Last year I reunited my love affair with the Pinnacle, and I've been telling everyone who asks me about MTB racing that this is THE RACE to do if you like your courses LEGIT, but in a fun way. Not LEGIT in an evil way (looking at you, Coyote Hill).
This year the promoters moved the Sport race to 9:30 AM, instead of with the expert/elite fields -- which was a good idea. Although giving them only 2 hours to finish the course before getting RUN OVER by the elites was not as good. And me getting up at 6:30 to get my soon-to-not-be-Sport carpooler (ahem) to the venue was a throwback to the old days of Cat 4 cross at 6am wakeups!
Good thing bike racing is super awesome so I was bouncing off the walls at 6:29AM anyway. I need to find a way to convince myself I'm going to a bike race on WEEKDAYS.
I used my extra bonus time at the race venue to HANG OUT with the Boston bike scene. And definitely not to warm up. Because warming up for a race that climbs 700 feet in the first 15 minutes is unnecessary.
Then out of nowhere (aka right on time) we got called to staging and it was go time. Twenty-five dudes! Cuz I told you the Pinnacle is LEGIT. Most excitingly, Sweens was back from THE MUMPS and Greg "I swear I'm not a roadie now" Whitney was doing his obligatory one yearly MTB race before Great Glen. Little did they know that while I pretend they are my friends and it ain't no thing, I am actually emotionally invested in beating them in races. OH CRAP DID I JUST TYPE THAT?!
So we started, and there were lots of guys going really hard on steadily climbing doubletrack. Kevin and Greg were amongst them, and thus I had no choice but to join the anaerobic party. At one point I said to Greg "@GREGWHITS WE ARE GOING TOO HARD" and he ignored me, because Kevin was dropping us both.
As the climb progressed, though, it turned out that some people were going even more TOO HARD than I. Some places were made. Then we topped out and started descending.
As usual, 5 minutes into the descent I caught up to Dylan McNicholas, after he crashed himself wicked hard. He was able to pedal and form complete sentences, so I was able to chuckle in my head and then flee his wrath on further descending.
Oh. OH. The descending. YEAH.
The descent was the EPITOME OF RADNESS. Corners, berms, braking, trees, roots, bridges... steep enough you were truckin' (especially if you were pedaling) but shallow enough you weren't just grinding your brakes pads to dust. And there was a ton of time to be made if you wanted to let it all hang out. Which I certainly did.
This year they added some four foot tall berms to a few sections, to expose how NOT RAD us XC racers are. Every time through I swore I was ripping it horizontal, yet my need to brake check to avoid flying off the top suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, my brain felt RAD, which is 90% of the battle (unless someone has a camera).
At the end of lap one I was so full of adrenaline from the descent that my memory basically went blank. I remember that Kevin was ahead of me, Greg was behind me, and I was having FUN. So I rode back to the top so I could get rad again. Greg was close behind me so I had to go fast. Fast enough that I caught Kevin and made him ask me why I was going so fast.
Then we went down the descent again and Kevin made motorcycle noises. He even let me take the lead when I asked for it, which is how I knew his sense of fun was overwhelming his sense of competition.
Then the race was half over and I felt pretty good! I was so surprised to not be a crumbling mess after 60 minutes that I started riding harder, to get back into my comfort zone of "cramping and wishing for death."
BUT IT DIDN'T WORK. I had (M)ENERGY LEGS. And I was really excited to try to hurt myself on the downhill again.
After three laps someone told me I was in fifth (!) and Jonny Bold was ahead of me (!!!). I figured if there was every a time when I could beat JB it would be on a course that finished with a sick downhill, so I rode the entire last lap at EUPHORIC SPEED trying to catch him. No one told me that he had a three minute cushion, so it was totally pointless, but hey, I was still going fast and I finally started to cramp, so it was a GLORIOUS final lap.
|The race is over and I'm not even flopping around like a dead fish, that's how well it went.|
|I don't get on very many podiums. Can you tell?|
I bet you thought you might see a Pinnacle Race Report here today. Ha. I am still trying to recover from the weekend, as always. Here's the Coyote Hill Bar Cam I made last Friday:
Attempt #2: I think I'll replace the (totally frozen) headset bearings on my janky Top Fuel on Thursday night. Pop the old ones out, put the new ones in, five minute job... unless you "pop" the lower bearing cartridge out by giving it a gentle tap with a screwdriver that breaks its rusted outer layer off, leaving it wedged/fused in your carbon headtube. Then you would have a problem on your hands.
I thought this would be enough to keep me from racing, but I had to make a small effort to fix it on Friday...so I took it to JRA... and ended up walking out of there with a 20-lb Felt 29er "just to try for the weekend" Let's not talk about how much the price was, or how I'm totally going to end up buying it.
