We pulled out of the driveway early Friday morning. It was a smooth drive up. Stopped in Phillips for our annual Subway lunch w/ the Ttown Flyers. Pulled into Telemark Lodge around 3:00 ready for a re-ride. Everything was good, legs good, bike good, the sun started peaking out. Then with 5 miles to go in the pre-ride I put a really good 1" slice in my rear tire. I fixed the flat in record time, but then blew out the tube because I was an amatuer and didn't check my tire. I thought I was going to lose all my blood from the mosquitos, I thought I was going to have to walk 5 miles, I thought my race was over...Tristan or Bill didn't have air and T's spares tube had a hole in it....also amatuers! Luckily a fellow rider stopped with some assistance and my Clif Bar wrapper helped the slice stay closed tand I nursed the tire back to the finish line.
Demo Ken was the next hero of the day when he suggested the rugged Bontrager XR2 TLR for a repalcement tire. It reminded me of an old school Tioga Farmer John, but it was going to have to do the job. The Ttown Flyer crew pulled through with some Stans and a CO2 to help the tire get set up tubeless. It was a little stressful to say the least with white crap pouring out of your untested tire the night before the biggest mtb race in WI. We left Telemark 3.5 hours later with full doubts in my head and a dirty bike. Andrea and I went for dinner w/ Sager and Tristan...little did we know that everyone at the dinner table was going to kill it the next day! At 10pm I pulled out of the car wash and headed for bed.
The morning arrived and it was brisk. Not quite as cold as a few years ago when there was a full frost, but it was cold. I still had white stuff coming out of my wheels. I was afraid to let air out of the tires. I rolled down Hwy 77 with a tailwind for my warm up thinking I feel OK. Went through Rosies field thinking I need to let air out of the tires....I did. Back on the road towards the start with Dirk Rettig, headwind, legs cold and not feeling good.
The start was standard and seemed a little safer to me than in years past. I was at the front and was the first guy off the pavement in to Rosies field(not counting the guy on the cross bike and Mike Anderson who drafted the ATV half way down Hwy 77). I kept it cool and let Doug, Tilford and Tristan roll by and settled in. I was warm for about two seconds and pushed down the arm warmers and un zipped the jersey. Then the pace settled...the lead group was 20 strong and nobody was going anywhere. Why are my legs so cold? Mike Anderson was strong, Tilford was strong, Tristan was strong, Doug was up there, Sager was there. I attacked multiple times to see if anyone would come with me, but really was just trying to warm up my legs.
At hwy OO the group was a little smaller, Tilford had flatted and my legs were still cold. Doug drilled it for a while on his 26" fully suspended bike...just like old times....we dropped a few more riders. Then it went down. Mike Andersone was at the front. He must have pre-rode the whole course because at the biggest puddle he found a sweet line around in some singletrack to the right, then another to the left. I peaked over my right shoulder in the first singletrack and I saw Doug going through the puddle. His front tire was out of sight, the wave from the ATV almost covered his bars, he was skateboarding his bike knee deep in the water, while Mike, Tristan, Sager, and I were riding away.
We came out onto the long dirt road section w/ a gap and instantly started rotating. We were gone and one of use was not going to make the podium???
As we approached the Fire Tower all I could think about was why are my legs so cold? I was feeling good, but Sager was feeling better. He crushed it up the climb as my legs started to twinge. He went over the top 5 seconds ahead of Tristan and I was another 5 seconds back. Mike was about 10 behind me....I could tell he was hurting. It all came together on the descent. My legs were cold....heading towards the last section of the Birkie I tried to take a pull to warm up the legs, but they started cramping. I was thinking to myself I just need to out suffer Mike and get 3rd. Sager attacked and my legs cramped. I pushed through the first part of the climb where I had attacked last year and followed Tristans wheel. Sager was riding away with the win. Tristan was pulling me up the Birkie, but it seemed he could only climb as fast as I could. We started trading pulls and worked together the next 6 miles to catch Sager with 2 miles to go.
Tristan went to the front I followed into second postion thinking - One of us has to win -If Tristan goes at least Sager will have to go around me- Tristan made his move, it was not enough, but it did hurt Sager and right then I knew I was going to win. One more climb and I attacked and pedaled over the top. 10 second gap instantlly. I was seeing stars and my vision was horrible, the legs were cold but not cramping. I knew I had just won my 3rd Fat Tire and it was the first time I had enough of a gap to cross the finish line with my hands in the air.
The best part of the day was after the podium presentation when I saw Andrea cross the finish line. I was so excited to see her! She had an awesome race...she thought for sure she had just finish in 10th place. Her best finish ever. She was so excited she almost had an asthma attack(actaully she did have a little asthma attack and I had to repeatedly tell her to calm down). She ended up 11th(a little bummer than she wasn't top 10), but it was by far her best Chequamegon ever. She was less than 40 seconds away from 8th place. As her mechanic I was happy her bike worked....you can ask SKJ, as a husband/mechanic its not fun when your wifes bike doesn't work.
Then it was party time, but that's a different story.
A huge thanks to everyone who helped out with my flat tire(let me know if I owe you tubes or C02'S???) on Friday, who cheered, who sent me messages on facebook, and to Rachael my team mate who gave up her warm long sleeve jersey so I could look good on the podium! Thanks to Gear Grinder and Trek for all the help during all 3 Chequamegon Championships!