2008 Leesburg Bakerís Dozen Mountain Bike Race Report
I did my first mountain bike race this weekend and it was a total blast. The race was held on a farm in Leesburg, VA and the course was an 8 mile loop consisting of 6.5 miles of singletrack and 1.5 miles of pasture and dirt road. The singletrack was a good mix of rocky ledge stuff, smooth but rooty path and pine tree-farm 'between the rows'. There was very little elevation change between the highest and lowest points, but there were certainly lots of little climbs. The rocky parts and the rooty parts were littered with log crossings, most of which I could get over.
There were a few different classes to choose from: solo, single speed, 2 man, 2 person open, 3 man and 3 person open. I was on a 3 man with two teammates; Erik and Brian.
In all, 375 people were signed up to race. 374 people on the most technologically advanced, multi-suspensioned, rock-busting, fat-tired, root-hopping, monumental offerings to the Church of Pure Off-road Cycling Performance... a one lone idiot who showed up with a cross bike. Dude!
Yes, I am the one that brought the knife to the gun fight.
Erik and Brian decided that I should probably be third in rotation so that the field would be strung out before I ventured onto the course. Erik was in first rotation and did the mass start. I didn't even see him go by. Brain was talking strategy to me and wanted us to do easy, 45 minute laps. That lasted until Erik came in with a 34 minute lap. All strategy about going easy in order to last the day was out the window and replaced with full-on, testosterone induced race-haze. GO!!!!!!
Brian came in from his 34 minute lap and handed the timing chip over to me. I quickly put it on my ankle and took off. I had done three laps of the course previously in practice so nothing was really new to me. What was new was the speed of race pace. I had my tires cranked up to 60 psi since I had pinch flatted in practice at 50 psi and this made the ride very, very brutal over the pasture section at the beginning. Entering the single track section I had concentrate on dodging every rock and small sapling stump I could. Slowing down to go over the logs in order to ward off flats was necessary as well. So it was hammer, slow for the log, easy over the log, hammer, slam brakes for corner, dodge rock, hammer, ease up, dodge, hammer. I was off the seat when bouncing over things and on the seat when I could. The first mile or so in the woods was lots of rocks and roots, then a brief reprieve down by the river and back up into the rocks again.
Most of the logs I could get over, but there were at least five logs or multi-log piles that I just could not get over so it was hammer, tap the brakes, dismount, run, jump, remount, hammer. If there was anyone ahead of me I could see that I did not lose any time to them. If I was 10 feet behind them, I would still be 10 feet behind them after getting back into my pedals. Sometime I gained on them. There was a guy following me on a section where I did two dismounts within a few hundred yards. I asked him if he needed by me and he said ďNo. Man youíre doing awesome on that thing. I canít believe how you can get off and on so fast.Ē Note that I am a truly average cross racer.
This section is where I was passed by a fair number of riders every lap, many had comments for me. I was called brave, insane, bad-ass, hard core and nuts, all in the same lap.
Near the end of what we called the "A loop" was a rock ledge drop off that had a crowd around it waiting for carnage to happen. It had a nice, downhill entry and the drop off was a couple of feet. Almost everyone rode over it, some slowly and some of them jumped it. Lotís of people crashed here also. Me: no way I could ride the cross bike over that thing. I came in fast every lap, swung my leg over the bike and did a nice, step-through dismount into a fast run, jumped over drop off and was on the bike in a flash. Iím sure some of the people in the crowd had never seen anything like that and I always got a loud cheer.
The A loop was almost 6 miles and I was always glad to get it over with. I was tired of being passed and having to concentrate so much. I did pass a number of people on the A loop, but I was usually the one getting passed.
Exiting the A loop, the course runs through a pasture and onto a dirt road leading into the B loop. Now, on the smoother stuff with no rocks or roots, I was able to take big advantage of the 60 psi in the tires and only 18 lbs of bike. A lot of the people that had just kicked my butt in the singletrack saw a white and red blur go by as I applied the bike to the terrain it was made for: dirt road. The dirt road wasnít long, but I made a point to pass everyone I could before I got to the tree farm sections.
