This past Saturday, I participated in the the Curse of the Crab race.
I got a cool Twin Six jersey with a single speed theme.
In the past few weeks, I have been pretty consistent in my riding and diet. My fitness is not great this time of year but I am starting to feel pretty good and losing about 15 pounds of fat over the past three months has helped me ride better.
Single speeders like me really think a lot about our gear. For Curse, I was on 34/20 gearing. This works out to be a 1.7 ratio. Most other riders were on bigger ratios. Crabtree is pretty flat and in hindsight I my ratio was a bit too low. Next year, I will try something bigger. 32/18, 33/19, 34/19, or 36/20 are close to 1.8 ratio. I could run 35/20 for a 1.75 ratio to get a little more gear and avoid going too big. Single speed is about riding with one gear and it is fun to consider all the options.
Races like this start with a short road section to thin the pack before we hit the singletrack. With single speed gearing and a low ratio I was spun out right away and watched a fellow racer named Michael take category lead as we entered the single track.
Michael is a strong rider but I did my best to keep pace. By the end of the first lap Michael was about a minute up on me. In the second lap, he gained another minute on me. In the third and fourth laps I gained a little bit of time back but at this point the race was maturing and I settled into a pace that I could maintain. I was able to catch glimpses of Michael at various points where the trails would fold back upon themselves.
Crabtree park is a hard place to race because with no major climbs the six hours is one constant and fast effort. No part of the course is “easy”. The flat terrain and open trails mean that you are usually riding very fast. It is hard to eat or drink on a mountain bike and in this race I was on the edge where I was forcing myself to eat and drink something but also trying not to overload my stomach.
I was able to claw back some time in laps 7, 8, and 9. As I got closer on lap nine I could see that Michael was not feeling well. Later I found he had back problems. I occasionally have similar issues and wish him the best in recovery. The Crabtree race course is hard and once you get struck down with back pain there is not much that can be done. Michael was forced to stop at lap nine although when I passed I actually did not know he was stopping. I thought was simply getting some food at the pit stop area.
I road lap 10 thinking that Michael was chasing me. I went my own pace and really was expecting to get passed at any minute. My final lap was also good and I let myself relax a bit. I did not bonk but my systems were fading on the last lap. I was very happy to finish 11 laps of the course and meet my goal of 60 miles.
For this race I was very happy with my lap pacing. The very first lap was slightly longer because of the road section. As I expected, my pace for the first three laps was fast with times of 31, 29, and 29 minutes. The middle five laps were consistent with times of 30, 32, 31, 32, and 33 minutes. The final three laps were also pretty good with 33, 34, and 35 minutes. I finished 18 minutes behind the top geared rider.
At the finish, I felt spent but was happy with my effort. After his back problems, Michael dropped back to third place in the race. I only saw the second place finisher (also named Mark) a couple of times but found this great photo online. It looks like he was pretty happy on the course and with 10 laps it is clear he put in a strong effort. Hopefully I will get a chance to ride with him at a future race.
As expected, the bike performed great. The gear ratio was a little too small I think that is better then going out with one that is too large.
Photos from the event from Torrenti Cycles and TORC mountain bike club.