At the beginning of the week I was pretty sure that I was going to head up to Phillips, WI and do the WORS race. Around Wednesday I talked to Shim and he said that he and a few others were heading down to Crowder to do the race there. Crowder? I didn’t know there was a race there this weekend… sweet! Crowder has some of the coolest trails in the Midwest, but it can also be pretty brutal. It has a couple of rock gardens that’ll knock the fillings out of your teeth if your bike is lacking suspension. I’ve raced there two other times and both times I did it on a hard tail, and both times I came home with a pulled calf muscle.
I figured I’d be OK this time with my plush, full suspension Orbea Oiz. Both times that I had raced at Crowder, the competition had been pretty tough. The race is a part of the Heartland Series and it’s based out of Kansas City, so it’s pretty much the state series for both Kansas and western Missouri. Guys like Tilford like to show up and rip the legs off the local competition. I was kinda hoping that he’d show for this one also. With the exception of the WORS race, I’ve been riding really well the past few weeks and I was anxious to see how I might do against a mutant.
So I arrived at Crowder, registered and scoped the competition. Cameron Chambers, the 2005 national 24 hour champion was there sporting some sweet tube socks, the kind that I used to wear back in the 70’s. He’s also got a pretty killer afro, kinda like the one I used to have back in the day. Shim, Limpach and Grady from Nebraska were there. Frankenbike was there as well as the series regulars. It was a pretty big field, oh about 30+/- starters in the pro / semi-pro / expert field… nice.
The calm before the storm, I think I was checking out Chambers tube socks
We lined up for the start, I locked out both the front and back anticipating a pretty fast race for position going into the singletrack. My strategy was pretty simple, I wanted to be the first man into the singletrack because part of the trail had some pretty new tread that was kinda sketchy. I figured somebody was probably going to go down and I didn’t want to get caught up in it.
The gun went off and so did I. I hit the throttle hard enough to ensure that I was in the lead going into the singletrack, but no so hard that I put myself into the red zone. I’m not sure who was on my wheel, probably Grady because shortly after the start he went down in a heap. His mishap briefly clogged the trail up enough that I was able to gap the field. I pushed pretty hard going up both climbs to ensure that the gap stuck. As I was nearing the top of the 2nd climb I heard a rock skip across the trail behind me. I looked back and it was Chambers climbing the hill in stealth mode. He was real quite like until he hit that rock, didn’t know he was there. I got to the top of the climb and I drilled it hoping to separate myself once again. It worked because I didn’t see much of him again until after the race.
Cameron Chambers sportin' the retro tube socks
Third place finisher 'Shim' rockin' the singletrack
The one and only 'CVO' from FFL
The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful, I was riding really well, my legs were feeling good and the trails were primo. I encountered a bunch of lapped traffic throughout the race, but it really wasn’t much of a problem, just had to be patient in the narrow sections until I could get by.
I ended up winning with a time of 1:39:19. Chambers came in 2nd in 1:45:20, followed by Shim with a time of 1:45:52. Yep, it was a good day indeed. Part of the fun of these races is hanging out with everybody afterwards. There’s usually a pretty long wait for the awards ceremony, I never usually mind too much because it’s always a good time hanging out with all of the mtb homies that you only see at races.
Next up is the Ponca Marathon at Ponca State Park in northeast Nebraska. Another one of my favorite venues, sweet trails, beautiful scenery… what more can a greasy mountain biker ask for? WWJ is paying 8 deep in the pro / semi-pro / expert field so hopefully this will encourage a lot of fast guys to show up. I’ve won the race the past couple of years and I’m hoping to continue along the same path.
Thanks for reading,