|The "Builds" atop Big Buff's car near the "cabin"|
The ride down to Red Wing from Duluth with Buff was great, as there is always good conversation and most importantly, it's not always about bike stuff. I love talkin' old college days, medical stuff (Buff's a Doc), and even giving him a glimpse into Eki's past. At the cabin we had plenty of time to sort out our gear and get the essentials dialed in for race day, while listening to the soothing sounds of Yanni (house music). Yes, Yanni. I bristled at the first suggestion of it, but hey it's not my cabin, I went with it. Immediately, my heart rate dropped, I was calm, I almost started some Yoga sessions. It worked well for my nervous nature.
Fast forward to the race. This year's RAG hosted some serious studs! Meiser, Tri, Farrow, Buff, Norrie, Sova, and a few unknowns that showed themselves at the front of the field early and wouldn't budge. Not only did all of these guys take the blows we tried to hand them, they gave 'em back and they stung!
The RAG always includes a 'King of the Mountains' competition, made up of six scored climbs where points are awarded to the top place holders of the designated climbs. The KOM starts and ends within the first 20 or so miles, so the hurting begins early. I was able to win the 'King of the Mountains' last year, so I was determined to do it again this year. However, I didn't expect it to be as difficult as it was. I controlled the first climb and won with a little "jump" at the end for the line. I felt that things would come easy for me at that point. Then, the diesel engine of Joe Meiser decided to throw his hat into the ring. Joe would now trade punches with me through the remaining 5 climbs. And, when I say "punches", I mean literally. It went something like this. Joe out front about 75% up the hill with me sitting on his left flank locked in against his rear wheel and the soft frost heaved gravel on my left. As I increased my speed to move for the pass he would squeeze me into the frost heaves, effectively doubling my work load. A smart, but some what dirty tactic. "Oh, I see how it's gonna be", I thought. The next climb was incredibly long and the two of us ended up in a similar scenario, however the roles were reversed this time. As Joe moved up on my left I pushed him toward the ditch, again and again. On about my third attempt at this strategy I felt him shove me hard off my intended line. I regained and continued to force him to the soft dirt. His shoves seem to turn to quick jabs to my hip. What it must have looked like to see two guys off the front of the break away punching at each other going up one of the biggest hills in Minnesota on bikes. We laughed about it as we've spent a lot of hours side by side racing. The competition would end with Joe winning three climbs and me winning three. However, Joe finished 3rd in the first climb, while the worst I ever finished was 2nd. I would be the 'King of the Mountains' this day. I was happy with that accomplishment, considering how difficult it was.
With the KOM over, it was time to sit in and concentrate on the rest of the race. There were about 17 of us moving to the first check point ahead of the main field. The pace was moderate and easily managed. Upon leaving the check point our numbers had dropped to 10 as several guys made a run to the store to refuel. The pace would soon ratchet up to uncomfortable levels over and over again.
|Joe Meiser (left) and I with our Ragnarok Rocks|
|Big Buff would belly laugh at my ability to |
get out of car on the way home. This thing
really locked up.
|Tim and Brandon (2nd and 1st, respectively)|
Brandon equalled total class!
|Me, my rocks, and my Salsa La Cruz Ti|