Two years, two wins at Syllamos

This year has by no means been a cake walk. In fact, prior to last weekend’s win at the Missouri State Championships, my life was full of chaos and misfortune at almost every big race I attended. Two mass start unavoidable XC crashes,  illness, and a death in the family all lead to sub par results early in the year. That’s life unfortunately!

This is why I am more then ecstatic to say that my unlucky spell has finally come to an end. Two wins, both at big races, and both back to back weekends. No better feeling then putting all the work into the year, working through the hard times, and then finally coming through with the results I thought I always had in me.

Syllamos Revenge happened yesterday. It’s the most technical, flat prone, and has the most singletrack out of all the National Ultra-Endurance races(NUE). That’s why I love it! Takes a true bike handler on top of solid equipment, and a great fitness base to take the win.

Second big rock to add to my collection

To make things even more technical this year it rained two days prior to the race turning the slick rock into to super slick rock kinda like riding on an ice rink. On terrain like that finesse combined with great line choice, good equipment, and a solid/even pedal stroke can mean riding or walking certain sections. I heard of racers even trying to walk some of these sections and slipping while walking due to the slickness. I chose to ride 98% of it with the help of Kenda’s Kozmik Lite II SCT tires, Felt’s Edict Nine LTD, Stan’s No Tubes Race Gold wheels and SR Suntour rear/front suspension. A good combo of suspension, bike choice, and tire choice really can make or break sections like this.

The race unfolded pretty fast due to the combined technical and slick terrain. I knew due to this, I could afford to push the pace early on and hopefully take advantage of my course knowledge and technical skills on the course. It was the plan from the start and it worked great. About 40 minutes in, I took a really tough line I re-conned this past week pre-riding. It’s a super steep rock drop requiring lots of confidence, and no room for mistakes. It’s also the only way to ride the section without putting a foot down. That section gave me a good break of 10-15 seconds on the closely chasing group. Cary Smith was riding super strong and closed the gap back to me, but left a decent gap on the two riders behind him.

Before reading on, check out this cool video I did the Wednesday prior to the race:

Stairway to heaven climb. Shows a little of how technical and rocky the terrain can be at Syllamos

From then on, that trend tended to keep on happening between Cary Smith and I. I would gain time on the descents and technical terrain, and Cary would close that gap on the more fitness based sections. Not an easy task, so huge props to Cary. I thought I had him multiple times and then I would hear his wheels spinning 5-10 seconds back. Damn that guy is fast!

Luckily those gaps slowly got larger especially as we got to the two largest climbs on the course. I think Cary might have burnt a few matches closing those gaps. Between those two climbs I put about 2:00 minutes on him. That wasn’t the end of the fight though. I was getting lap splits from the aid station helpers, and Cary kept on pounding it bringing the time split back to 1:00 on a faster, and flatter section.

When I heard that I don’t think I have ever brought myself to dig as deep as I did that late in the race.  It was five hours in and I was hurting big time. However, it is amazing what the mind and a positive mindset can do. I dug, dug, dug some more, and talked positive to myself. I kept on telling myself that I wasn’t going to loose a race after leading 98% of it. No way that was going to happen. “Common, common, let’s go, let’s go!”  That’s what goes through my head when I am hurting. Get’s me focused and pushes me to the max.

I came through the finish line about 7 minutes ahead of Cary. I later found out that he was struggling too. Not what I expected to hear, but glad I pushed that last section. Never thought I would be able to push that hard that late in a race. No way to find this out unless you actually do it. Great learning experience about how strong the mind can really be when racing.

My Felt Edict Nine all set up to race

 

Now I am off to the TSE stage race. Another race that I really enjoy doing. It has similar technical terrain to Syllamos along with an excellent and professionally run race that makes for one of the most fun weeks of my year. Very much looking forward to recovering this week, and then bringing this strong form to that race.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates in State College,PA at TSE. I’ll be hanging out with the Stan’s No Tubes guys pre-riding the TSE stages, and enjoying recovery with my legs up this coming week.

Drew Edsall