Standing in line on the first hike-a-bike section, I realize my tortoise and hare approach has not worked. As a thousand or so racers rolled down the main drag of Durango I strategically spun a steady pace instead of redlining it in a sprint to the head of the pack. I heard you don't want to be caught in the train when we hit the ridge, but that looked to be about mile 7 by my estimate. Prior to that several miles of climbing was in front of us so I planned to rock steady and pick riders off as they blew themselves up going off the front too hard. Which worked to a certain degree but the legs didn't have the spunk I wanted.
The prior day's aborted mission required more climbing than planned, 11 miles total due to a massive hailstorm that had many of our group on the verge of hypothermia and forced us to retreat uphill. That will have to be a tale for another day. The end result was a starting pace for the race that felt good but wasn't setting any records.
The Hike-a-bike was long and hot but had beautiful views. Traffic forced us to walk a lot of terrain that was rideable as the narrow trail allowed no place to pass. No worry, the single speed worlds is as much party as it is a race. And to prove this point, we were greeted with kegs and a beer stop at the top of the climb. A couple of sweet cups of nectar and it was on to what would be the crown jewel of the course, Raider Ridge. Three to four miles of technical rocks and drops, some with serious exposure. Lots of people walking but lots of people giving it a go. Feeling like I was on my home trails, I was able to capitalize and gain a lot of position. Not that it mattered, the winners were long gone, I just wanted to get to the finish faster. The section was sweet but took a lot of energy and effort.
Coming off the ridge was fast, loose and steep and a hell of a lot of fun. We dumped into the midway point with huge crowds cheering us on, then started climbing again. Shattered racers started dotting the sides of the course. I pushed on, grinding it out. Knowing I was more than halfway done but wondering what was ahead.
Hard pack singletrack, swoopy corners, deep baby powder. The course had a wide variety of terrain and it all seemed good. Brain fried, recovering on a tight and twisty section, I clip a hidden stump with my pedal. Over the bars, eating dust. Quick remount. Back in the game. Hike-a-bike #2 arrives, shorter and steeper than the first. Three-quarters the way up kind souls have a beer, bacon and whiskey stop for us. A big slug of the whiskey burns going down but I know it's only a few more miles until the end.
Long downhill, rocky switchbacks, mind is on the finish now. Where is it? Spectators start appearing. Another evil hill climb. Short, but I thought they were over. A few more pedal strokes. Big crowds. Blaring music. Smashed beer cans. It's over. My wife hands me a beer. I drain it and join the finish line party, waiting for my teammates to start crossing the line.