The weather was near perfect for this race, it was a little cool (40s) at the start but the sun kept peeking out periodically to warm things up. Some of the rain we had driven through on the way down didn’t seem to have made it this far south. As a result the course was mainly dry with just a few greasy spots and one giant mud bog. Mostly the course was fast and non technical with a few tough, short climbs.
This year the course was extended just a bit at the tail end of the lap, totaling 5.5 miles each lap. The course varies between wide cross country trails and a couple of twisty sections with either roots lining the edges or some trees dividing the trail. There are really only a few places to watch out; the starting sand, a descent that bottoms out, and two short sections; one with mud and another with roots. For the rest of the race it’s time to maximize speed.
Victoria Gates (1st) Cat 3 women 12-18
Kristen Lukach (4th) Cat2 19-34
Teri Carilli (4th) Cat2 women 35+
Ben Pagano (6th) Cat2 30-39
Keith Reynolds (22nd) Pro/Open
Michael Rowell (1st) Cat1 Men 40-49
Cathy Rowell (1st) Cat1 women 35+
Janet Lorang (2nd) Cat2 women 19-34
John McGrath (18th) Cat2 40-49
Lexi Cruse (6th) Cat2 women 35+
Great results from the first team race and we hope to encourage more of you to join us in the upcoming races. Please drop me a line if you’d like to stay in touch with rides and race outings.
When I was lining up I met my competitor and found out she was a senior in high school. I was a little discouraged but Kristen told me I would do great. So we were off and I was behind her for half a mile but on a hill I felt strong and attacked leaving her behind. She was gaining on me. If I looked back I could see her so had to think of a way to lose her. I could ride all the logs so when we came up to our first couple I rode over with ease. I sprinted away and got back into rhythm. The 5 mile loop seemed to never end but with half a mile to go I heard Kristen hollering at me and saying that I could do it. So I maneuvered my way down a technical downhill section and rode halfway up a large run up and dismounted and then ran to the top. When I crested I rode down to the hill that marked the end of the lap. I went through the course pretty fast the second time but slid on a chewed up root and crashed. That gave me a slight adrenaline rush and I powered up the gravel hill even though I felt my wheel slipping out. I slowed feeling very tired but I pedaled through. I soon came upon not only Kristen but Teri too. Kristen told me I owned the hill and I ran to the top and pushed hard to the finish and sprinted across the line in 1st place.
By pure, dumb luck I managed to avoid most of the mele at the whistle and headed up into the woods in about 10th position. For the first time in years, everyone ahead of me made it cleanly over the first set of logs (yeah cat2 women!) so the leaders were still in sight by the time I reached the bottom of the first hill. I hit the gas and tried to keep up but within a mile the elastic was already beginning to stretch farther than I would have liked. I’d loose sight of the rider in front of me in the singletrack and have to sprint to regain contact on the climbs. I yo-yo’ed this way for the whole first lap, killing too much energy trying to close down gaps. I came into the big hill at the end of the lap with Cheryl S. on my wheel. She rode the hill cleanly and was out of sight by the time I pushed my way up to the top. My goose was pretty well cooked at that point and my bike handling started getting sloppy.
Halfway through the second lap I dismounted to run over a log on an uphill and tried to do a ‘cross remount only to be ejected from my bike over the opposite side. Hello springy double suspension! I tried to get back on the bike again and missed my clip-in, slamming my forearm on the bars. Ow! From that point on, I never saw another rider. It was just me and my new bruise cruising around for another lap and a half. Not the stellar race I had been hoping for but it felt great to be back on the bike and amongst friends. Hope to see a few more of you guys out on the trails sometime soon!
Goal of my race was to get my MTB mojo back. Last year was a tough season for me, filled with lots of endos, one wrecked shoulder (which still isn’t fixed), one badly sprained/torn ligament in my thumb, and other assorted nastiness. Totally wrecked my confidence resulting in me riding scared by the end of last season which, of course, just leads to more crashes, less confidence, the MTB death spiral. I wanted to start off this season on the right foot and the trails at Winding Trails are just the ticket.
I always go out too fast in this race so I forced myself to start in the back and not punch it at the whistle. Definite trade off since the sandy start was sure to be sketchy and there were a few log crossing early on that could become a bottleneck. The log crossings ended up not being a factor but the sandy start was as Lisa, Janet’s friend, went down right in front me of, rolling down the embankment. Not trusting my bunny hop skills to clear her plus her bike, I rode all the way down the embankment and back up. ~sigh The first lap I could see Janet’s NEBC red jersey through the trees about 20 sec in front of me and I kept telling myself not to lose contact with that. During the 2nd lap, I did lose her, but I also caught two other women riders (although younger than me, not my age group). By the end of the 2nd lap, I started getting lapped by the lead men. Instead of getting annoyed, I decided to use them as rabbits and see if I could at least try to handle some of the twisty single track as fast as they could. Seeing someone else take a corner fast translates to my brain as it must be possible and I have a better chance of prying my finger off the brake lever.
