! The Texas Fall Cup Series starts Labor Day weekend, but for now it’s time to get out and hit some dirt and have some fun!

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 9:30AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal and banana, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1 water bottle in 2nd lap
Weather: Perfect, 80’s and partly cloudy
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs
RPE: Felt good throughout
CTL: 49
TSB: 9.1 (rising)

Strava:

About TC

Long time mountain biker, recent mountain bike racer. Borderline unhealthy obsession with mountain biking, constantly drawn to hit the dirt and share my experiences.

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