I've raced at Sherwood before, and the two things I remember most where:
- Super Bumpy
- Super Ouchy Hill
I was near the back for the start, and I lined up along the left and tried to pass as many people as I could before a run-up that would certainly be a bottle neck. I got going pretty fast just in time for a little traffic jam. I ran into the guy in front of me and then hit a pole that was surprisingly well planted in the ground, feet on the ground, rear tire in the air at eye level to anyone behind me. I don't think I was last after that but any passing I did was certainly undone.
Down and around some loose, twisty turns and into a canopy of trees, we did a hard right turn into the run-up hill. It was possible to ride it if you were alone and had the strength/gumption to do it, but not on the first lap. Bikes tangled, bodies on the ground, what a mess.
Out of the canopy, squinting into the sun and a left hand turn that led to a fast, loose and bumpy rolling section. Transition to a fast downhill, the same place as the bump-fest we had last year. It was way nicer this time around, but still pretty jarring.
Sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill into another shaded climb, this one quite ridable. Flow into a bumpy plateau with a couple of barriers, followed by another section of rolling, bumpy terrain.
Quick dismount to get through a little creek crossing, followed by the hill. The ouchy hill. Just go up, and up, and up. There was a slight flat section and even a little down hill for respite, but it still stung. The hill led us to a sharp left turn into a pasture and the finish line, where we (or at least the race leaders) must have crossed a good 10 times. It was tough but I really enjoyed it.
This was my first race of the season running tubeless again. I overdid it on the pressure and went really low, a little too soft for the hard bumpy stuff. With about four to go, I hit something hard after drifting sideways and I went over the bars. Pine needles ground their way in between the front tire and rim, and air started hissing out.
I cleaned out the dirt and pine needles, but the tire was flat by then. I limped over to the neutral pit and pumped it up. The bead snapped back but I decided I'd take a spare just in case. I lost a few minutes there but was able to finish the race.
The big hill was still ouchy but not as bad as last year. So maybe things are coming around a little, but still nothing great. I really don't like riding in the hard dry stuff, but at least it makes cool dust clouds when you ride through it.
PIR next weekend. And rain is in the forecast. PIR has the best damn mud in the world. Can't wait.
Photos are from Craig Ruby's Flikr Set. Thanks for sharing.