Thursday, April 10, 2008

Maskenthine / Big Crack

Made the loooong drive to Maskanthine Park in Nebraska, and when I say long, I mean driving about 20 minutes past the course to some town called Norfolk. I turned around and hoofed it back in the opposite direction and finally made it to the course about an hour before the start. I’m not doing so hot with finding race courses this season, if I keep this up I’m not going to have any legitimacy in giving WWJ crap for getting lost all of the time. The upshot, it seems to be helping out my performances nicely!
The weather was pretty close to perfect, other than the howling wind. I don’t mind the wind so much in a mountain bike race because it kind of plays into one of my strengths. The course at Maskenthine is a pretty straight forward course, so my late arrival wasn’t really that big of a deal. I only needed to recon the first couple of miles because that’s where all of the more technical sections are.
Because it was so windy out, and because the race started uphill and into a headwind, my plan was to let somebody lead out into the singletrack and this time, today’s lucky winner of the ‘hole shot into the headwind’ award would be Kevin Limpach. The race started, Kevin took the lead from the gun followed by Nate Woodman. I passed Nate about halfway up the hill and grabbed Kevin’s wheel as we entered the trails. I followed Kevin for about 1 ½ laps with Nate firmly attached to my wheel.
We hit a section of the course that was out in the open with a tailwind. I was having a lot of fun riding with Kevin and Nate, however I decided that this would be a good place to put in a little surge to test the legs of Kevin and Nate. Nate was on a singlespeed also, so I figured that I could maybe make him overcook his gear. I hit the throttle and started to create a gap. I kept the pressure on for the remainder of lap two and the 3rd lap. At the end of lap 3, I had a pretty good sized gap, so I loosened the screws a little.
I ended up winning the race by a little under 4 minutes with a time of 2:01:15, Kevin brought home 2nd, Jesse Peterson came in 3rd and Nate brought home 4th. All three of them are pretty cool cats and I really enjoyed racing with all of them, it’s especially nice that they were kind enough to let me win!
My new ride, the Orbea Oiz Carbon is really starting to grow on me. The suspension package works quite a bit better than the 2006 Oiz that I have. The bike is also a lot more nimble than any other full suspension bike that I’ve ridden. I think that has a lot to do with the U-Flexion carbon composite pivot coming off of the bottom bracket. It provides a lot of stiffness in the lateral direction, which provides for great cornering, especially in some of the tighter turns. I can’t wait to get it on a hilly course ‘cause I know she’s gonna climb like a mountain goat!

U-Flexion Pivot

Throughout last three laps I had caught and passed a lot of lapped traffic, which is never really an issue because most of them know that they are to yield the trail when being lapped. Every once in great while you run into somebody that gets themselves so wrapped up in their own little purgatory of pain, that they don’t always have the presence of mind to move over a little. I happen to have one of those incidents this time. The dude knew that I was coming, but yet he persisted in holding his line. When this happens, I usually have to get a little creative in how I choose to pass. I’ve learned over the years how to make myself real skinny like when passing in difficult areas. So, I made myself skinny and passed the guy while we were riding in between two trees. I think that I might have bumped him a little as I had passed and he pretty much lost his mind, using the big man’s name in vain while informing me that this was the 2nd time that I ‘almost’ caused him to crash. ‘Almost’ means that he didn’t crash, and that’s largely due to my experience in mountain bike racing and knowing how to pass others with minimal interference to their race as well as mine.
I approached the guy after the race with full intentions of offering my apologies and keeping the peace, however I never really got the chance as he proceeded to inform me that I was being a jerk about it. He kept yelling while I calmly told him that I wasn’t going to talk to him until he calmed down. I thought his head was going to pop off! So rather than continue, I told him he was like talking to a wall and then I walked away. It was a very, very unfortunate situation, and I know that I shouldn’t have made the comment about talking to a wall, but really, it’s just bike racing and it’s definitely not worth getting hostile over. Some people never seem to get it…
Regardless, the Elkhorn Valley folks did a stellar job with the course and I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The next day I decided to do the Big Crack road race that the All Nine Yards folks put on. After pigging out on pancakes, bacon, eggs and some coffee, I rode up to Big Crack State Park. During my ride, I got this crazy idea to try and upgrade to a category 2, to see if I could hang on and not get dropped. The race started and the only really difficult part of the course was a two mile stretch that had a pretty stout cross wind. Tilford and his buddies from Kansas tried to gutter the field by riding the yellow line, just about everybody, myself included, crossed the line to keep our noses out of the wind. After a few laps, Tilford got PO’d and yanked his bike across the yellow line to the far left side of the road. I know that he did it because he was trying to gutter everybody on the yellow line and everybody broke the rules by crossing the yellow line. He got frustrated and decided to gutter everybody on the far left side of the road instead. Nobody could drift left (downwind) because they would have ended up in the gravel. What Tilford did was definitely against the rules, however everybody else broke the yellow line rule. As a result, the entire field was relegated one place, which was of no real consequence to anybody… funny.
I had a good day, I was able to hang onto the main group until the finish and was in danger of being dropped once in the cross wind. I had made a mistake that created a gap between myself and the dude in front of me and it took me about 2 miles to catch back onto the rear end of the field. I felt pretty good despite having done a two hour mountain bike race the day before. Tilford finally managed to get off the front with another guy in tow, Sean Walker I think? They finished 1st and 2nd followed by the main field of about 15. I wasn’t even going to try and contest the sprint as it was in a tailwind and I was under-geared. There’s way too much chaos in field sprints and I never like to get caught up in all of that. After the race, I rode back home for a nice hour long cool down and logged about 100 miles for the day. Saweet! The All Nine Yards folks did a great job in putting on a really cool event, a huge thanks goes out to the men's and women's team for all of their hard work!

I rode the Orbea Orca… man what a bike! How to compare? It’s like riding on the suspension of a Porsche while my 2003 Trek OCLV feels more like a Chevy Camaro. How do I know what a Porsche feels like? Well, I really don’t but I think you get the point. Road racing is a pretty good proving ground for a new bike. Lot’s of accelerating, lot’s of hammering, there’s always a few sketchy riders that activate the pucker mechanism and force you to take evasive action. The Orca accelerates unlike any other, the frame is incredibly stiff and very responsive. The second I apply pressure to the pedals, I can feel a lot more power being transferred to the rear wheel than any other bike I’ve ever ridden, it kind of squirts out from under you. I like taking corners at high speeds, I thought the Trek cornered really well, and it does, but after about an hour of aggressive riding my level of comfort on the Orca was equal to that of my Trek. The Orca is so well balanced, that I feel more comfortable carving through corners at high speeds than I ever have before. There really wasn’t much for hills on the Big Crack route, so a climbing review will have to wait. I’m pretty sure that the climbing prowess of the Orca is right up there with the best of the best. The Spanish Pro Tour team Euskaltel – Euskadi are notorious for their abilities in the high mountains of Europe and the entire team is outfitted with Orca’s. So I think it’s a safe bet that the Orca likes to go uphill real quick like. I cannot wait until my two weeks in Durango arrives so that I can do some real riding on it! My Orca, completely built, weighs in at 16 lbs even.

Next up is the season opener for the IMBCS, the 4th edition of the Sylvan Island Stampede. I hope Eppen shows up because I love getting my butt handed to me on a dirty silver platter.

Thanks for reading,