Monday, August 4, 2008

The Thin Yellow Line

The title makes sense actually. The Tree Farm Relay was this week's race. Originally I had a vision of having 3 teams built to compete in the Tree Farm Relay, all racers. Well the week leading up to the race we only had 3 racers total. Not even enough for a whole team. I got a tip from a friend on a rider looking to race who could turn some quick laps. Ends up Brian and I had met Jeremy before at Maybury and I was confident he would get the job done.

The day of the race was here. The forecast called for perfect weather. It hadn't rained in Novi all week, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the high for the day was suppose to be 81. It's about damn time we didn't have to race in the rain and mud. Altho the weather was good and trail was prime I was still a little uneasy. Four riders and 80 Miles to cover. I had been pondering a line up all night...would it work? I wasn't sure. I'm a competitive person and even tho I was looking to come and have a good time I wanted to fly the team colors to victory. What helped settle me down was that I knew I had brought three things that no other team had......Dawn, Brian and Jeremy. I had three solid riders on my team who were loaded with determination. Sure we all joked around all morning and inflated each other's ego but inside we all knew we had a job to do that day.

Brian and I had competed in this race two years ago and Jeremy raced there last year. In fact Jeremy was the lead off man on his team last year and had no arguments about leading the team off for us. Being the lead off for your team in this race is a big responsibility. Not only is your team relying on you for a good start you have to do a Lemans start. That means Jeremy had to run down a sled hill to his bike, hop on and try and beat everyone to the single track. Check this series of pictures out:

Jeremy got the job done. He mounted that horse like a UCI Cyclecross Pro and lead the pack of riders into the single track. Unfortunately he forgot to release the lock out on his shock and took a tumble down the trail later on in the loop. Even with the fall he came around with a solid loop time of 46:21 and we were in third place by 10 seconds. We opted to run Jeremy as a sprinter he only did one loop and Brian was warmed up and ready to go as he came around.

The hand off was made and the master of the Novi Tree Farm, Brian, was off and riding. Team Business Class was 4 minutes ahead of us and BiciLibre was about 2.5 minutes ahead of us when Brain stared his lap. Brain was unsure about doing two consecutive laps so we made sure to have Dawn ready to go after Brian's first lap. But you all know Brain, when it's time to get the job done he doesn't rest until all his work is complete. Brian "The Wrench" McCabe pulled a 45:37 for our second loop and held pace with BiciLibre while gaining 40 seconds on Business Class. As he came around Brian waved off a water bottle and told us he wasn't done hunting yet.

I knew this is when we would start to hit Sport class traffic so I was glad Brian went around again. dawn had never ridden this course and my main objective was to get her open track so she could concentrate on doing what Dawn does best....go fast. Brian came around after another flawless loop and turned a 47:23. That was a solid time for dealing with traffic and being a second consecutive loop. Brain had put us a minute behind Business Class but BiciLibre had sent out a sprinter and they opened up their gap on us to 6 minutes. However Brain had put the 4th place team, Flatlanders, 4 minutes behind us.

So enters Dawn. She took off into the unknown without hesitation. We informed her about the few obstacles she'd need to watch out for but of course she wasn't worried about any of them. We told her we'd have Jeremy ready to go after her first lap if she wanted to exchange. We watched the clock and placed bets on what her time would be. Dawn did a flying lap at 49:53 and surprised us all. Jeremy, Brian and I knew we had a ringer on our team and that ringer was Dawn. Even after doing a trail marathon in Vermont the previous week she showed up to race...and to win. Now we were all pumped. We had the fastest girl at the Farm.

Dawn came in for the exchange and Jeremy was off into the wild again for his second lap. The guy has so much power it seemed to only take a couple pedal strokes to get up to race pace. He was out to show us again that he was willing to suffer for the team. Dawn had held us steady and Jeremy knew he needed to give his all. He gave everything he had to close the gaps on the teams in front of us. Again traffic was getting thick but Jeremy still pulled a 46:58 . He held the 1 minute gap to the second place team and decreased the gap to the first place team by 2 minutes. We were now only 4 minutes out of first.

