by Michael Green • November 01, 2023
This year has not been as I’d hoped. In February I cut the tip of my left index finger off (that’s right, my braking finger). After the initial visit to the hospital to have it sown back on, I had two subsequent surgeries to place hardware within to help with the non-healing bone. Anyway, it’s the fall, I’ve been cleared to ride and race, as long as I don’t crash on my finger.
Well, I thought I’d jump in immediately and believe I can fit in a couple of races before the meat of the season goals for me began with a double weekend: cross country MTB on Saturday followed by gravel on Sunday.
The Island Lake Challenge was an event I’ve never done before, it was local and a track I’ve ridden often, but not in a race. I turned up, got a good start, couldn’t hold the pace of the leader, backed off, slipped to third in the Elite 50+ category and that’s were I finished. I was able to hold a steady pace, Tempo if you like, but had zero punch. A little disappointed but good to be back.
The next day was the Uncle John’s Dirty Ride gravel race. It starts and finishes in a cider mill, is a great day out for families but the race is pancake flat and like a criterium on gravel. My goal: hang on!
The race started with a neutral roll-out and when we hit the first gravel road it was insane, rocks bouncing everywhere, dust flying, people shouting, sounds of rocks hitting carbon, it was nuts and not an environment I was particularly enjoying for my first big peloton back. With no climbs nor technical features the only way the front knew to break up the group was speed and that’s how it went, mid 30’s mph and hanging on for dear life, splits happening all over the place and the front group getting smaller and smaller.
Things eventually settled down with about 20 miles to go when a small group got off the front and there we raced as a group of 20 or so for the remaining miles. Everyone knew that the finish was a bit sketchy - a left turn onto a bumpy, pebbly two track with apple trees at close proximity on both sides. As everyone fought for the corner I went wide using a little grass for grip on the outside and catapulted around a few. Next the only climb of the race - a grass embankment to assure you do cramp, just in case you hadn’t previously, followed by another quick left and the finish line.
Much happier today! Sixteenth overall which put me among a lot of good younger racers and first in the old man’s group. Most importantly, I didn’t crash on my finger ;)