I've got a couple mountain bike races on the calendar this spring that I'd really like to feel ready for, a couple of new mountain bikes etc. and I'm excited about riding offroad. WORS is sort of where it's at around here when it comes to competitive mountain biking and I knew that hitting their first race would be a good check up on where I was at/wake-up call with regards to where I would need to be. My plan was to stay over in Wisconsin after the race and ride more in order to work on mtb handling skills for a couple of days as I knew that would be my weakest point in the race.
The WORS experience is pretty awesome. There were literally hundreds of people out pre-riding, hanging out etc. and setting up camp when we got there on Saturday. Where else do you get that opportunity to hang out with the other racers?
I found myself a nice spot down in the woods away from everyone else- it was on a soft bed of pine needles and sandy soil (which turned out real awesome when it decided to rain 2+ inches and I stayed dry and not muddy).
I raced in Almanzo kit but when in Wisconsin I hang out with the Muddy Cup people as that's what team Trevor and Karlene race for. The Muddy Cup is great and everyone is very friendly, cool to be around. This weekend Trevor was sick and so just Karlene and I traveled over. We were laughing because we apparently have "his and hers" bikes...
Our pre-ride was one slow lap to check things out and then Karlene went to help with some Muddy Cup and I pinned it for a lap. I had to slow up once to adjust shifting, but wound up with about 22 minutes flat. The race was to be 5 laps of the same and I was sort of excited it was to be as short as that would work out to- figured it would make for a CX like feel. Little did I know how much like CX it would wind up feeling like...
After the pre-ride we made pasta, soup, s'mores etc. on the coleman and shared a few good beers.
We heard reports of heavy rain headed our way etc. and all checked the weather before bed. I even made a spot in the subaru to sleep if need be. In the end the rains mostly held off until early am and I slept well and dry.
I could hear the rain getting heavier all morning but I kept just rolling over and going back to sleep. By the time I did get out of bed it was coming down very hard and there was constant lightening and thunder. I was worried the race would be cancelled. We found out that it would not be and decided to go check the course out... what we found was almost constant standing water! 1-3" deep water over EVERYTHING. Then the citizen race started and any thoughts of backing out went away.
Karlene's race came up quick! Here was the start-
I made some fine adjustments to my bike with the shifting and also swapped my Bontrager Jones Mud 2.0s onto my spare wheels during her first lap and then went up in the woods to watch a bit. The atmosphere was awesome! People were up there banging trash cans, blowing vuvuzelas etc. etc. and I made some fans/cheering section for later!
I felt pretty good warming up but was nervous at the start for sure! I knew my handling skills were my weakness and that these conditions would only serve to expose that further. I just told myself to treat it like 2 cross races in a row...
Once the race started all that was forgotten and it was pure scramble. The fast/flowy course from Saturday night was gone and replaced with conditions I'd only seen previously at Jinglecross. The middle ring climbs were now run-ups for many of the Elite racers (I found that I was able to ride up some things that others around me couldn't with my mud tires) and the doubletrack was now nothing but mud. There were even a couple of miles of singletrack at the back of the loop that was essentially 4-6" deep mud.
My start turned out to be pretty solid and I settled in around 25th out of roughly 70 at the start. I slowly lost sight of the guys immediately in front, but no one was pushing me from behind either. Then I caught one and two caught us. Over the next lap and a half I got a good sense for where I was strong/weak... I was distanced on singletrack where the conditions were best but pulled them in on the climbs and in the muddiest crap. I fell on the 3rd lap after dropping the group and they all got ahead of me by a bit. I was pushing it hard to close that ground (and plotting how I would beat them on the final lap/how to use my strengths over them) when I ran over a stick and it pulled up into my wheel... had to stop...
I stood there staring at the "stick" I was holding in my hand trying to figure out how it was made of metal??? Finally it dawned on me that it was a spoke! Managed to tie it around some other spokes and continue riding. Over the next 8 miles there were some times when things worked well and others where the spoke was rubbing/wacking my bike really hard. Good thing I'm riding a repaired bike! The scratching on the seat stay would have really reduced the resale otherwise! I guess I should have known better than to ride well used back-up wheels. I am really glad that I ran the mud tires though- I would have been a whole lot more exposed handling wise without them!
So- 27th out of 60 finishers. 14 minutes back of Matter in conditions that really separated people. Overall a good result for me at this point and a really fun time.
40 lb 20 lb bike...
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