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Rough on the hands

June 1, 2007

Special Stage Time Trial #3 and Linking Stage 5

After a quick warm up spin from New Abbott, we were in Mabie Forest ready to grin and bear it. The time trial course was similar to the others, 10 km of ups and downs in the woods on singletrack and fire roads (mostly fire roads up and singletrack down), a bit of technical stuff but not much to be concerned about, and about 1,500 feet of vert to add the appropriate amount of pain to the morning.

Things started OK for me. I was concerned about all the usual stuff - how well I'd recovered, getting things going early, etc. That worked out OK, but the day wasn't without its complications. I was working hard on the first climb and was not relaxed. Apparently I had a death clench on the grips and my arms and hands were pumped and unusable by the top of the climb. I was hoping to go very hard on the singletrack when the trail turned down, but I couldn't. Fine control of the brakes is required, and my hands were not up to it. Shite.

I did what I could, but it was not working. I almost crashed twice because I could not modulate the front brake properly, so I had to back off. I was in a good dice with another vet too, but lost him when I was trying to work out the issues. I didn't know it but I cost the announcer a pound - he'd bet the guy I was racing with that I'd beat him. Bummer.

I think the foam grips I was using contributed to the issues though. I have used them before without a problem. They are light and fairly grippy when they are fresh (I roughen them with a coarse wood rasp to make sure). But these had been on the bike a while, and were getting polished smooth. I tried to rough them up with a piece of granite but it wasn't enough. When I am trying to go hard with slippery grips I have to hold on too hard, and that overtaxes my hands and arms and makes it hard to hold on in very rough sections too. There are new grips on the bike now.

The day wasn't a disaster though. The grip/hand problem made me sit up twice for a few ticks so I could shake them out and get some feeling back. It worked a little, but not enough. I held onto ninth in the GC.

The following stage was about 60 km with a big climb and a lot of good technical and buff singletrack. The weather was cool and cloudy, just about right really. It clouded up a bit later but didn't rain until I was in the tent. In the end it was a good day.

Stop me if I am getting repetitious…

There's a 70 km stage with all the trimmings tomorrow and then a time trial in Glentress Forest at night. I've ridden in Glentress and it can be fairly technical, especially when it is wet. I've got my best lights with me and am going to drop the pressure in my tires as low as I think I can go.

Then the game will be simple. A good friend texted this to me a day or so ago - Have fun, and ride safe, in that order.


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Keith Bontrager is best known as the bike and component design guru behind his eponymous road and mountain bike components, but behind the scenes the man universally known as KB is an enthusiastic and well-respected endurance mountain bike racer. KB has taken part in a over 50 24-hour races in the last few years, and in his diary takes us inside the mental, physical and technical challenges of long-distance mountain bike racing, starting with one of the sport's greatest tests, the seven-day TransRockies Challenge.