The Sumter Metric Century is hands down one of the strangest races of the year. It's got 3 loops of single track, long portions of paved road and dirt road connectors. Combined with super-hot temperatures and angry dogs and you've got the recipe for a wonderful and strange journey not unlike the second time I ever ate mushrooms during my freshman year at Boston University. Eric rode his cross bike while I stuck with my single speed Kona 29er. In hindsight, the cross option would've been better but such is life. My hindsight is just as poor as my foresight. Anyhoo, the race got cracking after a neutral roll-out and I was instantly gapped by most of the faster folk as I tried to fiddle with my I-Pod. I had a quaint little rap mix that I'd made and goddamn it, I was going to use it. I saw first place single speed ride away but I knew it was going to be hot and terrible so I bid him adieu and settled in for the first portion of dirt road. A mile or so of that and it was into the well known Turkey Creek trail. The trail was lovely and other than a few down logs had a good flow to it.
I eventually rolled up on two cross racers and knew Eric must be doing well to have gapped them this early. After a few more miles, I rolled up on first place SS and we rode together. I couldn't tell what gear he was running but we seemed to be around the same speed. As we approached SAG #1, he stopped while I continued on but was temporarily confused. Where is the trail? Where am I going? I rode in circles and then saw an angry trio of three riders coming up a dirt road. One of them was Eric. He said they lost a couple minutes going the wrong way. We re-grouped and headed into the Wine Creek trail portion of the race. To be honest, Eric was riding like a man possessed. Borderline reckless for a man on a cross bike gapping the two other guys in his group on several occasions. I rode last so I could watch Eric bunny hop logs at speed and avoid eating shit every other turn. Eventually, the guy in front endo'd on a log and as he flailed, Eric tried to go around him, T-boning the guy and his bike in the process. Eric mumbled an apology as the guy screamed and complained to Eric. It was hilarious. I guess Eric was pissed as he literally sprinted down the trail with the three of us in close pursuit. I hung behind the other two riders (both on 29ers) and watched them flail around on the rockier sections of Wine Creek. They didn't flail all that much to be honest but their handling skills seemed lacking, and thats coming from somebody who has zero handling skills. Eventually, I tired of their antics and rode around them and bridged up to Eric somehow. Eric and I chatted and tried to figure out who was ahead of us. The pavement section was pretty long so I tried to tuck in and spin as much as possible. The other two riders eventually bridged up to us and we rode into the longest and hilliest dirt road section of the race. After a little while, their pace was too much for my single speed so I had to wave goodbye and ride solo.
I passed a guy who told me he did some of the first Shenandoah 100s back in the day. Very cool, in addition to his vintage IF. After a few more miles of shadeless dirt road, I popped out onto some pavement and aimlessly spun to Lick Fork State Park. I waved hello to Chad at SAG #2 and turned into the Horn Creek loop. Jesus, by now it was really hot and I was starting to drink more Heed. Horn Creek was covered in pine straw and was eroded like a bastard. Luckily there was little climbing so I just rolled along, enjoying the hardwoods and the remnants of controlled burning and what looked to be a few acres of harvested trees. Upon rolling back into SAG#3, which was also #2 due to the fact that it's at the start and end of a loop, I was informed that they were out of water. I could stick around or I could continue. A woman offered me a cup of ice. That was kind of her. I decided to split and as I was leaving, the lady said "Well, we have Powerade but no water" Jesus, any liquid would do so I slurped down a cup, told Chad I loved him and how proud I was of his career as an accountant, and rode away down a long, exposed dirt road. By now it was over 90 degrees and I was low on water. Then I turned onto the longest portion of pavement and my morale instantly nosedived. I have never wanted gears so bad in my life. It was maddening. I kept thinking of Eric, probably big ringing it in his drops with those two other riders, sharing the work as I rode by myself into a very stiff headwind. I hated Eric so much. After riding past some angry dogs and a church that appeared to be having a wedding of some sort, I finally reached SAG #4. Chad informed me Eric and his riding partner were several minutes ahead. Shit. There would be no catching them. The third member of their group sat in a chair suffering from the heat crazies. I drank a few cups of Powerade as I was now extremely dehydrated and was a little weirded put by the heat suffering fellow slumped over in the chair.
On a mechanical note, during Wine Creek, I dropped my chain several times and I now noticed my tension bolts had slipped a little. Huh, how odd. I took out the multitool and re-tightened everything for Modoc, the last portion of single track. I said bye bye to Chad and rode into the woods with 15 more miles of racing left. Modoc was tons of fun but the 34X19 gearing started to hurt on the handful of steep climbs. I ended up riding with a guy who informed me his wife was also riding in the race. I'm always amazed at the married couples who do races together. I don't get it but maybe you have to be married to understand it. Oh well, I rode away from him on a climb and hit the last 5 mile portion of dirt road. It sucked the life out of me but as I hit the last portion of pavement, a small shower of rain opened up and cooled the temperatures off and buoyed my spirits for the finish. I crossed the finish and vowed I would never do this race again on a single speed. Then I ate a hamburger and watched Chad talk to a woman 40 years his senior about transcontinental motorcycle touring. Hoffenchard category sweep bitches! 1st place cyclocross, 1st place singlespeed!
"Kenny, what the fuuuuuck man?"