(Sidenote: Brian McInnis is a cool dude)
I took my ridiculous demo bike to Harold Parker and discovered that, uh, big wheels aren't magic, and when the going gets GNAR I still like a 26er dualie better. However. Domnarski gnar ain't no Harold Parker gnar, though, so I was still talked into racing this souped-up cross bike on Sunday.
So... bike racing! We had 22 riders in Pro/1 Open at Domnarski, compared to only 8 in elite at the Big Ring Rumpus, which should answer any questions you have about which of these races is the "real" MTB race. I rather famously complained about this course back in the day, but I'll admit it has grown on me. It's like a tiny lit part of me is willing to admit that pedaling hard and even climbing is part of mountain bike racing.
Anyway. Late breakfast, late arrival and I was in full-on reverse holeshot mode. Unfortunately Joshua Wright from Geekhouse got behind/next to me on the first climb and I promptly put him into the non-existent tape and lost the reverse holeshot. Whoops.
Then everyone else rode away from us on the first climb, but it was like WHATEVER MAN. My bike is stupidly light and I am PACING myself. See you dudes on lap two.
Note: not all dudes were seen on lap two. In fact, some of them beat me by five minutes.
When we hit the power line about 2/3rds of the way through lap one, I was shocked/thrilled to see no less than 8 riders in sight on the big climb. Err, I mean, I knew my slow start would pay off. I'm not outta this yet!
So then I rode TOO DAMN HARD for a while and caught onto the back of a group of four just in time for the BRIDGE OF ABSURDITY at the end of the powerline.
Basically, it was a six-inch wide bridge, the first segment of which was floating, that was about 40 feet long, with a giant rock you had to ride over in the middle (before going back onto a 6-inch wide board). Common sense told me not to ride it, but everyone in front of me was trying to ride it and damned if I didn't want to be as rad as them.
As the group reached the far end, someone (Josh Wilcox?) crashed off it, and the 2nd guy in line (Timmy D) ollied off the bridge, into the water, and rode out of it. I was so impressed by this commotion that I promptly stalled on the giant rock, fell off the rock, dumped the bike and landed on my ass in the water. Ta-da!
By the time I put it back together all the dudes I had just chased down were nicely far away from me, and drafting each other as they blitzed down some fast jeep roads.
Then! We got to the gnarly, technical part of the descent and I couldn't close the gap AT ALL because I apparently I am terrible riding 29ers downhill. But it was okay because we were only halfway through the race.
Lap two ended up being super fun because a group of no less than 6 riders developed: Me, Alec Petro, Tim D, Josh Wilcox, Black-and-white kit dude, Jeff Landfried, Noah Tautfest. Actually, there might have been other dudes, too, but let's pretend my memory is perfect. In any case, this is NOT. NORMAL. in the second hour of a mountain bike race. It was fun, but it also hurt, because every time someone went fast, everyone else had to go fast, and someone ALWAYS wanted to go fast.
We started to break up on the climb after the road section and somehow I rode through like half of the group, including Tim. This only served to enrage him (much like it would Wilichoski) and he caught back up soon, in time to tell me that I was an "anorexic son of a bitch."
This is actually the highest praise one cyclist can give another, so I was pretty happy about that at the time. Unfortunately, after the race he clarified that he thinks I'm fat and he said "we need to catch Jeff [Landfried], that anorexic son-of-a-bitch." Which is fair. Jeff is pretty skinny. So skinny. So...beautiful. I wish I looked like that. Sigh.
Uh. Anyway. Turns out my legs had exactly enough gas to get over the top of the super-steep climb at the end of the powerline section, which I managed to clean while only cramping at the very top. I was still riding with Tim at that point... which meant the last ten minutes of the race were going to be some crampy-drafty fun.
But then, Tim dropped/wedged his chain wrong at the base of the last doubletrack climb... and yeah, that just means I have to ride really hard trying to preserve this 10-second gap to the line, doesn't it? CRAP.
I thrashed frantically down the final descent with my quads twinging with each pedal stroke. Luckily this is pretty much status quo for my racing, so I knew what to do: flop your head and shoulders around drunkenly to try to generate the power your quads cannot, and pray for the race to end. And it worked PERFECTLY -- I flew across the line with a nice four-second cushion on Tim, and five seconds on Chris Hamlin (who had flatted long ago and been presumed dead). Cramping to perfection! 9th/22!
So the only bummer is that now I totally have to buy that bike I was riding.
|Frantically trying to finish bottle #1 as I approach the lone feed zone, from Matt Domnarski himself.|
Hey, it's Saturday, and you're reading blogs. Trying to figure out if you want to race tomorrow? Maybe this will help.
