By Shane Haga
The second race weekend of this year’s mountain season found a handful of Aggies taking a trip to Lake Conroe. I’ll do my best to accurately describe the events as they unfolded, but my mind has had almost a full week to forget/ embellish what may or may not have happened.
The trip began with a sleepy 6 am drive to Coldsprings. At this point I would like to mention that all the racers comfortably fit into two rental vehicles—this is unacceptable. We need more people racing if we want to maintain our conference win streak! But I digress. We arrived early with much time to spare before the 9:30 start for the time trial. We quickly unloaded the trailer, registered, and went out for a couple laps to get used to the course. Let me go ahead and put the rumors to rest here: It has been said that the trail is dangerously flat and lacking in technical difficulty—these rumors are entirely true. The course was somewhere in the neighborhood of “3 miles”, and reasonably wide, though lacking in markings.
Norman got us started with a strong ride in the Men’s C’s, soon to be followed by our only female for the weekend, Stephanie (to be referred to as Travis Pastrana henceforth.) A&M was well represented in the Men’s B’s by Shawn, Ben and Ben, Migl, and Zane. I do not recall their results, although Silva enjoyed a detour that cost him a few extra minutes. Lovelace started off the A’s, followed by Kyle Johnson from t.u, and then yours truly. My race got started off fast and smooth with a hard sprint down the road before diving onto the trail, at which point things got hairy. The loose transition between the pavement and dirt, combined with my excessive speed caused me to lose my front wheel and start toward the ground. Using my big burly roadie arms, I wrestled the front wheel back under me as my back wheel decided to break loose going the opposite direction. Though I’m not sure how, I managed to stay upright and continue onward in my race. I knew that it was only going to be a few minutes before the race was over, so I kept myself redlined and went as hard as I could. I felt very much in my element on the flat and flowy trail, but the course seemed entirely different at full speed, causing me to make a few crucial mistakes. At one point as I was coming up to a fork in the trail I thought the tape marking was pointing me left when it was actually pointing right. The late realization forced me to lock up the brakes and get up on the front wheel. Maintaining composure, I dropped the rear wheel down and took off (down the correct path) knowing the finish was near. Coming up to the clearing, I shifted into the big ring, put down my head, and hammered as hard as my legs would go before opening up a 200 m sprint finish. After preriding the XC course we made our way to look at the TT results. Kyle Johnson took first with a time of 4.45.6 and I took second with 4.46.1. If missing first by .5 seconds isn’t reason enough to be upset about those stupid little mistakes then I don’t know what is. Kevin came in a strong third, followed by Austin Stewart from Texas State, and Andrew Cork from Baylor.
I suppose I should mention that between the TT and short track, Zane and I were fortunate enough to stumble upon Peter’s jersey, which was left in the trailer after Camp Eagle…soaking with sweat…in a sealed plastic bag. We took it out (why, I don’t know) and I seriously thought the jersey was covered in cheese it was so moldy. Peter, you are a disgusting person. (It dripped on me by the way.) The short track was set to be about .7 miles consisting of one third pavement with patchy sand, and the remainder single track. Norman once again fought hard in the C’s, hanging in there even after a tough spill that bent up his derailleur hanger, and Stephanie hung in for another podium finish in the women’s race. In the B’s Shawn, Ben and Ben broke away early, though Ben Davis was unable to keep up in the single track. Shawn and Silva finished first and second respectively, with Zane fighting his way back into a podium finish on his drastically under-geared single speed. He was followed by Ben Davis and David Migl.
The A’s lined up shortly thereafter at which point Reynold’s proposed that the race be shortened from 40 minutes to 30. We weren’t having any of that nonsense, (at least I wasn’t) so 40 minutes it was. Lovelace got the hole shot into the trees with me sitting third wheel behind Austin. Lovelace led the first lap while I observed Austin’s lack of cornering ability that caused him difficulty in hanging on to Kevin’s wheel. When we got to the stretch of pavement going through the start/finish area, I began to fight Austin to get ahead of Kevin. We ended up bumping and leaning on each other as we drifted through the first turn hip to hip. I was eventually able to punch it and jump out in front of him. I knew that with Austin behind me and in front of everyone else, I could get a sizeable gap and extend it quickly, so I picked up the pace and cornered better than I ever have. Throughout the remainder of the race I continued to extend my lead to a final gap of about a minute and half. Kevin came in forth, sprinting around Andrew before the line.
We spent the rest of the day in comfort at Ben Davis’s lake house on Livingston. Many thanks to Ben’s mom and dad for the mid-day barbeque lunch and spaghetti dinner. For dessert, we celebrated David’s birthday with a tasty cookie cake, which I had nothing to do with, but took credit for anyways. You’re still welcome David. In order to get the cookie cake, however, David had to agree to wear his second present, a little tiara, for the remainder of the evening, and the entire day Sunday. He did. So I would now like to announce that he is no longer David Migl, his is now officially PRINCESS David.
Sunday morning we got out of bed and to the trail without issue, and with plenty of time to wake the legs up with a pre-race spin. The A racers lined up first, but this time with an additional Aggie. Marky Mark decided to line up with us for the XC race, though he would not be seen again until after we’d all finished and cooled down. (Jab Jab) The XC race developed similarly to the short track the previous day. Kyle was first on to the trail followed by Austin, and me third wheel. Kyle started hot and got a pretty good gap on the rest of us due to Austin’s limited confidence through the turns. I patiently waited as the gap grew until the opportunity presented itself, and I jumped around Austin and bridged up to Kyle. With the gap growing, the two of us pedaled away. Kyle initially kept the pace high, but soon realized he was burning himself and not wearing me out any. He soon let off the gas, and we continued on at a conversational pace, all the while I was figuring out how I wanted to go about winning. I settled on waiting out the first lap, and making my move at the start of the second. The pace Kyle set turned out to be a little too lax, and Kevin and Austin caught up towards the end of the first lap. Going in to the second lap, Kyle, Kevin, and I were altogether (Austin had a mechanical issue). As we passed through the start finish on the road leading to the single track, Kyle let me take the lead. As soon as my tires touched dirt I lifted the pace and started to rail the turns at the limit of my traction, and began to gain ground on Kyle and Kevin. I maintained the high effort until I was out of sight, then backed off just enough to get off my limit. From then it was just a matter of maintaining my lead and finishing first, though the course was relentless—nowhere to take a break and recover—just hammer hammer hammer. I ended up winning with a gap of about 4-5 minutes to Kyle, finishing the 24 mile race in 1:51. Kevin hung in for third place thanks to his miracle cure Dr. Pepper feed going in to lap 3, and Mark managed to get 4th because Austin DNF’d and the Baylor rider flatted. Shawn Small came in for 2nd in the B’s, and Norman got 3rd in the C’s. Our only female successfully finished on the podium for the 3rd time in her mountain biking debut. I don’t remember where we all stand, but we’re looking good in conference standings after the second weekend. Hopefully we’ll be able to extend our conference lead with a strong showing in Waco.