After days of waiting, it finally was my turn to get out and race on Saturday. After doing the pre-race ride of the course on Thursday, I decided to lighten up my wheel/tire set and put on the Kenda Karmas and junk the camelbak. I was concerned about using the new tread pattern, but the weight savings on this fast course was just too much to pass up.
As they lined up my group, it was strange how few people showed up. Two of my group was from last year's Cougar Mountain Classic (I remember racing against them), but the rest had come in from around the country. We numbered about 13 riders in my age/category bracket.
After watching the other classes start ahead of us, we finally got started. One guy jumped to the lead and was gone (I later found he had won Sea Otter in the same class). As expected, I felt pretty fast and good through the first lap. A little skid in the first turn and some passing problems on the chattery singletrack, but overall a pretty fast lap time for me. I was thinking to myself I was in about 5th place at the turn. The second lap didn't go anywhere near as smooth. Right off the bat in the second technical descent, I got a terrible case of chain suck. I had to dismount to clear it and by the time I got back on the bike, I saw two people in my age group whiz by. Cursing, I pedaled after them and was making good time. However, by the time I had hit the second feedzone (and steep hill) people were really starting to pass me. Morale was pretty low here -- I think I had slipped to 7th place by now -- but I trudged onward. Making up some more time after the hill climb, I cramped up terribly on some singletrack (Another dismount, another minute lost.) However, once I got back on the pavement for the last 2 miles, I felt like I caught a second wind as others were bonking. I must have passed four riders on the last two major climbs and then was flying down the technincal descent to the race track. Just as we came back into the stadium area, a guy two bikes ahead of me lost his chain and blocked the rider behind him. Seeing this, I put the hammer down, flew by them and sprinted out of the saddle the last mile. I almost puked when I hit the finish line.
After the race, we ended up waiting forever for the results. When they were finally posted, I scored a podium visit by finishing in 4th place. And I took 3.5 minutes off my time from last year. Sweet.
Being on the podium was super cool since I had struggled most of this year (as chronicled on this site). However, I must give credit where credit is due: The Kenda Karma tires were a huge, huge help.