This race, held at Coyote Hill Camp in West Fairlee, VT, was on the schedule as 1 of only 2 opportunities for me to qualify for the USA Cycling MTB National race at Mt. Snow in July. In order to compete at Nats, one must have a high finish at a regional USA Cycling sanctioned event. This race and only 1 other the weekend before Nats fit into my schedule so I was hoping against hope that I would do well enough here to not have to worry about it. Luckily, all went according to plan and I should be all set.
Due to the race location and the weekend’s plans, it didn’t make sense to bring the whole family. Given a 1:00 start time, I just made a day of it. Left the house at 7:30am, cruised due East, arrived in plenty of time, and discovered the race would be delayed a ½ hour. Oh well, I guess I would get a good warmup in. I guessed wrong! Turns out I had too much time on my hands and ended up just doing a few hillclimbs 20mins. before my start. I really wanted to scope out the course because Freye told me it was a lot of singletrack and should be fun. Well, I hear singletrack and I think of no climbing, no passing, and my no technical skills. Needless to say I was a bit apprehensive about the race in general. However, I overheard some people talking about the course and they mentioned a dirt road climb and I was put at ease a bit. We were slated to do 3 laps so I knew I had to push the pace early as we the race would probably take only 90mins.
The venue was held at a mountain bike camp in the Vermont hills and featured a good mix of NE riding. There was a ton of rooty/flowing singletrack, a little open field traversing, and a fair amount of climbing both on the road and in the singletrack.
The start had us ride about 50 yards in the field with a sharp right turn before forcing us into single file through a short wooded section then it opened up to the climb. Having not pre-ridden, my pre-race strategy was similar to that at the Canada Cup: let someone else lead out and get a feel for the course by following their tracks. Well, I let 1 guy go ahead as we began our ascent, but it didn’t take long to realize his pace was slower than the speed I wanted to run so I passed him and never looked back. I entered the singletrack with intense focus to see what was coming up and just tried to stay relaxed and fluid. The first lap went fairly well. I was working pretty hard. It wasn’t long before I caught some of the guys from the earlier starting groups and just waited my time to pass while attempting to learn the course. I had 1 “moment” after a speedy descent when I happened upon a long mud pit complete with random logs in the middle. It happened very quickly and I just rode it out and stayed off the brakes. No doubt the Hei Hei helped save that one. I came through the start/finish right around 30mins. My goal for lap 2 was to try to be smooth and ride everything which I achieved for the most part. I came up on more riders and was held up, but I figured my fellow competitors were in the same boat so I didn’t stress about passing. Despite feeling like I backed off the pace, I came through lap 2 maybe 1 minute slower than the first.
The last lap I wanted to push the pace again yet stay in control. I think this is the area I need the most work on. I get too squirrely when I’m riding hard and I end up expending too much energy battling the elements rather than flowing over them. From now on, my last lap mantra will be go hard on the straight and open, go easy on the bumpy and narrow. You can’t win a race in the singletrack, but you can sure lose it. I had another “moment” on a descent when my front wheel suddenly came in contact with a baby’s head rock or something nearly vaulting me over the bars. It also kicked my steering so I was weaving for a second before I settled in. It was a major scare. Again, the bike saved my ass! I kept myself in check for the rest of the loop and rolled in nice and easy so as not to get hung up with some guys battling for position in the group ahead. I can’t say I was happy with my technical handling, but I wasn’t unhappy either. There were sections that I couldn’t do 1 lap, but that I could another. It always helped to follow another rider as I could learn from their mistakes or success. There was 1 tree that I had to grab to keep from tipping over every lap, so that wasn’t good! My lap times were consistent and I didn’t crash. All things considered, I was glad to win and doubly glad to see my time would have placed me no worse than 2nd in any of the younger categories.
The Hei Hei was a definite asset once again. The ability to lock out the suspension on the climbs is key to me mentally to know my energy isn’t getting robbed by bobbing. Also, the bumps were smoothed out and I save so much energy not getting bounced around. I think I have the shocks set up well, with just enough rebound. As I knew no one at the event, I brought my new feedzone bottle handler which worked like a charm and didn’t yell at me to ride harder!
Next up is a local road race and criterium here in L/A.
Obligatory pic of Mt. Washington. Still snow on the hill.