The mountain bike race season is over. And I am really exhausted. I raced all eight stops of the U.S. National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series this year, and that is enough… enough to reduce me down to a thin shell of an athlete.
Last weekend was the final NUE stop in Virginia, the Shenandoah 100. The SM100 is a true classic of the genre – huge mountain passes, spectacular vistas, rocky/technical trails, and fearsome steep descents. The course is one of my favorites; unfortunately, it is also one of the tougher on the circuit, which makes for a difficult end to the year, especially when tired and ready to call it a season.
This year’s race produced a motivated five-person break at the front for the first half. Well, four motivated racers and myself – I was ready to call it quits after 20, making for a long concluding 80. But, there is nothing more daunting than the thought of going it alone for a long distance by oneself, so I held onto the front group for as long as possible. I put on my best poker face and took equal turns at the front of the rotation when on the fast open sections of the course. I did my best to display a façade of comfort despite the fact that I was imploding beneath the surface. Slowly, the others began to pop off and disappear, leaving just two of us together for the duration of the largest mountain pass of the day, a 2100’ climb up to mile 80. I went on the attack not because I expected it to be the winning move, nor because I thought I had any chance of winning. I went on the attack just to hasten the end of the race. The final mountain made me angry: it was all that stood between me and the off-season. My attack was unsuccessful, because it did not shed Christian Tanguy and it only wore me thinner. I lost contact with him in the final miles of the race, but 2nd was better than I could’ve asked for considering my veil-thin grit.
And that is how the year came to a close. I finished as NUE series champion with five wins in eight stops. And now I leave tomorrow for a much needed vacation in Europe. I’ve heard they have spas and beer over there. I could use some of each. Two week’s worth should do the trick. As I’ve packed for the trip, I’ve grabbed the latest copy of VeloNews for the plane, the October issue. The Planet Dirt section has a very flattering article about me, labeling me as the “Endurance… King.” It’s a very nice compliment, but I can hardly agree.