and it burns, burns, burns, the Ring of Fire

This past Wednesday I raced on skinny tires (!) for the third time ever at the Ring of Fire series in Asheville.  How could I resist when the races are held at the Mellowdrome, minutes away from my house?  Cars used to race here, but now only bicycles do…

Asheville Motor Speedway Memorial (credit: Asheville Citizen Times)

I often come to the Mellowdrome for solo interval sessions but I looked forward to having some company!  To get some speedwork and tactical experience I decided to race the B mens race (40 laps) and the womens open (20 laps).  Both were points races with sprints every five laps and occasional primes.

I warmed up and jumped in the B’s race.  It was FAST but it felt good!  As MTB races typically feel like time trials, I was initially a little claustrophobic in the peleton (30-40 riders).  Despite my lack of road racing I certainly know road/track etiquette; I stayed calm and everything was fine.  A lot of fun, actually.

I chose not to contest anything and hung onto the group for around 20 laps–long enough to open up my legs and get my heart pumping.  I wanted to ride hard, but didn’t want to blow myself up.  I pulled off, sat up and waited for the field to come around again, then jumped back in and out as I needed to for the remainder of the “race.”

one of the races getting organized

I had about three minutes to start the womens race and felt much more comfortable waiting on the line.  There was a good turnout with some very strong, experienced riders and a few teams that would certainly try tactics.  My tiny, 9-speed aluminum road bike looked funny lined up next to the fancy, beautiful carbon machines!  It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done…

We rolled out a neutral lap and the race was on.  I was determined not to ride like a “mountain biker” (in other words, get out in front and pull everyone around!) and I got on a wheel near the front. I rode aggressively but stayed smart as I contested every sprint.  Dave yelled out a lot of support on the sidelines!

During the last few laps I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be but I was able to get a good position leading into the last lap.  Two teammates accelerated in an attempt to form a lead-out and I latched onto them.  However they weren’t going hard enough.  I was worried the field close behind us would come around on the finishing straight so I took off around them with 200 meters to go, sprinted in for double points (and the win)!  I realize that was a long sprint but I felt great and strong enough to go for it when I did.

I had a ton of fun and even got compliments on my cadence and power bursts (two things that have not exactly been my strengths), so I definitely have my coach to thank for that!  It was great to meet new people, try something totally different and the experience knocked me out of the minor mental funk I’ve been in.  It might have tempted me to try road racing, but in any case, it was just what I needed!

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