Race Report: Big Bear 2×12 Hazelton WV Part I

It seems there is something about competition that is quasi-primeval in humans, once there is more than one participant even the most mundane things intended to be leisurely or collaborative become competitions. This is evident in group rides, professional work where team members begin to compete and even sabotage, government…even church. Competition seems to be everywhere and it is GREAT! It incites passion, it kindles effort, it bids effort and provides motivation, I love to compete. The good thing however is that I believe I am a good sportsman andan awesome loser.

Having said that, since the arrival of Adaeze my competition itch has been competitive eating against myself (I always win) or largely ignored to the chagrin of the local bike shops (most of my bike racing comprise mainly of physical turmoil and mechanical mishap). Earlier this week I get a call from my buddy asking if I wanted to do the Big Bear 2×12 race: a relay race in WV where teams of 2 race 2 12 mile laps (Expert class races 3 laps) to which I said yes. Now I have been logging some decent miles this year though nothing like last year, I have also been on the mountainbike only 4 times this year so I figured this was going to be interesting.

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Now Big Bear lake trails is a super technical trail system stewed with drops, rock gardens and tight singletrack ideal for a full suspension MTB which I do not have of course, I have a Giant XTC 29er hardtail running a 1×9 drivetrain, everything else stock.

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The drive up there was uneventful… beautiful but uneventful, right before you cross into West Virginia, you could see the morning sun burning off all the fog creating almost a celestial backdrop. We picked up our registration packages and headed up to meet the rest of the team. Ron starts setting up while I relaxed and work on my tan, Next thing I hear is 15 MINS TO REACESTART…( our strategy was for me to start since I am the faster of the two of us and for Ron to keep us in a good position or at least slow the competition down by plugging up the trail). Ron’s advice as I headed to the start line was  Don’t start in the rear, be confident -go out strong so you  don’t get held up behind the slow guys… I should never have listened to that…

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The Prolog was up a gravel road climb for about a 0.7mile section, I settled in the middle of the pack and went out full-gas at the whistle. All classes started out together so as expected the experts pretty much disappeared once the whistle sounded while the fast sport guys started pulling away. I got to the position where I was just at the tail end of the fast guys and I figured this was where I wanted to be. My heart rate was pretty much at that point right before you consider going to the ED (I’m thinking cause you Ron for your terrible advice), we headed right into the singletrack and oh my was it a technical singletrack. I passed a couple people and ran into this rock gumbo of a technical section – of the 600 so miles I have ridden this year about 580 have been on the road coupled with the fact that I have never really been good at technical riding or line selection, I am more of a -point and shoot- kindda guy so my choice of gear (drivetrain) selection was less than perfect. I stalled on the first rock garden being in too tall a gear to power over the rocks, having too much air in my fork and tire hence a really rigid front end, I kept stalling on every technical section (there was a lot of them) having to dismount and walk around them, this resulted in my HR never quite dropping.  I kept getting passed all this while with people giving the customary “Are you ok”? salutation as they zoom by ( I truly wonder if they would really stop and help if I said I wasn’t, I’m not sure I would)

I stopped, took a deep breath and said to my self “Mandela get in a rhythm” so I got back on the bike and started slow like I usually do and originally planned to before sage Ron gave me his false oracle. At this point I could not see any other racers so I still had to remind myself this was a race and I needed to push. At about mile 6 I could see a group ahead, my legs were beginning to feel better so I cranked a little harder, dug a little deeper. I would close in on the group on the climbs but it seemed at the crest of every climb was a little technical rock arrangement designed just for me, I would stall me and they would get away from me but I will claw back to them on the climb (obviously we all must have been really slow if I was catching them on the climbs). On the climb I was the closest to them I hear this huge clank in my drive train, look down and my chain has shifted behind my cassette and lodged in there (limit screw adjustment), I yank on it a couple times then pull the wheel off and reseat the chain (this results in my being passed by another group of riders including a 12 year old yes 12 year old and he will pass me again but I am getting ahead of myself). I remount chase and quickly pass this group calling out “passing on the right/left” You know there should be a universal etiquette for passing during a MTB race, heck there could be one and I don’t know about it, it just seems like whenever I am trying to get out of the way of a faster rider or vise versa  we always end up trying to go on the same side resulting in both of us slamming on the breaks…

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The big downhill was next and being my Clydesdale self I bombed down if with a couple close calls, one time going off a drop, I could not decide if I wanted to air it out over the ledge or gingerly roll down it so gravity decided for me sending me in a sideways orientation- I am not sure how I saved that one. I crawled up the last 2 miles certain I was last by this time by the time I got there. The timing tent was at the buttom of this steep bridge which of course I was in the wrong gear when I got up to. I crawled to the top and gracelessly handed over my baton to Ron and apologized for my time… He said you did well we are leading. I had don’t it in a 1:25mins fastest in the Clydesdale class.

Part II soon…

 

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2 thoughts on “Race Report: Big Bear 2×12 Hazelton WV Part I

  1. Pingback: Race Report: Big Bear 2×12 Part II | Paceline Home

  2. Pingback: Backyard Adventure: Riding the GAP from Pittsburgh to Cumberland… | Paceline Home

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