My 3rd lap wasn’t any faster but it sure felt smoother. Started feeling like things were flowing instead of fighting the trail. I spent the weekend before the race in CA riding with some of the LUNA pros and I kept thinking of some of the concepts they kept trying to drill in us. Nothing I had never heard before (I think Cathy Rowell must have said those things to me over and over and over…..) but one thing that became my mantra was “chin up”. I find if I think that (and do it) I look forward on the trail instead of down and gee, I even ride better! I think I may have even started smiling as well. It was fun to actually not be scared on my MTB again.
I realized by the end the idea of doing a 4th lap didn’t make me want to hurl so I probably didn’t ride hard enough. Will try to fix that Saturday at the next race.
The race started fast, I took the hard left line outside of the pine trees up the first hill after the start. I wanted to be in the top 3 or 4 coming into that corner but was more like 7 or 8 back. Things stacked up a little going into the first piece of single track. A Bike Barn guy was setting a hot pace early and was well off the front in the first 1.5 miles. I eventually moved into about 4th position and was working frantically to stay in touch with the leader. About 3 miles in I realized that my pace was too hard, and I think this is where my race started to take a bad turn. Perhaps I should have eased up and saved a bit more for the next 12 miles. I started to question my relatively ineffective warm up. That queasy, anaerobic, dizzy feeling started to consume me and I had to ease up a bit. Eventually I was passed by 3 more riders and I settled in on the wheel of a big guy wearing a Seven kit. I marked his wheel. We passed each other back and forth a few times and by the end of the 2nd lap I thought I had lost him for good. Somehow I managed to keep him in sight and get back on his wheel. I let him lead me up the climbs and put the pressure on to keep the pace up. The gravel fire road climb was decidedly the place to make the move. Early in the 3rd lap I passed another rider in my field that had dropped back between Seven guy and myself, I passed him on a hill and by the sound of his breathing I could tell he was done. At the gravel fire road I was right on Seven guy’s wheel..I down shifted…up out of the saddle and hammering…he responded immediately. I was to tired to judge his effort but could feel he was there still, just off my wheel. In my mind the terror of wide passing lanes in the trail ahead made me panic. Had I gone to soon? It was then that I remembered talking to Keith about whether you have it or not, at the end of a race; you have to put it all out there. You need to find it, dig deep, and hold nothing back. So I didn’t settle in, I sped up. I hammered. Snot freely running out of my nose, nausea twisting my stomach with an iron grip… out of the saddle… up the steep muddy climb. Never looking back… into the finish. I was hoping for a top 5 finish, and after losing track of the riders ahead I thought I may have gotten it. Sometimes its discouraging to lay it all out there and not meet your goal, but I learned a lot from this race. I learned something about my strengths and weakness and the holes in my training. And once again, I learned that mountain bike racing is the most painful, but most rewarding type of bike racing there is.
Ahh, the first MTB race of the year and one of the few times I had been on the MTB this year. The race was something I had been looking forward to for weeks but then on Friday the weather was turning foul. Kristen assured us it was going to be mostly dry; great, because most everywhere else has been a swamp. I arrived before the Cat2 start and talked with the NEBCers around, was able to cheer and pre-ride a little. There was plenty of talk of this “new” hill but I never saw it until race time. It seemed as if every field had some sort of bobble in the sand strip just in front of the start line. One woman tumbled down the hill, juniors bumped bars, and one guy even put a foot down. Ok that was a big trouble spot.
I lined up and shivered for 15 minutes among a huge field. No problem, just going to race my race and put myself into some oxygen debt. The start was frantic, someone in the top 5 went down in front and I had wished I mounted a vid camera. Going into the sharp first turns I felt like I was in the front and ooh did it hurt. Singletrack ahead, some coasting down the curvy forest trails. No rocks in sight just a couple of logs to hop. We were all stacked up going into the chute and just after that it started to spread out and I was making my backwards in the field. This field was fast! and it stung so the separation started in the field. Eventually we made it to the “new” hill and it posed problems for only one who stalled and the rest of us made it around, while some sapling shredded my shorts. Lap 1 looked sub-24 minutes and subsequent laps added a minute per lap. The mental game started around lap 3 when I was all by my lonesome for a lap, no one in front and none advancing. Just focus on riding clean and keeping the pace up! Finally on lap 4 Mike Rowell caught up to me as I saw Cathy in the distance. She had at least 2 minutes on the last woman I passed, go Cathy! And wait, Mike had a huge gap.. are you sure you both don’t want to mountain bike race more often?
Lap 4 finished and I set out for the 5th and final lap. Here’s where I really had some fun; knowing all the turns and lines to take, making the gut buster hill once again, bouncing up over the exposed root bed and running that mud bog one last time. The new Stumpjumper was all dialed in and I finished within a handful of minutes of my goal; on what I thought was a shorter course. Many apparently enjoyed my salt encrusted raccoon eyes and wondered just what I eat/drink.. clearly this was a tough race with the need to keep on the gas at every opportunity. Looking forward to the challenges ahead!
Great to see everyone at the race and also at Rein’s deli afterward!