The B loop was mostly tree farm with some regular woods and some rocks thrown in. The tree farm was just running between the rows of pine tree with the occasional row change thrown in. It was reasonably smooth and I could really fly through these sections. Even the rocks were not too bad and I realized later, other than NCVC teammate Jeff, a national champion, I canít recall anyone passing me on the B loop all day. I had guys on my tail the whole way, but I donít think anyone passed me.
The B loop is where I had my only incident of the day. Partway through my third lap, I hit my brakes and the front lever went right to the bars with no associated slowing of the bike. I made a mental note that the front brakes were gone for some reason and continued on. After doing an easy rock ledge, I accelerated and forgot about the upcoming 90 degree left. I saw it too late with not enough rear brake to do much and bagged a tree with my shoulder. It knocked the wind out of me for a moment and, OK, a guy went past me. I got going again and caught and passed him back when we exited the woods and headed up the section where all the team tents were.
By lap 4, my forearms were really beginning to hurt and the rough pasture section at the start of the laps bothered them. My hands were also beginning to get sore so I spent as much time as I could with my hands on the bar tops. This was a little risky because I couldnít brake, shift or stand with my hands there.
Night fell as I did lap 5 and I was looking forward to my night laps. Erik ran into some stomach trouble and sat out a lap while Dave filled in. Erik recovered and actually pulled a double lap for us. Night slowed the laps down so I was only able to get one more lap in before the midnight cutoff. Riding the course at night was a lot of fun. I was using an LED bar light and an LED helmet light. I could see well enough most of the time. It did slow me down though; my night lap was my slowest by almost 3 minutes. Brian tried to squeeze his lap in before midnight, but he finished at 12:01:30 thus ending our day.
Our team did 21 laps in 13 hours which translates into 37 minutes per lap including the transitions. Brian and Erik were certainly turning much faster laps than I could. The cross bike was very fast on the B loop however that did not make up for how slow I had to take the A loop.
Caution is the word of the day on a cross bike. One of the contributing factors as to why I did not crash and why I had just a small mechanical issue is that I do not feel invincible on a cross bike. I canít slam over logs and rocks. I canít jump rock ledges. I canít pound roots and I have to use caution about what I am running over. The bike doesnít breed risky behavior. I think I was one of the few on NCVC that did not go over the bars or have a flat.
All of my laps were very similar. I always dismounted at the same places and felt like I was giving equal effort every lap. The results bore this out as my times on laps 2-5 were only 19 seconds apart. Lap one, at 37:40, was fastest by 45 seconds. My first lap would have been even faster, but Erik thought he had lots of time before I arrived based on a teammateís assessment of where he passed me on the course and when Iíd be in. Rob didnít know how fast I could do the B loop so I came in a lot quicker than they expected me. Erik was in line for the port-a-can and had to hustle back over and don his helmet.
The final assessment is: it was a great time and Iíd do it again in a heartbeat! The mtb folks were all extremely nice and courteous. Just the best bunch of racers that I have hung out with. My body fared well. Iíve got some bruises from hitting the tree. My legs are a little sore, but not bad. My forearms are sore. I survived better than I thought. I expected to be in a lot of pain. I did 6 laps total which I think was close to 50 miles.
Next year: a 3 man all-cross team. I just have to find two other people who are willing to subject themselves to unnecessary pain.
Official results and timing:
15th of 48 Three man teams!
Team Number 339 NCVC/INOVA HEALTH SYSTEM
1: 34:10 34:10 Erik
2: 34:11 1:08:21 Brian
3: 37:40 1:46:01 Thor
4: 33:41 2:19:41 Erik
5: 37:33 2:57:14 Brian
6: 38:38 3:35:52 Thor
7: 34:30 421 Erik
8: 36:14 4:46:34 Brian
9: 38:34 5:25:08 Thor
10: 36:33 6:01:41 Erik
11: 36:25 6:38:05 Brian
12: 38:26 7:16:31 Thor
13: 35:15 7:51:46 Dave
14: 36:41 8:28:26 Brian
15: 38:45 9:07:11 Thor
16: 35:43 9:42:54 Erik
17: 37:33 10:20:27 Erik
18: 40:03 11:00:29 Brian
19: 41:41 11:42:10 Thor
20: 39:10 12:21:19 Erik
21: 40:07 13:01:25 Brian
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