Written by Yohsuke Takakura Tuesday, 29 August 2017 19:10
Belleayre is a course that I particularly like because I feel it is pretty well balanced, it has a little bit of everything. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be as popular as some other races, maybe because it is a tiny bit further into the Adirondacks, or maybe people are already getting ready for CX or are just starting to get tired of racing. I think there were under 90 racers pre-registered with all fields combined. The good thing is that in my field, the guys who I usually race with were pretty much all there.
I pre-rode this course the week before, as my post Windham “recovery” ride. This year the course was more fun, it is slightly shorter and has some fresh cut singe track sections. The night before the race it rained so the trail conditions were a little different from what I saw on my pre-ride.
I was starting to warm up when I started to hear how bad the conditions were. So I decided to head back to the car and swap my front wheel with another one with a grippier but slower tire. After what I went through at Windham I really wasn’t feeling like doing another race where I would be losing my front end left and right. The only detail with this wheel is that it was brand new, with new rotor, new tire and was just set up tubeless 2 nights before, so I could tell it was still not fully sealed. You always hear that you shouldn’t mess with your bike the night before the race but since it wasn’t the night before the race I assumed it would be alright. I also had to mess with my front caliper a little bit since the rotor was rubbing a little bit. Anyway, all this cut my warm up short, so I lined up without actually being ready.
I had a pretty bad start as a result of my shot warm up but I was able to stay in the mix. I immediately saw Jonathan Favata pushing it really hard along with Steven Ellinghaus and Thomas Beneivengo (I think). I was in the chase with Kevin Ballou, Ryan Heerschap and a couple of other guys which I managed to pass on the double track after the first single track just to stay with Kevin in the next single track, by then the legs started to feel warmed up so I decided to push it and pass Kevin. The gap to the leaders was considerable so I just put my head down and kept pushing. I was closing the gap on Steven and then I saw him on the side of the trail, he had gone down and he was fixing his bars, he was OK though, so I kept going. I know my handling is most of the times my weakness so I was trying to push as hard as possible on the climbs and be relaxed and super careful on the technical sections since it was pretty sketchy between slippery roots and sharp rocks. Ryan caught me in the long descent so I let him pass but once we started going slightly uphill again, I felt like I could go a little faster so I passed Ryan, put my head down again and pedal hard. Towards the end of the lap I starting to catch on Thomas, but then he pulled off at the finish line due a mechanical, so at that point I felt like I could actually have a good race if I didn’t crash and mainly if I didn’t cramp. So I focused on pedaling hard, eating and drinking and not to push it too hard on the technical parts. I could see that Kevin was doing pretty good behind me an getting closer at some sections of the course. Also Ken Welch, who races 50+ was closing on me, as always. Ken is amazingly efficient, I can push it as hard as I want going uphill, but he will always catch me, his handling skills and pedal efficiency are way above mine. So it was just matter of time for Ken to catch me, the best part of that is that I always try to follow his lines and flow, and I can ride faster like that. “Ken pacing” is almost like motor pacing on the road. I still pushed it on the climbs but I let Ken lead on anything else, it was a lot of fun. I finished second behind Jonathan. Kevin got third right behind me. It was a really fun race and it paid off to risk it with a brand new front wheel, usually that isn’t the case.
Picture courtesy of Team Ommegang
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