I think this might now be the only race I have done every single season I've raced mountain bikes. For serious, check it out: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. It's that good. Wait, is it good? I'm not sure any more. It's all singletrack, but it's lumpy and fresh cut and generally a mess. The FLOW is few and far between. But hey, it's a legit test of mountain biking ability (damn!) so put let's put some numbers on and ride until we're praying for death. Yeah!
I got there Saturday night with my friend Christin, and right before we went out for a lap the MAN IN CHARGE, Tom Masterson, drove up and told us all about the new course. Which, of course, had been cut the day before. And didn't have bridges yet. Or had even been weedwhacked. But that's okay, cuz he still had 15 hours to finish building it. That's how they roll in Vermont.
The big change was that the dirt road climb had been taken out and replaced with even more lumpy singletrack. It seemed like maybe it was a tad less climbing, but it was definitely harder. The whole lap was full of slick roots, rocks and mud... so by the time I finished, I was like, wow, just riding four laps of this tomorrow without breaking my bike or will to suffer will be worth a few places.
And with that "positive outlook" in mind, I lined up with 18 other dudes on Sunday!
My wussy perspective led directly to the reverse holeshot, and I was TOTALLY OKAY with that. Noah Tautfest and Matt Green hung out with me at the back and we talked about who was in last place and how Matt's bars were too wide. Noah screwed up some stuff and I made fun of him, then Matt made fun of him, then he didn't seem to be as stoked on hanging out anymore.
Then Matt caught some rad air on the downhill (I'll post the video, promise) and then I passed him on the next climb due to the energy I saved. And then I was alone. And my back hurt. And it was still lap one.
So YEAH. Coyote Hill is hard. I think I told everyone in the feed zone that it was hard when I came through, and they told me to shut up and ride.
Apparently this is the season that I hang out with Paul Simoes, because I caught him somewhere on lap two. He was on an overgeared singlespeed (is there any other kind?) and attempting to curse his gear into lightening. It was moderately effective, in that he passed me back about three or four times before I finally got rid of him.
Oh, I also caught Kevin Sweens, which is notable because I haven't beaten him on a bike in like 12 months. However it's hard to count this one, because he got diagnosed with FREAKING MUMPS before the race. Seriously. This was his thought process:
1) I don't feel well, I think I'll see a doctor
2) Oh crap, I have mumps, I guess I'll drive 3 hours each way to a race I'm not preregistered for
3) Wow I feel terrible and dizzy and Colin just passed me, that's how bad I'm doing
4) Well I better not drop out because I'm sick since I drove all this way
So passing a delirious Sweeney was kind of funny, in a sad way.
After two laps I had been doing an EXCELLENT job of keep a lid on it and I was feeling decidedly okay. Then I ate a gel. And my legs were like, dude! let's race bikes! So I started RACING. And it was glorious.
There were a bunch of dudes I could see -- Jeff Landfried, Greg Jancaitis, Will Letendre? -- on the climb, and I was totally going to catch them. After ten minutes of RACING I pulled up behind Greg and was like, phew, time to rest.
Then we had a little dismount or something, and next thing I know I feel terrible and Greg is ten seconds up the trail. What even happened there? I still don't know. Five minutes later he's gone completely and I'm seriously regretting my decision to start trying hard instead of just riding smooth.
Greg eventually put 4.5 minutes on me in 1.5 laps, so that's pretty cool for him. Apparently 24 hour solo guys eat cross guys like me for breakfast in the third hour of a race.
Once Greg was gone, I was sad and lonely and started thinking about blogging.
I realized that Greg's last name is TOTALLY a disease my bikes have. As in, "My suspension pivots are worn, my chain is stretched, and my shifting sucks. I took it to the shop and they diagnosed it as an acute case of jank-itis. Nothing to do now but euthanize it."
|It's not Vermont without a rusted car on the trail|
Deep, deep thoughts like this might be why Paul Simoes returned from the dead to haunt me on lap four. I was ready to chillax my way to the finish with a half-written blog post in my head when I look back, and BAM, Bikeman.com jersey. Oh Paul, does it really have to end this way? With you swearing at your bike like a sailor and me praying I don't cramp as I spin frantically away from you?
Yeah, it did have to end that way.
I beat him to the field with enough of a cushion that I was able to not freak out when I got caught behind Emily Curley in the last section of singletrack. Then she proved that she's a TRUE CURLEY by sprinting me to the line! I love it. NO GIFTS!
|Giving Emily the DEATH STARE|
|Post race: Does this look fun?|
|Post race part 2: Apparently, it was fun for Kevin|
[Photo credits: Christin Christoph and Rob Stine]