April 19, 2010

On racing and racing some more...

I got a puncture a few hundred meters before the finish line but managed to limp to the end. Note the manly bike rack.
Fuel, something I've discovered is rather important. Pix by Jaxattacks
There is a lot of racing going on on Vancouver Island these days. There are the Island Cup mountain bike series, the Victoria Cycling League series and the Capital City Cycles Summer Race series. I have been racing in the Island Cup and C3 series, but I think I might do at least on race in the VCL series. For the last two weekends I've been riding in Cumberland, which is about 2.5 hours north of Victoria. Last weekend I took the Niner up there and raced a punishing XC race. It's always a joy to ride in Cumberland and it is definitely one of my favorite riding spots of the island. The XC race was tough, but not nearly as grueling as the Port Alberni race a few weeks ago. I was also more careful to have lots of gas in the tank before I started the race this time and that made a big difference. The Cumberland XC was a mass rolling start, and I believe my biggest mistake in the race was to not pinning it off the line and get in a good position before the singletrack. Having all skill levels funneling into the singletrack at the same time made for a huge traffic jam on the trails and I was held back by riders with less technical skills. The saddest part was that some of those slower riders, who had to jump of their bike and run, did not have the good sense to make way for faster riders behind them. In my mind it's pretty simple: If somebody is breathing down your neck, you move out of the way. If you cant ride the trail, you move out of the way of people who can. If you're getting lapped, you move out of the way. If you crash, you move out of the way. It's just common sense. The fact that some of the riders were not aware of this unwritten code was very frustrating and I hope next year there will be a different setup. That is, the different classes will be started separately. But in the organizers defense, I made the mistake of not getting myself in a better situation, and perhaps that is what it is all about. Overall I loved the race and managed to crawl my way up to 8th place in spite of long punishing climbs, which I traditionally don't excel at. I also rolled through the finish line on a flat tire which was pretty cool.
The lower part of the top section just before entering the woods. These berms were fun. Photo by Len Martell
This week we had the Cumberland DH race. It was my first DH race and I finished in 31st place out of 60 riders in my class. I'm happy with that, even though I would have liked to have come in in the upper half of the racers, like in 29th place or something like that. DH racing for me this year, is mainly for fun and to practice my technical skills. I rode my Remedy for this race and I was surprised by how well it handled the course. The course had a "pedaly" upper half mostly in a clear cut, with a steep rock strewn lower part in the woods. The course should have suited me pretty well (because my bike pedals pretty well) but I took the chicken line around some of the jumps in the top part and I believe I lost some time because of my gutlessness. The lower part was a combination of rather gnarly rock gardens and rooty creek beds and mud. It was mostly a point and shoot affair and I just tried to keep focused and hold on for that section and luckily made it down the course without crashing or flatting. That's success on it's own right there. One thing I did not like about downhill racing however, is the lineups and the waiting. You want to be there early to ride the course and get a feel for it but as soon as the shuttles start to run, the waiting begins. In the worst period there was a three shuttle lineup for the flatbeds. I did not particularly want to wait for 45min for a 10 min ride in a van so instead of taking the shuttle I rode up the fire-roads twice to get more practice runs in. In the end I got four practice runs in (one hike a bike, two rides up, and one shuttle) and then I shuttled for my race run. I figured that this is what my Remedy is designed for, and again I was surprised by how well it pedaled up the fire roads. I did wear myself a bit thin on those rides though so when the time finally came to do my race run I was a bit tired. But I certainly made it worth my time to drive up there and got lots of riding in. The United Riders of Cumberland did a superb job of organizing this race and set a standard which other races will be measured by. After the race there was a delicious BBQ and bike toss for a six pack of Phillips Slipstream. I wanted the beer but lost to bigger and better bike throwers:
Photo by Strahan Loken
Next up: Sprints on Friday, and Hammerfest XC on Sunday.

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