I kind of like racing in the mud, but I also kind of suck at it. Maybe I’m a little tentative in my old age of 4 decades. None the less, I think it is good that some races go on, rain or shine. Mountain bike racing is all about racing in all conditions, rain, mud, dust, sand, hard pack, gravel, some pavement, earthquake, tornado, forest fires, whatever…yeah. The variety is part of what makes mountain biking such a great sport. So with that in mind, as president of the IMBCS, I will most likely strongly encourage all series race directors to move forward with their races, rain or shine. I realize that in some cases, there will be circumstances where this will not be possible. In a lot of cases, a race day decision will have to be made, such as delaying the start by an hour or more. I’d love to hear everybody’s thoughts on this, so if you have any ideas or thoughts, please leave a comment or talk to me personally. Again, it is only going to be a strong recommendation as I realize there are circumstances that would prevent a mandate.
So leading up to the weekend, I took it easy on Monday. Lit it up at the TNWC. Took it easy on Wednesday. Did some pyramid intervals on Thursday and took it easy on Friday and Saturday. I got a call from Troy Tellinghuesen on Saturday night at about 10pm. He’d just finished riding the trails at Seven Oaks and he said they were bone dry. I took a look at the forecast and it called for 50% chance of rain. Took a look at the radar and sure enough, there was a big ‘ole ugly green blob headin’ towards Seven Oaks. Got a call from See-door the next morning and he said that it had rained throughout the night. He hadn’t had a chance to check the trails yet, but he did say that they had already purchased a lot of food for the event and that they were moving forward… Game on.
I have a pretty wide assortment of tires to choose from. Last weekend, I used some 1.5’s at Webster City and they were a little too squirrely, so I grabbed a pair of 1.8’s, Panaracer Fire Pro’s I think. Arrived at the course while the sport / beginner race was going on. It was a pretty bad scene, people had mud cloggin’ their bikes up, kind of like the last Psycowpath race. I think only 5 people finished the sport / beginner race.
So I got my bike ready and thought I would at least try a partial lap. The initial climb was very rideable, but the descent on the backside of the hill was pretty treacherous. Lot’s of greasy mud that had me dabbing the whole way down. The rest of the ride was even worse and to add to the mud, my bike (the hardtail) was having some issues of it’s own with shifting. At this point I was thinking to myself ‘I’m not doin’ this, all it’s going to do is piss me off’. Racing in the mud is difficult enough, but when your bike isn’t working properly, it adds to it considerably.
After several shortcuts, I made it back to the start area and cleaned some of the crap off my stead. I decided to go ahead and race, I was already there and kind of dirty. I sprayed the critical areas of the frame down with cooking spray and rolled to the start. There were a total of 8 experts, I think. Pretty small field, Nate ‘Cline with a C’, WWJ, Andy, Alread, Nooner, don’t remember who the other two were.
The starters whistle blew and we were off. I had a pretty lazy start, didn’t really feel all that motivated. I did eventually work my way to the front and led the way up the hill. I didn’t push the pace that hard, again due to a lack of motivation. Nate was on my wheel, not sure of the order after him. We got to the top of the hill and started the descent. The trail had gotten a little better, but it was still like riding through a jar of Skippy. I was slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place, felt really clumsy, like I was riding with two left arms and two left legs.
About midway through the lap, Nate was still on my wheel. I went down a short, tricky descent (tricky due to the mud) a pretty good rate of speed. It was slippery enough that I was basically a passenger on the way down. I slid off course and T-boned a tree, stopped me dead in my tracks. I managed to unclip and keep it upright. I called the tree an a-hole, turned to Nate and told him to go ahead. Once I got myself back together, I continued on and caught back up to Nate. We hit some more greasy sections and I began to loose contact with him. He was hookin’ up a lot better than I was, oh well. WWJ eventually caught up to me and he didn’t seem to have any trouble hanging on to my sketchy wheel.
Going up a climb, he had a little more momentum than I did and got past me. I rode behind him for a little while, he was able to gap me on the greasy stuff because he was hookin’ up a lot better than I was. We got to about midway through the first lap, going up a steep power climb. I passed him and opened the throttle. The trail was 100% better after that point, a little damp but not greasy.
I opened up a gap and that was pretty the last that I would see of anybody until the end of the race. The second lap was a little better. Like the first half of the lap, it was still pretty greasy in some spots. The second half of the lap was even better than the previous lap. By this time Nate had a pretty substantial gap and it was a little too late for me to reel him back in. On top of that, my legs… pretty much my entire body, was shelled from exerting so much effort on the first lap. My lack of efficiency had taken it’s toll on me and at that point, all that I wanted to do was finish the race.
I finished in 2nd place, not sure what the gap was to Nate ‘Cline with a C’, not sure I want to know. I think Andy came in 3rd, followed by Nooner, then WWJ. Nice job to everyone that finished. My entire body felt like I had just gotten run over by a heard of bison(ova). I still feel pretty wiped out as I write this two days later. Despite all of the ‘hardships’ that I had suffered, I still enjoyed the race. Anytime I’m ridin’ my bike, I’m having a good time!
So needless to say, I’m looking forward to some dry races so that I can redeem myself. Some might think that the last two weekends may have shaken my confidence. I can assure you that my confidence is still intact and is as high as it’s ever been. I’m already looking forward to this weekends race at Manawa, part of the Psycowpath series. After that I’ll be off to my home away from home, Durango, CO for two weeks of a ‘training camp’. I’m looking forward to a much needed break from racing.
So as I had just mentioned, my next race is this Saturday at Lake Manawa, somewhere in Council Bluffs. Hope to see you all there!
Thanks for reading,