I hadn't ridden at Echo Valley since a WIM race of roughly 2003. Ah, those were the days... Racing junior sport back then felt just as hard as racing pro does today. Like the WIM race, the NW Epic race started and finished at the Echo Valley ski area, but unlike the WIM event, the NW Epic race followed a 15 mile mile loop that meandered all around the Echo Ridge cross-country ski trails staying exclusively up on the ridge tops until the final lap. The 30 mile racers completed two laps, while the 60 milers did four. Both race distances finished with a 1000 foot mostly-singletrack descent that resembled a more primitive version of the notorious water-bared Leavenworth descent.
For the first half of the race the lead group stayed large, with 5-10 riders. The trails were hard packed and incredibly fast with nothing technical to speak of. As a result, drafting and pure fitness were the deciding factor for staying in the lead group. Halfway through the third lap, I decided to up the pace and try to make form a smaller selection. Russ was the only rider who stayed with me and we took turns working to distance ourselves from the chasing group.
On the final lap, I charged up most of the climbs and pushed the descents, but could not pull away from Russ. We both really wanted the win it seemed. I knew if it came down to a sprint finish, Russ would have the advantage. This gave me no choice but to pull ahead of him before the finish. Up the final climb of the race, knowing it was my last chance, I attacked again and was finally able to get a gap on Russ. Not much of one though...
With 20 minutes of racing still left, my advantage was slim. I pushed as hard as I could down the long downhill, but I could still see Russ close behind me. My quads and hamstrings were cramping badly, but I was out of water and had no time to drink anyways. Amazingly, Russ and I stayed about 10 seconds apart all the way to the finish, where I just barely took the win. I cannot believe how close of a battle it was! We were racing the end of a 60 mile race like it was the first lap of world cup! Thanks for some damn good racing Russ!
|Always great to win in front of my biggest sponsors, Mom and Dad.|
In other news, I started work at Heath Tecna in Bellingham this week. They (we?) design and produce airplane interior products for both airlines and aircraft manufacturers. As an engineering intern without an engineering degree, I have already learned a ton and will likely have a completely different outlook on the corporate work world by the time I go back to school in September. I am working full time but don't worry, Heath Tecna is being incredibly accommodating with my summer race schedule and giving me lots of time off so I can keep living the dream.