If you have followed this blog at all, you will not be surprised that I let the first "race" of the year pass with nary a mention. That's right, Sunday, March 15th, was the Panama MTB Enduro, a approximately 30 mile gravel race south and east of Lincoln. To be clear, I didn't put race in quotation marks to disparage the event in any way; it was simply a comment on my approach to it.
I showed up way too close to the start time and was rushed to get registered and ready. Hooked up with Ryan and Harp (both looking sharp in their new Flatwater Cycling Team kits) and shortly thereafter we were off on a 1 mile controlled start. There were 93 total racers and I (stupidly it turns out) was in the back half at the start. Things managed to stay together pretty well and I was able to move up a bit on the leadout. However, after we turned off the pavement things got hectic fast. The wind was strong out of the south and we were heading right into it. I pulled away from some people and noticed a group of maybe 20 riders forming in front of me. I spent the next couple miles trying my hardest to catch that group but I just couldn't make up the gap floundering by myself in the wind.
Soon afterward we turned to the west and there was the first checkpoint. This race is similar to the local adventure races in that each racer has a card that must be punched with a special punch at several checkpoints distributed throughout the course. On this day, CP#1 was very early in the race, and served to spread everybody out as we all had to wait our turn to punch the card. It was at this point, just 5 miles or so into the race, that I ended up around the people I would ride with all day.
The rest of the race would take us on a big loop to Stagecoach Lake, thru Hickman, to the singletrack at Wagon Train (muddy and horsey), and then back to Panama. It was a grand old time. I ended up finishing about ten minutes behind the people I wanted to be able to keep up with. Overall, I was pretty pleased with my performance, and I know if I had started in better position I could have finished higher in the order.
Afterward there was food, drink and prizes at the Panama Fire Station. My name was called in the raffle and took home some Hammer Gel. Organizer extraordinaire Jim Craig gave us the lowdown on all the upcoming events, and talked about some of the new trails that were getting built. Biggest news: Wagon Train will feature a 15 mile loop when it is complete; that's unheard of around here!!