Photos courtesy of MOD and Tom Winfield
The Nebraska state mountain biking championships had always been held at Swanson park, pretty much in the middle of Omaha which gave all of the fast locals a nice home course advantage. Despite their home course advantage, I had been fortunate enough to win it the last couple of years. This year, the folks at Psycowpath decided to move the state championships to a more neutral location at Ponca State Park, one of my favorite places to race. Fellow Iowan, Bruce Brown pulled into my driveway at around 6:30 in the AM, we loaded up all of my gear, filled our coffee mugs and hit the road for the 3 ½ hour drive up to Ponca. Good conversation will make a 3+ hour drive go by pretty quickly, so it was nice to have someone to travel with this time.
We arrived at Ponca about two hours before the start, plenty of time to do a recon lap. The trail conditions were such that when I finished my recon of the course, there was nothing on my bike, no dust, no mud, just me and my water bottles. Yep, you guessed it, about as close to perfect as you can get! The usual competition was there, first and foremost, my main antagonist Kent McNeil. Kent has been a semi pro for as long as I’ve known him and has always been among the fastest in the Midwest. He puts in close to half the amount of training time that I do and still somehow manages to race his bike just as fast, if not faster than I do. Pretty amazing specimen he is. I can only hope to be that fast someday! The best of the rest, Steve Jarrett, Kevin Limpach, WWJ, Nate Woodman and Aaron Grady were also there.
The race started on an uphill paved road and I hit it pretty hard and thought that I’d won the ‘holeshot prime’, however at the last moment, Limpach came screamin’ by me at mach 4 and snaked me going into the singletrack. I followed Kevin’s wheel until we hit the first open section. I dropped it down a gear and went by into the lead. I was followed closely by Steve and Kent for the first two laps. Ponca State Park is notorious for its steep and sometimes long climbs. I seem to be climbing really well this season, so my plan for the day was to hit it pretty hard whenever the trail pointed upward. My Orbea Oiz Carbon is a climbing machine and throughout the first two laps I could sense that I was opening up small gaps on the climbs. On the descents, Kent would close the gap.
Kevin towing me along some of the sweetest singletrack in the midwest
During the 3rd lap, I took a look back to see who was still around. Steve was gone and it was down to Kent and I. I stuck to my plan and drilled it going up the climbs and at some point during the 3rd lap, I managed to separate myself from Kent. He was riding really well and I knew that I was going to have to keep the pressure on if I wanted it to stick. I continued to push the pace going up the climbs and kept a pretty high tempo on the flats as well. Through out laps four and five, I had no idea how far back Kent was, so I had to assume that he wasn’t far.
Steve was sportin' some sweet porkchops
MOD, the Master Of Disaster on the singlespeed
Rox climbing like a billy goat
What goes up....
Must come down....
Kent goin' real fast, you can't see it in this picture, but there's actually smoke comin' off his back tire.
I ended up winning with a time of 1:42:20, my assumption about Kent not being that far back was correct as he came through in 2nd place with a time of 1:43:46 and as the first Nebraskan won his 1,347th Nebraska State Championship. Steve came through in 3rd with a time of 1:44:50, Kevin brought home 4th in 1:48:56 and WWJ rounded out the top five with a time of 1:50:30. Roxzanne Abbott won the women’s race, unfortunately, she was the only expert woman to show, however I don’t think it would have mattered because she beat most of the expert men too and she routinely beats her soon to be husband, Ryan. I also have to give a shout out to Iowa road warrior Cody McCullough for winning the expert masters race. I think he rides his mountain bike about once a year maybe? So yes, roadies can do well in a mountain bike race!
My average HR for the race was 171, though it felt like I was going a little harder than that, with Kent and Steve putting the pressure on me throughout the race. I thought that I had my tires at a little over 25 psi, however my back tire bottomed out on a concrete approach to one of the wooden bridges and it felt kinda soft going through some of the fast, tight corners. It was somewhat of a distraction and I had to keep myself in check in a lot of the faster corners, however it wasn’t much of a hindrance. I didn’t bring my pump because Bruce had one, however all pumps are different and I should have brought my own. Whenever you put air in your tire and disengage the pump, there is a certain amount of air loss and it’s different for every pump. Some loose more air than others… Lesson learned, thankfully I didn’t have to learn the hard way this time!
As always, the Souix City Velo folks did a great job with the race, the organization, the course, the people… all good stuff!
So what’s next… The next IMBCS race was supposed to have been this weekend, however Banner pits is under water. None of the bike manufacturers have figured out to make a bike that works under water, so we had to postpone the event until September. So I’m toying with the idea of heading up to Mankato, MN to do the Minnesota series race. If not, then my next ‘event’ will be my annual 2+ weeks of cycling bliss in Durango, CO!
Thanks for reading,