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Clark says he came close to bonking near the end of the first day, neglecting to eat anything out of the Section 102 trail before heading back up the Soo Valley Forest Service Road to the campsite. He managed to keep his bike in the middle ring until the end, and recharged with food and sleep.
On the second day Clark said he felt good out of the start, and was keeping tabs on Hestler and the other top riders as he rode through the checkpoints. The day started with a time trial format on the second day with the slowest riders going first and the fastest going last, separated by one minute.
“People would tell me he was two minutes ahead, a minute 40 ahead, so I always knew how far back I was. It was good to do the math, how far ahead he was, how fast he was going, because it kept my mind occupied,” said Clark. “I wasn’t thinking about my legs.”
Hestler held the lead until the first section of River Runs Through It and Bart’s Dark Trail. They went through the feed zone together, and rode up the 27 switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez.
When Hestler knew he couldn’t make up the time, the two decided to ride the rest of the race together.
“It was inspiring to ride with Andreas,” said Clark. “I watched him in the ’96 Olympics when I was a junior mountain bike racer, and I was literally going up the Alpe d’Huez with him just laughing. We took turns in the lead coming down, I showed him a few lines, he showed me a few lines, and we rode together into River. It was cool to sprint with him to the finish — I couldn’t keep up, but it was so much fun pulling out on the road and just going flat out to the end.”
Clark knew he was riding strong, but didn’t expect to be able to keep up the pace for a long race.
“I completely didn’t expect that. I went into the race thinking I’ll go hard for the first hour, because all I do are Loonie races, and then I thought I’d blow up. It was such an awesome course I kept finding energy to keep going, and all the people cheering at the checkpoints really kept you moving.”