I made it. I managed 36th overall, 33rd in open men division and 4th in my age category. I’ll take it considering there were 2463 racers behind me. It was an epic adventure to say the least. It started with Hollywood’s traditional ride from “OO” to the finish on Friday.
This is the more challenging section of the race; it’s fairly techinical with rocks, puddles, blind corners and the challenging Fire Tower Hill. Aric, H-wood and I had a great ride depsite a flat for Aric. We ran into Dewey who was doing last second adjustments. The ride helped to boost my confidence as this was my second attempt at my first ever mountain bike race. Last year was a different story. We had great accomodations and were able to keep all of our ducks in a row and be at the start in a timely manner. The only stress to deal with was the chaotic start of one of the largest sporting spectacles in the midwest; 2500 mountain bikers all racing for one left hand turn onto Rosie’s field and the ‘formal’ start of the race.
This is where I met my demize last year. However this year, no more than 2 minutes into the race, under the ‘controlled neutral start’, I witnessed one of the nastiest crashes all year; A tandem lost control vearing into the heart of the pack at about 25 mph. It took out a number of racers including teamate, roomate and travel partner Aric Hareland. I nearly fell victim but was able to get past the explosion of bikes and tires. The race then proceeded onto the highway where the lead motos are supposed to pull away leaving the pack to battle out the 2 miles of highway before Rosie’s field. However they didn’t accelerate fast enough and racers at the front managed to draft the four runners at a blistering pace causing a gap to form with 25 or more racers taking advantage. I wasn’t one of them. I was stuck with a small group in no-man’s land watching the race get away. There was nothing to do but complain. We hit Rosie’s a mear 25 seconds behind but the effort to keep that pace blasted my legs going into the actual mountain bike race. Rosie’s wasn’t so bad. It’s where I crashed last year and it wasn’t everything they say. However, the Birkie trail that follows is some of the hardest stuff I’ve done all year. Up and down, rolling and no recovery. The field of racers is still intact and it’s a battle to hold your position. One mistake or mis-shift and 3 racers pass you. I lost a few spots here and there. Soon things thinned out and a pace was established. I have no idea who I was with or where I was. Then a rider came up fast. It was Aric.
Bleeding and pissed, riding out of his mind. All on adrenline. Hard core. No way in hell would I contintue a 40 mile mountain bike race with that kind of road rash. It wasn’t long before we were at “OO”.. a nice surprise. Nearly half way and thanks to Hollywood, on trails that I now recognized. I started to feel good and took turns at the front. Racers began to pop as H-wood predicted. My group was manageable and steady and I made efforts at the front.
Then Paul Ellis made an appearance. Now I was having fun. We hit the dreaded Fire Tower Hill and my challenged bike handling ability caught up with me and I fell over. This only means you’re no longer riding but running. It wasn’t bad despite wearing road shoes. I was back on but had to dismount one more time before cresting the hill on my bike. However, I was dropped from the strong group that i was pacing with. From Fire Tower on I was basically by myself counting down the miles in TT mode.
I hit the longer stretch of fire road and opened it up. I began to feel good and catch racers coming unglued. But then I hit the Brikie Trail again. The hardest section of the race by far. You can smell the finish but the rollers beat you down and suck your legs of strength. I can’t imagaine how hard it must be for the leaders fighting for the win. I survived it and came into the open ski hill and the finish chute fully tapped. I was proud of Baby Blue for gettin me there with no issues but no offense to my boy Blue but there are faster bikes out there.. Aric managed an amazing 50th despite his wounds. The rain started to fall shortly after the finish which kept the post race social from materializing to its full potential. But what a great event.
I was in the shower and at the bar shortly thereafter just glad to have survived. The pain of it all caught up with me Sunday moring but nothing a few mimosas didn’t cure. Thanks to HED for taking care of all of us.
I’ll be back.