This weekend served up a fair bit of controversy in the New England mountain bike world, but it's the same old things we've been squawking about for years: why do EFTA and Root66 schedule events on the same day, and should we really race in this much mud?
The former is infuriating. We had 125 people at Moody Park and 200 at Putney; the venues are 40 miles apart. Combine 'em and we could've had a 300+ rider turnout at a non-Massachusetts venue, aka a RARE OCCURRENCE. Instead we get two small races. I'd love to know why no one will run a MTB race on Saturday -- seems to work fine for road and cross.
The latter? Eh, I'm still not sure. If you reschedule/cancel cuz of mud, you pretty much threw away any and all profitability you had. If you skip muddy races (as a racer), you don't get to race and the trails get trashed anyway.. and now the promoter has $30 less money to try to fix it with.
So I keep racing in the mud, but I don't ride for fun in it. A compromise.
Anyway, due to the conditions and competition, the Moody Park elite race was all of 7 dudes. Which made me think I could win, maybe, ha, until I saw what 7 dudes were there. Jonny Bold and Matty O'Keefe are still in the "guys I can't beat unless their bikes explode" category, so that was the end of that. Although if there was ever a day for bikes to explode, it was today...
Since I'm a really smart guy who can't tell the difference between the Putney Elite start time (11:30) and the Moody Park Elite start time (11:00) I rolled into the parking lot at 10:50. Matty O was like "hey, get ready" in a strangely serious tone and I was like "NO YOU GET READY, LOL" and starting dicking around like usual before a race. Then they said "experts and elites to staging" on the megaphone and I peed my pants a little and started freaking out.
LUCKILY! I have been racing without a warmup for years so 5 minutes was totally enough time to get it together. GO!
We started on top of a giant hill so the race was fun for like five minutes. Until we hit the first unrideable mud hole. And then a bunch of rideable mud holes. And I started thinking about how the dollar amount of wear and tear I was about to put on my bike.
A motivational thought, to be sure.
A group of 3 rode away (Jonny, Matt, and Andy Gould) and I was like, whatever, it's a long race. I hung out with Matt Boobar and Jeff Landfried in 4th. Matt was holding me up a bit on the descents, so I was like OH MAN I GOT THIS and went tearing by him.
Then we hit a minute-long uphill mud bog run (walk) and he pranced past me like a pro XTerra triathlete in a mountain bike race. Which is because he was. Ohhhh...crap. I was NOT cool with the idea of running hard in the mud for 2 hours (go ahead, predict my cross season from that sentence) so I waved goodbye and rode with Jeff instead.
And by "rode with Jeff," I really mean "impaled my shoulder on a tree and stopped riding to think about crying." Seriously. You know those broken-off branches on the lower trunks of pine trees? They are SHARP. Holy crap.
So that was lap one.
Lap two was more of the same, tooling around with Jeff, shredding the gravity cavity, and oh yeah, ripping my knee open again on a mossy log. Seriously. One second I'm running (in a bike race, argh) and step on a log, next thing I know I'm on the ground and have somehow reopened the wound from the Glocester Grind that had FINALLY stopped being a scab. And then I bled down to my ankle for a while.
At this point dropping out seemed like a really good idea, but the finish is at the top of the hill - and once I'm up there, I really wanna ride back down. Well played, race promoter...
On lap three, Jeff and I caught Andy, who had paid the price for riding a JONNYBOLDPACE from the gun and was now a shell of a man. Suddenly I realized we were racing for 4th, which would become 3rd if any of the guys ahead had their bikes explode, which could actually be some money. And I needed money to offset the horrible, horrible things I was doing to my bike, as I rode through rivers of mud that look like someone had emptied the septic tank onto the trail.
My special mutation is apparently riding through pools of shit that make normal people get off their bike, so I gapped Jeff as I rode at 3mph while he tried to keep the shoes on his feet as he walked. And then I decided to hammer, because it had been an hour and I was finally warmed up, and I knew it would be really annoying for him to chase back on. And I do love being annoying.
So 10 minutes later he yells at me through the woods, from 30 seconds, back, "HOW'D YOU GET SO FAR AHEAD?!" and I stuffed my lungs back down my throat long enough to yell "I GOT RADDDDD." Even though the truth is that I tried pretty damn hard, and took some extremely un-rad lines during the process. I have an image to maintain here.
Then I was all alone. Boobar was visible occasionally through the woods, but only to confirm that the course was twisty and he had almost 2 minutes on me. So I rode hard, but only put-me-out-of-my-misery hard, not chased-by-a-bear hard. And finished 4th. And did not get any money, nor did I deserve it.
In between all the rivers of crap was a pretty cool course. If this race was dry, it would have been THE BOMB. Less climbing, more singletrack than Putney -- if they end up double-scheduled again (and they will, because WHY NOT?), I'll come here.