As Jeremy came around I was twitching and ready to go. Brain and Dawn were there with me keeping me calm and getting me ready to attack. As Brain kept track of the clock I made mental files of who was lapping by and what class they were in. There was going to be a lot of traffic but I knew I needed to make a clearing for Dawn. I got the hand of from Jeremy and off I went. I was in full race mode and planned to be in the red for at least the first 5 miles. It was the start of lap 6 and we were the only team to exchange riders. I knew the two out in front of me were on their second loop so they would be a tad slower. As I rode I picked off Sport riders one by one. Knowing the trail really well I was able to make a lot of clean passes without sacraficing to much time.

Then I saw Business Class about 4 miles into the 10 mile loop. I called the pass and the rider let me go by without issue. We were in the single track so I kept my focus and followed all the lines Brian had taught me. I still needed to put time on this rider and catch BiciLibre. About a mile later I saw the jeresy in a switchback. I was gaining on the rider! I caught BiciLibre about 6-7 miles into the lap where the two track was. As we both made the turn onto the two track we were out of our saddles and fighting. Brian had told me the two track was lengthy so I tucked behind the BiciLibre and drafted the entire time. I saw the sign coming up "Tight turn ahead" and that means it was time to make my move. I called the pass and entered the single track in front. This is the tightest part of the trail and I spent the rest of the lap pretending Brian was chasing me....he doesn't make mistakes there and if I pretended like Brain was chasing me down I knew it would help me focus.

I came around and saw the team out there at the exchange. I was up out of the saddle flying across the field wondering what to do. Should I hand off to Dawn so she doesn't have the pressure of the last lap? Should I keep going because I was in a groove? Most of the Sport riders should be done by now...there's not much traffic and as I looked at my clock I was going to lap at 44:10. If I stop now then Brian would have been the only rider to do consecutive laps and he'd never let me hear the end of it. I put the hammer down and went back on the attack. I figured we were in first and it was now my job to create a gap for Dawn. I didn't bother to look back to see how close the other teams were. I kept my eyes focused in front of me. The track was clear so it was my race to lose. I figured if I gave Dawn a 5 minute gap she would have the cushion to take on anything the other teams would throw at us. I knew the other two teams were exchanging to fresh riders so I would have to get back into the red to make sure they don't catch site of me.

I nailed the single track and made it out to the two track. I looked down at my mph and realized I was going to slow. Brian would be disappointed with me right now. Out of the saddle I went. My legs were burning but my drive kept me moving. I repeated the words, "No pain" in my head until I was back on the single track. The team knows we are in first and they are counting on me. Out of the single track and onto the field to the exchange I see Dawn ready to go. Brain and Jeremy are down there with her. I lapped at 44:53 but had no idea how far ahead of the other teams I was. Brian was on the job tho watching the clock as I was regrouping and catching my breath. As Dawn entered the woods all we could do was watch the clock and see if I had did my job and created a big enough gap for Dawn.

As each minute passed without a rider coming out of the woods for their final lap we felt better and better. Finally Business Class came out to lap and Brain clocked them at 5 minutes and 23 seconds behind Dawn. BiciLibre wasn't far behind them, a little over a minute. It was then that we felt confident that we would win. If Dawn pulled another 50 minute loop we'd be set. We knew she'd be faster this time tho because she had been on the course once earlier in the day. A part of me felt guilty putting the outcome of the day on her shoulders but I knew she has nerves of steel and could handle the pressure. She is Dawn after all. She does her best work when the odds are stacked against her.

Dawn beat all the odds and came out of the single track onto the open field at a punishing pace. She came in with a lap time of 49:11 and blew Business Class out of the water by over 5 minutes. BiciLibre had run out of gas and Dawn had put another 3 minutes on them. Team took home the win with an incredible run. Not only did we win the Advanced Co-ed by 5 minutes we beat all but one of the Men's Advanced teams. Our total time for the 80 miles was 6:14:28.

Job done! I want to say thank you to Brian, Dawn and Jeremy for all the hard efforts they put out there on the trail. I had a great time and the win made it that much better. The team did a great job of being ready at each lap and taking care of the riders going on and off the trail. Of course this means we'll have to return next year to defend our title.

In other news: Heather made the trip to Big M for the Tailwinds XC race. She came in at a solid 3rd place in Women's Expert/Elite. Once I talk to her I'll post up more info about her day.

This weekend Jeff heads to the U.P. to take on the annual Ore to Shore. Check back next week to see how he did.

Sorry this was a long one but when you win a race it deserves a good write up.


  1. Nice Job! - Great Race Report!

  2. Way to guys guys! And Ayrn, what a great write up. Fun racing is the best racing especially when you win.