On Monday, July 14th I participated in the Canadian-American Police & Fire Games. It is basically an Olympic style event made up of about 70 different sports for the police & firemen to battle it out and this year it was hosted by York County, PA.
I went out on Sunday to preview the course at Codorus State Park and hooked up with guys from Chicago, Buffalo, Baltimore, Minnesota and a couple local PA guys. I did two laps with them of a course that was made up of either grassy double track or tight, windy singletrack. Included was a trip up "sledding hill" which was similar to the one at Lewis Morris that they used in the CX race there except this was all grass, so traction wasn't a problem. It was STEEP and about 150 yards long. After the two laps everyone else split off and I went out on a lap of my own to see how it flowed at a higher pace. Course knowledge pays off and it certainly came in handy on race day. Nothing but gold would be acceptable.
Monday morning and the bike shop that was promoting the event for the games did a great job. There wasn't a huge turnout but it would only take one guy to ruin my shot at a gold medal. Of course my group was the largest and every guy had true race bikes and full bike team kits. About 40% of the total crowd looked like racers, the others ranged from flat pedals to old school bikes, but my field was all part of the 40%. I'm told two guys race cat 1 locally and one guy got 2nd in Cat 2 at last years Nationals, now racing pro/1. Another is from Virginia and races the SM100 and other Chris Scott events. All this intel and I'm still feeling very prepared and confident. None of us have ever raced together so let's see how the race develops.
Off we go in one mass start and I head into the singletrack in third. Half a lap in and I'm in a three man freight train of the pro/1 guy setting a very steady pace, me, then the Virginia guy. Since the one guy was willing to lead the way I was willing to just sit in. We get to the sledding hill and as I downshift my chain jumps over the cassette and into the spokes. I didn't jam in so I got it out but four attempts and I realized something was wrong with the derailleur and I couldn't go to the easiest gear. I ended up running the hill which had a bunch of spectators and one guy I met Sunday said I was 1:15 behind now. Crap! All the training and preparation just to get botched by crappy shifting. I took the next couple minutes to test what gears I had left which ended up being from the 4th cog and lower with both chain rings. I got moving again as the pack was catching me and just hoped the Virginia guy got dropped and I could catch up. Now I was using all that course recon to know exactly where to make up time and just kept pushing. Half way through lap two and on a long straight I caught a glimpse of a rider. I stood and hammered a couple grass sections where others could easily get sucked into a slower rhythm and made up huge time. Using harder gears was forcing me to go faster, just hope I can keep on top of it for the rest of the race. Come down a long downhill into a punchy little climb, big ring my way up it, around a turn and wow, I ride up onto the wheels of 1st and 2nd. Virginia looks back to see me, then looks forward and drops his head. Yes, he's mine! I sit in for a breather as we go up and down the tight singletrack before sledding hill. Gonna have to hit it hard in the lowest gear I have left. We start climbing and I just stand and grind it out. I'm obviously climbing faster because of the hard gear and overtake both. I charge into the singletrack at the top and I notice both of them grab a bottle and take a breath. I'm spent but go big ring and stand. The next mile is flat, twisty singletrack and then more nice cruising on a gravel road after that, a great place for out of sight-out of mind so I just went for it. I expected the pro/1 to bridge up and at one point I saw him on the gravel road so I punched it again. It was risky going this hard with a full lap to go but I had the course all figured out and knew I could hold it. Came through the end of the lap and the crowd knew I had caught the leaders and took the lead so I got a ton of cheers and encouragement from them. Lap 3 I just kept crushing the grass sections and attacking the singletrack. At the top of sledding hill I took a look down and no one was in sight. At that point I knew I had it locked up and was able to enjoy the final trails although I still kept the pace high. Rolled through the finish to a big ovation and huge satisfaction.
The Virginia guy rolled through for 2nd about 2 minutes back and the pro/1 about a minute after for third. My splits were roughly 28, 29, 27. The last lap I had the course dialed and knew I could stand and crank through a section instead of downshifting and spinning and took advantage of every second gained. I was going so hard, sweating, snotting, grunting, that one of the course marshals asked if I was ok. I wanted gold and wasn't going home without it.
My group (40-44) took the top four spots overall for the day. I got to hang out for a while and met people from all over the country. Unfortunately no Canadians made the trip down, but if I'm going to defend my title I'll see them in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2016. There are road cycling events every day this week and I'm registered for the road race on Thursday. Up in the air if I'll be making the trip back out there but I already got what I really came for.