Fumbling Towards Ecstacy: The First Podium

Sean Hessby Sean Hess, Team Rider and Manager for Strackacobra. Visit me on Google+ .

I grabbed my first ever podium at the US Cup East / SERC race earlier this year at the Tanasi Trails (Ocoee Whitewater Center) in Ducktown, Tennessee. Hooray!

Ducktown is arguably the hardest course on the circuit, with six miles of climbing per lap. You go straight up the mountain, take a bit of a break for some flowy singletrack, finish the climb to the top of the mountain, and then go straight back down really fast on some fireroad before hitting the fabled and supertechnical Thunder Rock Express.

On the podium, far right, at Ducktown.

On the podium, far right, at Ducktown.

I wanted to get some really consistent power on the climb. To achieve this I really studied the gear ratios in my 32 and 22 chainrings, so I could run the highest cadence in a particular ratio, and thus the highest speed.

I pretty much nailed it. I noticed right away that I could run a higher cadence in the 22 ring at a ratio of 1:1 and above. This higher cadence put all of the effort on my aerobic system and helped save my strength. It made climbing easy in the first lap, so much so that as I hit the “hard” grades (from year’s past) I would kind of look back and think, “Was that the really hard part, because I hardly noticed it.”

My power faded in the second and final lap. Even though I was keeping a consistent cadence all the way through the race I noticed I was running a lighter gear. I was six minutes slower in the second lap…other riders were dropping about three minutes, so I gave these other riders an extra three minutes to gain on or catch me. But I was able to hang on to the ragged edge and fifth place.

In the end it was the downhilling that saved me. On the gravel fireroad descent I was passing other riders (out of different classes). Normally I get passed or hold even on the fireroad descent. And it felt really easy. On Thunder Rock I ran really well, especially on the second lap where I got some of the time back I lost climbing.

I didn’t really know if they were going to stand five or three for the podium in my class, and I was too afraid to ask. So I dutifully stood there clapping for the other riders until they called my class and called my name. I had the pleasure to witness Dave Berger of Goneriding butcher my sponsor name “Strackacobra” for the first time.

I made sure I looked out and remembered it…it’s been a long time coming.

See Strackacobra’s mountain themed T’s at Strackacobra.com

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