The weekend was marked with dirt and water, which as we all know can make a buttton (yes, a buttton) of mud. For those who are unfamiliar with the unit if measurement, a buttton is equal to a ton of butts, which as you all know is quite a large amount. We arrived at Jiminy Peak the evening before our races to find a condo large enough to house the whole team. The tall fluffy carpets provided additional sleeping comfort as many of us slept on, under and next to tables throughout the unit. The dense night air did not particularly help with pre race rest. Even with the rain, humidity levels remained consistently moist throughout the evening and into the next morning.
Being my first mountain bike race, I wasn't sure what I was in for (other than a god-awful early start). I warmed up as I normally would, doing a few intervals to open up my dormant legs in time for the Men's C Cross Country Race. My first mistake of the day was underestimating the race before the race. I.E. getting to the starting line and being one of the first to cross it. I arrived with enough time to get in at about row eight or nine. Pretty far back from the start of the pack, which in road biking is not as big a deal depending on the type of race. Being a mountain bike race, starting on a fire road and diving into the woods, I found that a bottle neck situation was highly likely. As we were started by the mighty Sully, my thoughts were right. The pack bunched up and bottle necked into the first turn onto the fire road, and then again into the single track which lead past the Dual Slalom course. Because of the consistent moisture from the night before, and light rain during the race, the track was muddy and slippery, which split the pack up very quickly. The first hill we reached dismounted many and shuffled the order of racers by those willing to ride the muddy slope, run the muddy slope and finally slowly wheel their bike up the muddy slope. Because of my starting position, I was caught behind a mix of walking, running and slowly wheeling and was forced to dismount and haul ass up the hill.
The 3.3 mile cross country race loop was a demanding one at the least. Mud covered the bridges and rocks making them like slip and slides for bikers to test their balance and finesse. Slowly, I was able to pick off riders and move up on the leaders. While I never saw them during the three laps, I know I was able to make up ground. On the final lap, my legs had finally awoken and I was remembering how to rip up the hills and across the flats. Riders nearby fell behind me as I took them victim on the hills. Going through the finish I was glad for it to be over. The technical sections and descents had left my hands cramped and glued to my handlebars. Peeling them off was a chore and a half.
All in all, mountain bike racing is a lot of fun, but very different from road. While in road the pack sticks together and attacks are warranted by ballsiness, mountain bike racing requires ballsiness the whole way through. While I will admit, racing with a pack of 90 other twitchy riders takes balls, I believe it takes those same balls, if not a whole new set to be able to launch or huck yourself if you will, down a mountain face or through a rock garden, over a bridge, through rivers and puddles hub deep. I have a new found respect for what it is to be a mountain biker. As I am still fairly new to the art of mountain biking, much less mountain bike racing, I applaude those who are able to succeed, or even attempt to be competitive in both. Here's to a new found game. Mountain bike racing.
You may be wondering about the bike which I rode. I will soon be posting a review of it once all components are up to spec and I am able to rip on the first Flahute Carbon Mountain Bike a few more times.
Arc hard, ride fast, go plaid!