|Mark Oveson and Peter Bakwin on the Slab the morning before Stage|
Best stage yet! Why? Because the routes were the best? They were super fun, but not. The rocks? The weather? The trails? No, no, and no. It was the field! It was super competitive up front with the top three within seconds at the top of both rocks, but it was also great back in the middle of the field where I was. I changed position many times with the scramblers around me.
We started with ten and quickly split into two groups: the fast...and the faster! Heck, we're all pretty fast when it comes to climbing these routes trailhead to trailhead, so, while I feel like a pregnant hippo when running near Matthias, none of us are slow. The faster group included the top three combatants this year, Stefan, Matthias, and Ryan, plus 4-time Tour Champion Dave Mackey and Jon Sargent. The trailing group was led originally by me, followed closely by Willie and pioneering scrambler Buzz Burrell, with Adam and Tony at the tail end.
|The scrambling on the course|
I led for maybe 6 or 7 minutes and then Buzz came by towing Willie. We stayed in that position, until nearly the Slab. Buzz had maybe ten seconds on Willie and I and I moved just in front of Willie before we hit the Slab and started up Syzygy. Knowing the route a bit better I caught up to Buzz and he fell in behind me, knowing he wouldn't get lost and could just have me guide him to the top. Our fitness level was very similar and this worked out great. We expected Willie to fall in behind as well, but I think he got a bit off route to the right, got gapped, and lost the advantage of a guide. He rapidly fell back from there.
|High on the Slab|
I pushed the descent, at least for me, hoping to get a bit of a gap on Buzz, as he seemed to have a touch more in the tank when going uphill. I knew he wouldn't be pushing hard on the descents. Pushing hard and flowing pretty well for me, I got to the base of the Southern Goose Egg, just as Jon was starting up it. He called out, "Let me know when you want to go by." I knew I wouldn't be passing Jon now that we were going uphill again, as he is also fitter, as was proven on the approach. Jon had a taped up ankle and I knew he wouldn't be pushing the pace on the descents either, since he had jacked it up a bit last week.
|The crux start of the Southern Goose Egg|
With this error I got ahead of Jon and raced down the descent. Jon even paused at one section to let me descend further because he didn't want to risk knocking a rock down on me. What a guy! I flew down the dirt and pine needles, getting a gap on Jon, and hitting the Fern Canyon Trail just in front of Adam Massey. He was headed to the Goose Egg. I was headed to the finish.
I knew Jon was in hot pursuit, but he was supposed to be taking it easy on the ankle. I pushed hard on the more technical upper Shanahan Trail and got a pretty decent gap on him. I hoped it would be enough, but I didn't want to encourage him by being in sight. I continued to push hard on the now smooth, fast trail. Yet, I could still feel him. A quick look over my shoulder and I could see him back there. Dang it! Jon, why aren't you taking it easy on the ankle. I pushed hard, thinking if I could just get to the single track, 90 seconds before the finish, it would be too steep, technical, and narrow for him to pass me. Alas, about a minute before that single track, Jon caught and past me. Bastard!
I continued to push hard because my watch told me I could break 50 minutes. This was actually quite a surprise. I thought this course was similar to last week's course where I didn't break an hour. I guess it is quite a bit faster or I ran quite a bit better today, as I did break 50.
This didn't seem to hurt nearly as bad as last week. I don't know why. Maybe I wasn't pushing hard enough, but I had such great competition the entire way that I don't think that was the case. I think I just paced things better. Either way, it was a blast!
Buzz came in next at a bit over 52 minutes and then Willie, and then Adam and Tony. What a great time.
Stefan's mini report:
Now THAT was a serious race! Matthias, Ryan and I were 30 seconds or less apart the entire time, and pretty much side-by-side going up the Southern Goose Egg. Once we hit the Fern Canyon trail for the run out, Matthias hammered out a good lead all the way to the finish. Ryan and I traded places twice, both hurting incredibly badly, but could never close the gap on Matthias. I stopped my watch at 40m01s, I think Matthias was 39m33s and Ryan at 40m22s, but I'll let them post up corrections. Man, I'm gonna be sore from that one for sure.
1. Matthias Messner, 39:33
2. Stefan Griebel, 40:01
3. Ryan Franz, 40:22
4. Dave Mackey, 44:15
5. Jon Sargent, 49:14
6. Bill Wright, 49:37
7. Buzz Burrell, 52:37
8. Willie Mein, 56:00
9. Adam Massey*, 1:01:54
10. Tony Bubb, 1:03:00
11. Dylan Cousins, 1:09:27*
12. Stuart Paul*, 2:00:59