WORS races are always big races. You can always count on a few Pros and several Semi Pros at any given race and makes for a great way to determine how I might stack up against some of the best mountain bike racers in the nation. The 4th installment of the WORS series was held at Nordic Mountain in the heart of Wisconsin. I arrived at the venue the day before the race in hopes of getting a couple of recon laps in. It had rained all day the previous day and the race director, Don Edberg, who also happens to run the WORS series told me that they decided to cancel the pre ride in hopes of allowing the course to dry out a little and minimize damage to the trails. During our conversation he told me that he had received entries from as far away as Texas, Colorado, DC, and Arizona among many others. So I thinking to myself, ‘man, it’s gonna be a tough race tomorrow with all these peeps coming out of the woodwork’!
I made the 30 minute drive to the hotel in Waupaca that I was sharing with Tyrine and a dude named Tim, old buddies of mine from Milwaukee. I went out for a 90 minute spin to get the cobwebs out of my legs and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery that the state of Wisconsin is well known for. Shortly after my ride, Tyrene and Tim had finally made it up from Milwaukee. We sat around the room and caught up on things, then headed out for some grub at this Irish pub that had some pretty awesome food. After dinner we cruised around town scoping out potential ice cream parlors for a post race after dinner treat. We also discovered a coffee shop that was only a couple of blocks from our hotel and since I was the early riser of the group, I designated myself as the coffee biatch.
Tyrine, Tim and I scoring some grub. Good times with great friends and great food!
I made it to the venue on race day about 2 ½ hours before the start. As I walked over to registration I began to realize the magnitude of this event. They had a pretty big expo set up and there were people everywhere. I went in to register and they were categorizing Pros and Semi Pros separate from the Experts. Turns out that this event is on the AMBC (American Mountain Bike Challenge) calendar, which I think is a 2nd tier series just below the NMBS (National Mountain Bike Series), which is the national series. I registered myself in the Pro / Semi Pro category, got suited up and went out for a recon lap. What a saweet course! A lot people told me before, that this was their favorite course on the WORS calendar, and I can see why. It has a lot of everything, technical singletrack, lot’s of climbing, lot’s of fun descents and a few rock gardens to jazz things up a little.
The expo from above
As I began my way to the start line, I did my usual assessment of the field to see who would be puttin’ the hurt on me. The elite race was 80 strong, 24 of which were Pros and Semi Pros. Among the Pros, Jesse and Marko Lalonde, Tristan Schouten, Brian Matter, TJ Woodruff, Mike Phillips, Chris Peariso, Paul Hanson and Ben Moore just to name a few. Pretty much a stacked field containing the best of the best in the Midwest. All of the Pros and Semi Pros got call ups to the front and I ended up in the 2nd or 3rd row, so things were already looking up for me.
The race started and I got a pretty decent start. Within 100 yards of the start, the trail funneled down to about three wide and then down to two wide another 100 yards later, so a good start was pretty important if you wanted to do well. I don’t have the high end that I used to have, so I usually get sucked towards the middle / back of the pack at big races like this. Going into the singletrack, I was probably sitting somewhere around 20 – 30th. I felt great and was really happy that I was able to keep my nose clean throughout the start. As lap one (out of five) progressed, I started picking off others that had blown their wad at the start and by the end of lap one I had probably gained 10 or 15 positions.
Throughout lap two, the passing continued and I started catching and passing people that I recognized and began to realize that I was nearing the front end of the race. During lap three, Tom Bender had caught up to me and we swapped positions for a while until we caught up to a group of three that contained Paul Hanson, Brian Matter and I think Dallas Fowler. We rode behind that trio for a couple of miles and passed them as we rolled through the start / finish area at the start of lap four. At that point, the announcer on the PA said that were all sitting around places 6, 7, 8 and 9. My best finish in a WORS race prior to this race was maybe 12th. It’s been a huge goal of mine to get a top ten finish in a WORS race, so I was sitting pretty good at the moment.
Bender and I workin' each other over
Playing in the woods
As lap four progressed, I think that Hanson and Bender held onto me for a short while. I was eventually able to gap them off and I could see Nathan Guerra up the trail. Towards the end of lap four, I finally managed to reel in and pass Nathan. At that point I thought that I heard a spectator tell me that I was in 5th. The next man in line was Chris Peariso. I could hear the PA at various points throughout the race, I could hear him say Chris’s name every once in a while and could tell that he was quite a ways ahead of me. I started to push a little harder, knowing that I had my work cut out for me. About midway through lap five I started to get that feeling in my body, the feeling that tells me I oughta think about backing it off a little, otherwise I might end up doing the tango with a tree, or maybe even a face plant into a rock. My upper body, especially my arms, were pretty wore out and I was starting to get a little sloppy. I backed off the pace a little, knowing that I had a pretty solid lock on 5th, and that’s where I ended up. By far my best result of the season and way beyond my expectations for a race of this magnitude. I would rank this one right up there with Chequamegon from last year, maybe even higher. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked!
Men's overall winner Jesse Lalonde with brother Marko in tow.
Jenna Zander crushed the women's field. I wonder if Kim Eppen can beat her?
Jesse and Marko Lalonde were the class of the field and brought home 1st and 2nd respectively, on singlespeeds, with times of 2:04:06 and 2:04:20. TJ Woodruff came in 3rd in 2:07:18, Peariso in 4th in 2:08:20. I was 5th with a time of 2:11:40 and made my first ever WORS podium.
I know that I tend to carry on about some of the products that I use, and I’m going to do it again. I rode my Orbea Carbon Oiz and I used the rear and front lockouts on a couple of the climbs. I also dropped my tire pressure down to 25 psi, front and rear. The bike was absolutely amazing on the climbs. I was able to maintain a pretty steady effort when going uphill and that was where I gained the most ground on others throughout the race. With the front and rear unlocked, I was able to float through a lot of the rock gardens at high speed and barely notice what I was riding over. This is by far the best mountain bike that I’ve ever thrown my leg over. I also wore my Oakley Flak Jackets that have persimmon lenses that change tint with varying light conditions. The race started at noon, and throughout the two hours, the light / shade conditions changed quite a bit, enough that it was noticeable towards the end of the race. The persimmon lenses made the lighting transition a lot easier to deal with, especially when I was flying through a rock garden or one of the many root infested sections. Simply put, the equipment that I used had a pretty significant impact on my result today.
Next up is the Nebraska State Mountain Biking Championships at Ponca State Park, one of my favorite courses in Nebraska. The weather forecast is finally looking really good, so it should be a great weekend!
Thanks for reading,