The Cohutta 100 may have been my first "official" race of 2009, but it was the second race of the season so far. And so far things have not gotten off to a good start. I have one question...DO THINGS REALLY HAPPEN FOR A REASON?
As I mentioned in my report from the Ouachita Challenge Race, my bike didn't show up on the arriving flight and had to be delivered to my hotel room the night before the race, and I suffered 8 flats. In the Cohutta 100 race, once again my bike wasn't on the plane (this time I even had to spend $175 to ship it one-way) and I suffered only one flat. So as I am sitting here reflecting on these circumstances, I am still trying to figure out why they happened. I guess one day it will all make sense.
I left Portland, OR Thursday morning at 7am and after 3 layover flights I arrived in Tennessee Thursday night. Then after a 1 hour drive I arrived at my hotel at 12:15am Friday morning. What a long day. The next morning as I waited for my bike to arrive, I sat outside the hotel room and chewed the shit with some fellow cyclist (Tanguay and Kuhn) who were staying next door. Bike finally showed up around 3:30pm Friday.
Race started Saturday at 7am at the Ocoee Whitwater Center (site of the '96 Olympics whitewater kayak event). There was probably 100 riders competing in this opening race of the Nue Series. Some big names on board (Schalk, Bishop, Eatough, Koerber) who would all make a run at claiming the opening round victory. As the sound of the horn went off the race began with a steady 2.5 mile climb on pavement. Eatough was the first into the singletrack section and would enjoy the lead for approx. 8 miles. This section was fast and fun; too bad there wasn't more of this. After 17 miles the race would remain on jeep/fireroads for nearly 65 miles. Although the amount of time spent on the fireroads wasn't necessarily the most exciting, it sure as hell wasn't easy. This was definitely a climbers course, and my climbing legs stayed home in Oregon. I knew there would be a descent amount of climbing but not 12,700 ft. of it (almost of that within the 65 miles on fireroads).
Between Aid #1 and Aid #2 I found myself riding solo. The roughly 18 miles of ups and downs was only a taste of what was yet to come. When I reached Aid #2 I had to stop and adjust my seatpost as it was slipping down a little, and get my first feed bag. By the time I was ready to continue Sologoat and Prosser pulled into the Aid Station. We all took off together, but I slowly pulled away on the climb. Sologoat slowly caught up to me right before the summit and as we were getting ready to descend I flatted. Again using the Stan's another flat. Is this bad charma? Didn't have any CO2's so using the mini-pump took longer than normal to inflate. Once I reached Aid #3 I grabbed a hand pump (realizing I only had 24 psi) and began to inflate to 38 psi. For the next 15-20 miles the course became a little difficult. This is where the steepest climbs were and the roads were a little more exposed to the sun (temps were reaching record highs of 90 degrees). I settled in to a comfortable rhythm and took each climb one foot at a time.
Reaching mile 80 my legs were starting to feel better and knew I had only one or two climbs left. When the final singletrack section began around mile 88 it was a huge mental relief. With the temperatures reaching their high point most of the remaining trails would be sheltered from the sun by the trees. I had kept a bottle in my cage full of plain water to periodically dump on my head to cool my body temp. As I exited the forest for the final mile of pavement riding I was left scratching my head wondering why there wasn't more of the singletrack throughout the race. The two sections that were included were wicked and fast.
My finishing time was 7:33 (1:10 behind the winner Jeff Schalk). My goal was to finish between 7-7:30 so I am not too unhappy, but definitely know I could have done much better.
I left 90 degree Tennessee to arrive home in 40 degree Oregon and this.