The basic premise of this race is that you ride a loop as many times as you can in 6 hours (there’s a 12 hour option), there are multiple ways you can do this; solo, co-ed couple, team, single-speed and so on. I choose to ride it solo based on AG 40-49, signed up and away we went.
The loop is just under 9 miles with just over 1000’ of gain, It was hard to tell from the map or find any video as to what the trails would be like but it proved to be I would say about 70% single track and 30% fire road, with a bit more fire road on the first “parade” lap. Technically it was challenging enough, you would think by the amount of times I crashed (two complete wipeouts, two falling over under low steam and one toppling over into a bush) that it was beyond my abilities but the fun is in challenge and I didn’t break anything! I could of course be a lot better but as predicted I have plenty of leg strength, well, enough for 4 laps, but lacked the technical skills.
So on with the report. The first loop is a parade loop, what this is is essentially a slower loop that allows the folks who are riding only one loop (this is the complete beginner option) to get far enough behind the main field that they won’t cause any snarl ups on the single track. While the main group (which I was in) rode a shorter loop and got far enough ahead. Of course what this does is lull you into a false sense of security; your riding very easy on a fire road, everyone is chatty and so on and then you turn off and it starts to ramp up pretty quickly.
As you can see the course was a clover leaf albeit a very squashed on, as a good rule of thumb whenever you were riding towards the top left hand corner you were going up and whenever towards the bottom right you were going downhill.
So the parade lap went by, the only real issue was my Garmin 500 was not happy with my Mountain Bike…no idea why but I would not record distance and it never did the whole day? I stopped after one lap and reset but to no avail. Becca had originally signed up for one lap and then changed to the 6 hours, I lost sight of her very quickly and wouldn’t see her for another hour or so at the end of Lap 2.
The second lap added the missing section at the beginning, all single track with some ridgeline climbs and descents. I was feeling more confident and was riding up/over/through some sections that had thwarted me the first time around. Now is a good time to get some noteworthy technical mentions about the bike. I was riding a pretty stock Orbea Occam 29er, this bike is full suspension with Fox shocks front and rear. If you have every ridden a 29er you will know that compared to the 26” wheel these things roll up/down most bumps, drops, craters you can find in the trail. One feature is the ability to lock out the suspension this removes the bounce or bob you can encounter when pedaling uphill.
My shocks are pretty entry level and as such they do not have the lockout lever on the handlebars, each shock has its own and you have to reach down and flick it, this can be a bit challenging when you are during some stages simply hanging on! That’s where I found myself, the terrain would change so quickly that there were times where I couldn’t keep up with it. If I am going to go back it’s tempting to consider the upgrades required to put this option on the handlebars! Additionally I spent most of the day on in one of three gears…which seems a bit of a waste of the other 27! At the end of the second lap I saw Becca who had stopped after her first, you can read more about it here. She re-filled my bottles etc and sent me on my merry way.
The third lap, best described as a combination of cocky and tired, not a great mix. Both wipeouts happened here, the first was caused by me taking a corner too tight and I washed out over the handlebars…in fact the second was very similar and in fact every time I hit the deck I landed on my right side! As a result I now have a lovely black and blue hip! Fortunately nothing was damaged as each time I just ended up in a pile of bike, dirt and me, although I have noticed since that my shifters and brakes are all out of alignment. Beyond everything I was getting tired and the bikes ability to go downhill was getting beyond my ability to hang on.
The fourth lap was just at a slower safer speed just to finish on a solid note, I did toy with trying for a fifth but I decided against it…that leaves the door open for next time!
So all in all it was a total blast, I would love to go back and have another crack at it and there is another race in the Winter, this maybe a different course and will be colder for sure which may not be a bad thing. As mentioned the upgrades may be worth doing too? Regardless of weather or kit if I am going to it I am going to need to spend a lot more time on my Mountain Bike to improve my skills.
Only a few photos from the day thanks to Becca and as no results have posted and my Garmin data is all screwed up let’s just call it a long weekend ride…about 4:40 long!
Four weeks to Vineman 70.3!