Mountain bike racing has an interesting dichotomy. Mountain bike racing is largely about racing in any and all conditions, rain or shine, mud or dust. There is one small problem however, racing in the mud damages trails and can be a safety hazard for the inexperienced. Both of which are a major concern to all that care about mountain biking. I prefer to race in dry conditions, but I also find some enjoyment in racing in the mud. Never mind the fact that I handle my bike in the mud about as well as I can handle the sight of Bison Basso applying his chamois crème.
So I woke up the morning of the race to the lovely sound of thunder and rain. I groaned as I rose out of bed knowing that I would most likely be racing in the mud. I took a look at the Super Duper Doppler radar and there was an enormous mass of red and yellow floating over Iowa. The northeast edge of the mass was just west of Waverly… We might just get lucky…
Ryan Legg showed up at around 7:30 in the am, we loaded all of his stuff in my car, stopped by Starbucks for a bladder buster of Mississippi mud and hit the road. It rained cats and dogs the whole way and it wasn’t looking good. We got about 5 miles west of the race course and the rain miraculously stopped and the pavement was dry. We arrived at the course and the dirt was still pretty dry too. We were pretty stoked about the conditions even though you could see the weather off to the west.
I did a little bs’n and got registered and began my pre-race ritual of finishing off my box of cereal, hydrating and getting suited up in the Rassy camo. As I was getting ready, the skies began to open. It started off as sprinkles and eventually turned into a steady downpour. Despite the weather, Ryan and I went out or a recon lap. In a race like this, it’s pretty important to check the course out because Carl Buchanan, Jeff Kerkove, Casey Mann and Paul Meyermann love to change things up on us. That’s part of what makes this race so fun! One of the changes included this insane, sandy hill that most of you had probably already heard about by now. The sand was really soft and loose. For every step forward, I felt like I was sliding a half step back. About halfway up I could feel my heart jumping out of my throat.
Playing in a 'sand box' that most kids would envy.
Despite the rain, the course was in pretty good shape, not too peanut buttery, but still slicker than snot in a lot of areas. There was going to be a lot of running up hills. The temps were forecasted to be in the lower 70’s, but no such luck today. I don’t think the temps ever got above the mid 50’s. Ryan didn’t bring any cold weather gear and partway through the pre-ride, he decided to bag it.
We lined up for the start and despite my best attempts, I could not string together a sentence without sounding like I was speaking a foreign language of my own creation. Carl gave the command and we were off. We started up the gravel climb with me leading the way. WWJ pipped me for the hole shot into the woods and I entered the woods 2nd wheel. The lead group stayed together as we were all trying to get a read on the conditions.
We hit the first open section and I took the lead from WWJ. I led the way into an uphill, singletrack section and began to pull away. I got to the rock garden section and wasn’t really sure which way to go. I kinda sat there for a few seconds to figure out which way to go, made my choice and continued on. As I approached the rock garden I quickly realized the fastest way through this was to get off and run. The last thing that I wanted to do was slip on some mossy rock and bust my arse or my stead.
As I was going through the rock garden I heard somebody behind me. I couldn’t tell who it was at first, but it ended up being Andrew Carney. Sweet! A new face at the front of the expert field. It’s pretty awesome to see a few guys stepping their game, getting faster. I love and thrive on close competition, there’s something about getting pushed to the limit while threading a mountain bike through a bunch of closely spaced trees while cross-eyed.
Enjoying a short reprieve from the peanut butter.
I ended up leaving Andrew behind and continued to open the gap. At the close of the first lap I remember thinking that the trails were actually in pretty decent shape and was looking forward to a couple more laps. As I started the second lap I quickly realized that all of the traffic behind me, along with the steady downpour had made a total mess of the trails. It had gotten to the point where I either had to walk certain sections or totally ride off-line to get any kind of traction. Most of the trials were like riding in a log flume, the water was starting to pool up in the center of the trails. I began catching and passing sport riders and could tell that some were having some major difficulties with the conditions.
Negotiating the log flume.
It is situations like this that make it difficult in being a race director, do I pull the plug early or let the race continue despite the concern for safety and the welfare of the trails? As I completed the second, I looked at Carl and made the recommendation that we call it a day. He and Kerkove had been discussing the possibility of pulling the plug and I think my recommendation helped with the decision.
Happy to be done, I shore am purdy!
Shortly after that WWJ came rolling in 2nd place, followed by Andrew Carney for 3rd. It was a pretty tough race in some tough conditions. Props go out to all that showed and toughed out the conditions. It’s too bad that the rain couldn’t hold off because this is one of the coolest courses in Iowa. A lot of hard work went into prepping the course.
Wrong Way Jay, 'which way do I go?'
After the race I hosed the bike down, stashed it in the car and proceeded to make an absolute pig of myself with a couple of plates of some pasta dish provided by The Brown Bottle. As always, Carl and his crew were able to round up some great food and so much schwag that after all of the awards, he still had a lot of schwag left over. Nobody went home empty handed.
A whole lotta schwag.
A huge thanks goes out to Carl, Jeff Kerkove, Casey Mann, Paul Meyermann and everybody else that helped put together a sweet race.
Next up is MBCS #3, La Madre de Las Montanas at Sockum Ridge State Park. I won there last year and I’ll be lookin’ for a repeat!
Thanks for reading.