Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mayhem at Manawa

Manawa mayhem… seems like an appropriate title for the season finale for the IMBCS and Nebraska’s Psycowpath Series. Of all of the courses that we race on throughout the season, Manawa is probably the course that least suits my strengths in a mountain bike race. It’s very tight, very twisty and is a great proving ground for one’s bike handling skills. There isn’t a lot on the course that is physically challenging enough to create some sort of ‘natural selection’. So it becomes a train of racers at the front, a follow the leader type of race until we near the end when the attacks start to happen. Often times, the podium is determined by who can negotiate their way through the tight, twisty trails without getting themselves into an altercation with a tree. This years edition of Manawa would prove to be no different.
Andy rolled into my driveway at the crack of dawn and we loaded all of our junk into Julie’s truck and we hit the road for Counciltucky. Julie opted not to race with intent of preserving her body for this weekends Longhorn Ironman 70.3 race in Austin, TX. So being the cool chick that she is, she manned the steering wheel to and from the race so that Andy and I could chill.
We arrived, got suited up and did a recon of the course and while riding, I noticed that the course had a little more flow than I remembered from last year. We lined up for the start and the usual Psycowpath suspects were present and accounted for, including Kent McNeil. My plan of attack for the race was like any other race in which I am lacking in course knowledge, file into the singletrack near the front and learn the lines from the locals. Hopefully as the end of the race draws closer, they’ll be worn down enough that I can get by and maybe ride off into the sunset.
The race started and I rolled into the fast, flowy singletrack 3rd wheel behind Kevin and Kent. Throughout the first half of the race, Kent seemed to be pretty content in letting Kevin lead. Kent looked pretty comfortable and didn’t appear to be tiring too much. I was also feeling very comfortable, and though I never really got a chance to check my HR monitor for fear of clipping a tree, I knew that I hadn’t been working all that hard to maintain the pace. I’m not really sure that it was possible to go much faster through a lot of the sections without pushing our tires beyond the point of hooking up.

The expert train at the start of lap 2.

Andy was by himself, but not quite the Lanterne Rouge.

As we began lap 2, Nate Woodman began to nudge his way past me. I initially resisted, however I shut the attempt down as he persisted with the move. As soon as he got by, I settled in on his wheel and maintained my focus on riding good lines and avoiding trees. About midway through lap 2, one of the course marshals was in the middle of the trail, yelling at us to stop. As we rolled to a stop, we were told that somebody had crashed down the trail and had pretty much had the entire width of the trail blocked. It was serious enough that he couldn’t feel his outer extremities. While we sat and discussed ways to continue the race, I heard a few people complaining about the situation and how we had to stop. Reality check… here we are, in the woods, having a great time racing our bikes… for the fun of it. Our fun is temporarily halted because there is a person lying on the trail that could potentially be paralyzed. My only concern at the moment was for the welfare of the rider and that we get out of where we were without getting in the way of the rescue operation. The last that I had heard was the he was moving his fingers and toes as he was being loaded onto the ambulance. I’m not sure who it was, but my thoughts and prayers are with him for a speedy recovery.
The USA Cycling official decided that the best way to restart the race, would be to line us up in the order that was last reported at the end of lap 1. Once we restarted, we would do the last 2 ½ laps of the race. I gotta hand it to the race officials and the USA Cycling official, I think that they handled the situation in the best way possible by putting the safety of the fallen rider first and foremost. After the rider was safely removed from the course, they refocused on the race. I don’t recall hearing of any complaints in the way things were handled after the race.
So the race restarted with Kevin leading the way, Kent was in 2nd followed by Nate and then myself. At some point during the 3rd lap, Nate clipped a tree and it pretty much knocked him sideways across the course. I reacted quickly enough and was able to ride past him without hitting anything and immediately glued myself to Kent’s wheel. Throughout lap 3, I could tell that some of the cats behind me were starting to soften up a little as I could hear the occasional grunt, followed closely by a few choice words as a few of them were clashing with the trees.

Exiting the woods with the pedal to the metal.

The expert train completing another lap.

