Team Ommegang - Syracuse Bicycle was out in full force again for The Black Fly Challenge. This years addition brought wet roads and sand.
I think we had about 8 gangsters there to represent. Drummroll, AJ and I went up to Indian Lake Friday night to avoid an early morning commute. If you've never been to Indian Lake, its best suited for relaxing, so that's what we did. We drank a couple of Ommegang's finest, watched a little TV, jumped on an unsecured WiFi network for a little iPod e-mail, and got some rest. A few loud kids kept AJ up, and Drummroll spent some time trying to keep a mosquito out of his ear, but otherwise we got some decent sleep.
In the morning, Drummroll and I hit up the local diner for some eggs and carbs, and AJ stayed behind to drink a couple of bottles of Starbuck's finest and eat some Cliff Bars or something. Drummroll and I even signed a petition to help the fine folks of Indian Lake secure a new grocery store since apparently the local store had recently gone belly up.
Having worked out some automobile logistics in advance, we headed down to Inlet for packet pick up. As luck would have it, it was raining pretty hard. Close to pouring. When we got to Inlet it was looking pretty bleak. I'm always up for a challenge, but now I had to start thinking hard about what clothing I had packed, what to wear, how many layers, etc. Then, about 20 minutes before the race started, the rain stopped. Perfect . . . I think.
Quick warm up, second guess tire pressure a few times, and then line up. For what it's worth, I ran about 53lbs. I know some dudes went for closer to 70, but I thought I'd shoot for closer to CX, but with enough air to smack a rock at 35mph without too much fear of pinch flatting. Looking around at the crowd as we lined up, it was clear that this was a deeper field than last year. I was still optimistic, but thoughts of another 2nd place were tempered by more realistic aspirations of a top 10. Apparently Dan Staffo from Handlebars decided to check out what the Black Fly had to offer, and I made the mistake of talking team friend Tim O into going. That pretty much meant that barring a mechanical, first and second were pretty much wrapped up.
Right from the gun, Dan started driving the pace. It was clear that he wasn't going to wait around for the race to unfold. By the top of the first hill, there were only 4 of us. Thankfully things eased up a little and some guys got back on in time for the second hill. At that point, Dan got away and eight of us were left behind working pretty well as a group. So far the rain and wet weren't much of a factor. As we pressed on, keeping Dan in sight, it was clear that some guys in our group were strong, and others, myself included were drooling on ourselves. As we started to roll through the flat sections with wet sand, I started to worry that my brakes were rubbing. Sadly they weren't, it was just incredibly tough going. Riding in the wet sand was WAY harder than the previous years in the dry loose stuff. I'd also decided to roll with the Michelin Mud's instead of the Jets, and although I may never know, I think they created more traction than I really wanted.
At a certain point, our group started to splinter and Tim O, Eric Grimm, and Randy Hadzor built up a small lead on the rest of us. Next thing I knew, the rest of my group had built up a small lead on me. At this point, I knew I was in 9th and I had no choice but to ride within myself or risk blowing up, so I watched my teammates AJ and Fred roll up the road. Now I'm asking myself, can I hang on for 9th? A few minutes later, I see Eric Grimm changing a flat. Now I'm in 8th.
As I rolled along, I saw a couple of guys coming up on me, so I eased up, popped a gel pack and waited for them to catch me. Thankfully, it was Drumroll and a beast of a man named Paul from Battenkill-United on an MTB. As Drumroll passes me, he says "This dude is really strong." That was all I needed to hear. I recovered pretty quickly, and got to work with both of them. Drummroll made some rolling introductions, and I let Paul know that he was in first place in the MTB division. None of us had a reason for any team BS, etc. so we just kept on working. I felt pretty good about my top 10.
Once we hit the pavement, I turned around and saw Eric Grimm literally flying down the road. He quickly caught us and we jumped his wheel. At this point, I knew that AJ and Fred were in the next group up the road, so we just hung onto Eric's wheel for dear life. He dragged us right up to AJ, Fred, and another dude, and then right up to Randy Hadzor. Now we had a group of eight with three guys off the front. Getting dropped or blowing the sprint would mean 11th place. The group kept the pace high, and with a little less than a mile to go, Fred hit the gas and opened up a small gap. He was quickly brought back though, so I took a go at it thinking 4th would be pretty sweet. Sadly Drummroll and Eric quickly caught me, but luckily Drummroll held off Eric for fourth and I was pretty happy to hang onto sixth. AJ took 7th, and Fred took 11th after cramping. Four guys in the top 11 ain't bad. Fred deserves a special mention since he was on my old Trek XO1. It's a great winter bike, but I wouldn't want to drag it over all of those hills.
All in all, the team had a great showing. Team friend Tim O took second, and I think everyone was fairly pleased with their performance. There's no question that we all raced hard and left it all on the road (or wet sand as it were).
The race organizers did another awesome job with the course, packet pickup, chip timing, etc. Those guys really get it, and I'm sure that our team will continue to flock to their race.
After the finish, Mrs. Skinny hustled me off to Lake Placid where she was running the half marathon with some friends of ours the next day. Despite an injury, she did well and I consumed my weight in beer. Great weekend.
PS - somehow I ended up being listed as the first place "beginner" in the results. I know I was in the CX category when I picked up my packet so I'm not sure what happened there. I don't want anyone thinking I'm a sand bagger. I did clean enough sand out of my drive train, hair, ears and eyes to fill a bag though . . .