I was intrigued by how the new-ness of the race and the high temperatures would effect the turnout, but we had about 120 racers plus an ample crowd of spectators. TBF brought the usual first-rate organization (timing, registration, swag bags, etc.)
Since the race was being held on Friday night, a prime time for regular (i.e. drunken boaters) park users, TBF slightly changed the usual course. Instead of starting and finishing near the beach/parking lot, they moved slightly east past the sand pit (see course picture below). While they did change the start/finish, the course itself was largely unchanged -- 5.6 mile laps with 720' climbing per lap. However, we did run it backwards compared to the early season -- no big climb to start.
Since this course is so close to my house, I train on it often. It's slightly technical when dry (due to the loose over hardpack) but mostly just flowing up and downs. It rewards riders who can flow and keep momentum, and everyone tells me that it's great for 29ers. Talented racers can finish a lap in 25 minutes or so.
I was racing Sport (2 laps -- experts ran 3, beginners 1) and we had a respectable turnout. Out of the shoot, I settled in behind the lead group (4 racers broke away before we even hit the first climb) at a comfortable pace. Through the first set of turns and short climbs, I steadily moved to the front of the second pack. However, to get there I was taking some chances -- I was running my tires at too high pressure and had a little too much travel dialed into my fork. And this came back to bite me hard at about the 1.5 mile mark, when I took a pretty epic digger on loose, sweeping left. Even worse, I was leading about 7 riders and as I went down, most of them came over the top of me. It must have looked like something out of a road race crash. By the time, I got my seat post straightened and back -- I was simply out of it. I probably dropped 10 places. In addition to the being at the back of the pack, I had substantial road rash on my lower left leg, which hurt like h*ll for the rest of the race.
Needless to say, I didn't finish on the podium. Top sport finishers pull 00:27:00 laps, I was past the 00:30:00 point.
The next race in the series is this Friday night, with the finals on June 27th.