Next stop on my vacation.
After hearing so much about the trails and seeing some videos I had a ton of expectations for the trails here. Sadly, I was disappointed. As fun as "flow trail" is when it's part of a greater entity (such as in copper harbor) when it is all flow trail it leaves something to be desired. I told a friend that it was like skiing at Beaver Creek; tons of fun but eventually it gets old having everything groomed. At the same time the not-groomed stuff is almost too hard (in that it ruins the "flow" when it does pop up). Both places have select very difficult areas that are deliberately not groomed etc., and in both cases it just seems "off" when you come to them. I guess I find that 10 miles of difficult trail where you have to ride very well to "make" the flow is actually more fun that 9 miles of "flow trail" plus 1 mile of difficult trail.
Of course such a trail may be just exactly what is needed to make the greatest number of riders happy. Maybe it will even grow on me (although I won't be likely to go out of my way to go there with, in order of distance from me, La Crosse, Levis, Duluth, Blue Mounds, Cable, Ironwood, Houghton, Copper Harbor and Marquette all having more fun trails that I've ridden).
The festival was also disorganized and questionably expensive. I hope my opinion of the trails wasn't tarnished by those issues, but trust my opinion... particularly, due to riding many of those trails in the last week since riding Cuyuna.
I was hoping to pre-ride the course the night before (pretty normal protocol) but it wasn't marked. That was OK as I had a very good time riding the trails and checking out the new area. The trails do have a ton of flow and a unique look to them...
I then went down and watched a fascinating slide-show presentation by Hans Rey and went for a night ride. I wish we had been given free-reign on the night ride, rather than being guided, but it was a pretty fun time! Great trails to ride at night too.
So far as the race... $55! $55 for an 18 mile race that isn't even "sanctioned" nor a part of any series is sort of insane. I can race a full length expert race against Brian Eppen for $35 with a free t-shirt down at Sugar Bottoms or get all the atmosphere, competition and perfect organization of a WORS race for $45. Here I got a "comp" length race for $55 and utter disorganization. I parked where the race flyer said the race was going to start and started my warm-up 50 minutes prior to the race time.
I overhead a conversation stating that I would need to get a timing chip... inquired with a race official and found out that the race start had been moved downtown and that I would have to go down there to get my chip. At check-in (when they gave me my number plate) no mention of chips had been made) Additionally, the race start had been changed to 12:30 instead of 12:00. I then asked the official if I could check out the course and scoped out the start, with so much singletrack I knew that getting into the singletrack early would be key. At that point in time (11:45) the course was entering singletrack after a 120 yard or so sprint, but when the race started it had been changed, and a sharp left turn into a climb had been added.
I rode down to the new start location, roughly 1.5 miles?, and asked an official for my timing chip. It was now 11:55 and I was told I was too late and that I'd have to get mine when the race "re-staged" at the other start. I was also informed that they had been making announcements "all morning"... of couse, those announcements were being made at a location that the race was not supposed to start within a mile of! I pictured myself being the only person having to step out of line to do that and, despite their saying I shouldn't, I rode back to the "real" start and begged for my chip. Good thing I did too- when we paraded up there and re-staged for the actual start I would not have had an opportunity to get my chip AT ALL.
In the end I got a decent start and had a good fast lap (working my way up solidly into the top 10) prior to cutting a tire. I stupidly tried to re-inflate tubless and wasted too much of my co2 and then couldn't get enough pressure in when I added a tube. I felt great about the effort I had made to that point and was disappointed, but not unhappy as this was obviously just a training situation for me. Another fellow had flatted in the exact same spot and we both worked our way down the the finish hoping to see how things shook out. We ran into a couple of the fast women going totally the wrong direction... We got the the finish and I chatted with some friends while waiting for the finish. Meanwhile, unknown to us, many of the lead racers were making wrong turns (likely due to disorganization?) and generally finished up totally scrambled. I later spoke to a guy who had been directed by a volunteer to make a wrong turn.
After the race I made a full lap of the rest of the trail system and had a pretty good time of it.
Also had a wonderful lakeside meal (regardless of any shortcomings, Cuyuna is a beautiful area!)
I know I should probably just be happy to donate $85 to mountain bike trails in MN and forget about the crap mentioned above. However, if they'd given me that option rather than charging me FOR SOMETHING not worth $85 I'd have been a lot happier. I hope the money goes towards improving the trails.
Numbers. - Saturday I biked a tad over 4 hours on the fat bike, all within a few miles of my house. We received a bit of snow overnight, an inch or so. I had though...
1 hour ago