As we began the 4th and final lap, I could tell that Kent was looking for a place to pass Kevin. I dropped it down a gear so that I could react when Kent decided that it was go time. Sure enough, Kent dropped the clutch and went around Kevin. Determined to stay with Kent, I reacted and followed. I had to ride through a pretty deep patch of weeds to avoid knocking Kevin off of his line and was able to get by. The real fun was about to begin! The pace went up and I really had to stay focused on Kent’s wheel in order to stay with him. Steve Jarrett was also able to get by Kevin and he was firmly attached to my wheel. As the lap progressed, Steve tried to get by me a couple of times. At one point on the course, there is a pretty good sized log that you could ride over, or you could take a slightly slower route around the log. I always opted to ride around the log, as did most others because there was little to gain by riding over it. I knew that Steve was riding the log and figured that he was going to try and pass me there. As I rode around the log, I held my line and as the trail merged, he was slightly behind me and had to ride off course a little to avoid crashing both of us. I told him that I knew what he was going to do and we had a pretty good laugh over it.
As we approached one of the final short open sections, Kent knew exactly what I was planning to do as he kept glancing from side to side in anticipation of my inevitable attempt at getting by. I tried to wait for the right moment and then went for it. He saw it coming and was able to react quickly. I probably could have asserted myself a little more, however it was a little too tight to get by without causing us both to wrap ourselves around a tree. So I backed it off, knowing that we had one more open section.
We snaked our way through the final miles of tight, twisty singletrack with Kent still in front and Steve firmly attached to my wheel. As we approached the final open section, there was a small ditch followed by an immediate 90 degree turn. As Kent hit the top of the ditch, he slowed down in attempt to stall me out as I rolled to the top. It’s a pretty clever trick and perfectly legal (and ethical) and can be very effective in creating a gap if the rider on the business end isn’t expecting it. I was able to figure it out pretty quickly and reacted by going to his outside. We accelerated at about the same time and instantly gapped off Steve. I tried to get around Kent and simply didn’t have enough room to get by. So I tucked in behind him and as we wove our way through the final section of singletrack, I looked for other potential places to sneak by. There were none and Kent ended up taking the win. I rolled through in 2nd about a bike length behind Kent with Steve bringing home 3rd about another bike length back.
Even though I didn’t win and despite the course not suiting my strengths, it was definitely among the most enjoyable races of the year. Kent is such a good bike handler and I have enough confidence in his abilities, that I can ride within inches of his wheel, knowing that I’m going to hook up through every corner. I’ve always been able to carry a lot more speed through some pretty technical courses while riding his wheel as opposed to me leading the way. Good stuff!
So with this result, the IMBCS title is once again mine. I initially thought that the Psycowpath Series title was mine also, however in looking at the points, Kent and I are actually tied for first! The series rules state that in the event of a tie, the tie breaker would be to count our next best score. The problem is, Kent and I only did four races each, so we’re still tied for first. I would think that the next option would be to count our total race victories. I have three while Kent has two, however the rules do not go beyond adding an additional score, so we’ll see how they determine the series champion. Whatever they decide, I know that it will be fair and I’ll be OK with it. In the end, I am just thankful that people are willing to devote the time and effort that it takes to host races and a great series like the Psycowpath Series!

What’s next? Well, I’m thinking about doing Godfather Marco’s Cross race in Newton this weekend, followed by the WORS season finale on October 12. Then it’s full on beer, pizza, hamburger and French fry season!! I’m also planning to host my 2nd annual women’s only mountain biking clinic on October 18 at the old Science Center of Des Moines. I think it’s going to be a pretty big event this year with lot’s of great sponsors, a ton of free schwag, some free food not to mention that it’s free to all who wish to participate! For more details, visit or the official website of co-host I.O.W.A. at

Thanks for reading,



KEV said...

The fine print says if there's a tie for first and they both raced the same # of races the guy who was in 1st place without the 2 drops wins!

Whis I wouldn't of slid out in the worse spot at the worse time. It was a fun race and was fun chasing back down 4th place.

So you won't be at the Bike Bash?

Julie said...

See ya at the clinic!

-kw said...

"Reality check… here we are, in the woods, having a great time racing our bikes… for the fun of it."
Well said. I heard the grumbles too and was a bit surprised. It's hard to pry that race face off quickly, I guess.