Winding Trails has become one of my favorite races and has historically become the site of some of my best results. The course suits me well as it is all about power and speed, basically being a time-trial start to finish. That said, I wasn’t overly excited to race and the only reason I convinced myself to go was that I couldn’t find a real reason not to. Arriving at the race I was uncertain as to what class to race. Last year I raced the Pro/Cat1 Open races and had some reasonable results but at the cost of fun. After seeing some others guys like Mark G., Chris B., Brian M., Mark S., Doug J. as well as many of the normal cast at the race whom I knew would make it competitive, I decided to race in my Cat1 master’s field.
Lining up it was a crazy with the biggest Cat1 Men’s 40-49 field I’d seen in a Root66 race. We had 28 guys all itching for the hole-shot. After an extended bout of shivering while waiting in the cold wind, we were off. I managed the worst start ever and ended up in the middle of the deep sand, which I managed to plow frantically through. This netted little gain but did quickly put me into the hole of suffering. I picked up a couple places before the initial single-track then just followed the leaders, which gave me a slight chance to recover. After the steep drop in I stepped it up and passed a half dozen leaving only a handful still ahead. I got by Mark and Chris exclaiming “lets go” and chased off the front of the pack after the lone leader, who I later learned to be Brian C., whom had managed to form a solid lead. This chase proved to be taxing, which coupled with the fact that I was already taxed, really hurt. After the catch I sat for a while then took the lead but my attacks did little to detach him.
After the first lap I resigned myself to the possibility that I may not be able to get away and so I calculated my attacks to maximize the pain inflicted as best I could. I’d noted that I was faster on the power sections and he was really strong on the climbs and also solid in the technical. He was also on a spiffy Ti Lynskey 29er hardtail, but a hardtail none the less so I made sure to floor it through every rooty section to get a gap which would need closing. This attack and counter attack led to the two of us forming a solid lead on everyone else and also racing through all of the other Cat1 fields that had started ahead of us.
Starting the third lap Brian took a bottle feed while I opted to “go camel” and pre-hydrate and then use a single bottle for the race. I did take a cup of water offered by neutral support which went better for me than Brian’s feed. This allowed a gap which I worked hard to capitalize on. I pushed hard the whole lap and got a good lead but coming around for the final lap I could again see Brian maybe 10 seconds back. Frantically I put my head down and pushed as hard and smooth as I could for the last lap. With a couple miles to go I came upon Keith who was had was following the 30-39 Cat1 leaders, who were following Cathy. I knew that I couldn’t rest so when we broke to access road I announced and executed a sketchy pass and floored it up the hill so as not to make anyone slow down. This did the trick and I was able to gain some breathing room, by the end. Fear is such a great motivator.
Once again the old guys were the ones to beat on the day with the 40-49’s setting the fastest Cat1 times of the day by nearly 4 minutes and having 3 of the top 6 times, one of the others being from the 50-59’s. We finished the day off by stopping at Rein’s New York Deli on the way home for some great food and drinks. It turned out to be a wonderful day and I was certainly glad that I’d gone.
So, I decided after last year not to race my MTB this season. It was with reluctance, therefore, that I ended up at Winding Trails, and paid my money to line up to race. the weather was a far cry from last year’s 90 degree temps, as we stood, shivering, waiting for our turn to get out on the course.
On the start last year, I got a bad line through the soft sand, and had to work to try to make up places as a result. I KNEW I wanted to get the hole shot (how long have I been racing, and this is just now sinking in?!?!?!). On the whistle, I put my head down, headed left and completely avoided the sand. One woman ended up in front of me, but with dual lines up the first incline, I took the left, might have cut her a bit in the corner, and ended up with the hole shot.
That meant I got to be first over the double logs, and first down the steep downhill. But I could still hear the other racer close behind. About halfway through the first lap, she passed me, and I realized that she was in the younger category. I still worked to stay with her as long as possible, and kept her in sight for most of the first lap.
Coming into the new climb at the finish, I had some trepidation. On the pre-ride, I hadn’t been able to make it up the hill. On the first lap, there were seemingly hundreds of people standing in that spot, and there was NO WAY I wasn’t making it up the hill. Into the granny gear I went, and grunted my way up (success!). I was psyched to be able to make this each of the 4 laps.
The rest of the race was reasonably uneventful. I never saw another woman the entire race. Did get passed by many of the men, and worked to stay with them as long as possible (which usually wasn’t long). I had a BLAST on the course this year, working the tight twisty trails, and feeling the flow. Mike had shown me all the good lines in the pre-ride, and that certainly helped get me through the course.
Decided to do this when Keith told me this was a true roadie course. It was. No real tough sections but still a lot of twists and turns which demonstrated I still no mountain biker.. when everyone else was drilling it and riding the corners I was braking and generally being a roadie (maybe I need to take the brakes off the bike altogether). Good race (workout as I wasn’t really in the race), middle of the pack finish, no real events just SLOW in the twisty bits when everyone else was fast.
Moved up to cat 2 so I could do longer rides. Still need lots of skill building. Went over the handlebars at the first chute/drop. Took a minute to decide what I wanted to do….. Pulled myself together and went on. It was a nice easy course and I really enjoyed the last lap knowing what to expect. Hey, I made it over all the logs and I wasn’t last!