Sunday, February 6, 2005
We went up to Fontana Village in western North Carolina yesterday for the Icycle Race. Three members of my husband's new mountain bike team, Squirrelly Racing, entered the nighttime downhill event. As I'm still on the injured list due to my knee, I was not able to compete this time, so spent the evening trying to take photographs (although both cameras were unfortunately having malfunctions, or more likely operator error, so I wasn't terribly successful at that), and cheering on the Squirrelly contingency, as well as a couple of other friends who were competing. I had been watching the riders' lights cresting the ridge high above us where there was a gradual uphill on the course, and on seeing a set which appeared to be an HID helmet light and a halogen bar light (which is what my husband Steve was using) burst into view, I wondered if that might in fact be him. But I was utterly amazed at how fast that set of lights went by! Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was indeed Steve crossing the finish line, having passed the rider who had started a minute ahead of him! He and I were even more delightedly stunned to learn that after the first of two downhill runs, Steve was in second place in the Pro/Expert Men category, a mere 10 seconds behind local Pro, Chris Herndon, and was one of only two riders out of the large list of entries to have a time under 3 minutes after the first run! While the rest of us spectating huddled around the bonfire in an attempt to thaw our frozen hands and feet, most of the racers clambered back into the U-Haul truck after the first run for the shuttle back to the top of the course, which actually started this year at a point perhaps 1/4 mile lower than the old start we had used for this race in previous years, for their second run. Once again, we waited at the bottom near the finish line as rider after rider took their turn. It was very cool to see the riders' lights as they crested the ridgeline up above us, like giant fireflies glittering atop the mountain, only to disappear behind the ridge in a hard left hand turn, and finally bursting back into view on rounding the slope to drop into the tight switchbacks leading to the finish, just before diving into a sharp right-hander onto a wooden bridge which then jettisoned them up a slight incline to exit the trail. After the second run, there was just a twinge of disappointment on discovering that Steve's second place position had been reduced to third by the 1 second Kip Smith had managed to gain on him. We were both still elated with his finish, though, as Steve had managed to turn in two race runs that were only 1 second apart, a 2:59 and a 3:00 flat, with his fastest time (the one the placings were based on) being a mere 10 seconds behind the winner and 1 second behind second place, recorded by extremely talented and elite racers. It felt strange for me being at a race and not only not being able to compete but really not even able to ride at all, so I felt a bit out of sorts and more like an outsider looking in than a member of the race community as in previous years. This seemed compounded by the fact that many of my previous competitors were not in attendance at this event so there were many more unfamiliar faces than familiar ones, a situation I'm really not used to at a mountain bike race! But Steve's podium finish at his inaugural race on his new team did seem to be a nice silver lining to that minor issue, and I'm still hopeful that with time and therapy, I'll be back in the saddle again soon.