Fat Tire Classic Race Report

Warning: This post may be intermittently self-congratulatory, because my weekend was hardcore and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Saturday I ended up deciding to ride the Shelburne Falls 200k at the last minute with my Dad. Thanks to the fact that there's still skiable snow at his house in Maine and that I have a 30 year age advantage, I wasn't in danger of getting shelled on this ride, but still, 125 miles? That's really far. The ride started in Westfield MA (6 miles north of the Connecticut border), went all the way to Vermont, then came back. I didn't know Massachusetts was only 60 miles across! And seeing the Vermont state line sign makes you feel like you are a long way from your car.

I should have brought a camera to take some pictures, but all I have is the GPS data view of the ride. The first 40 miles were pretty easy, we had a group of nearly 30 people riding together so I got to "practice" my pack riding skill(z). Not being a race, we went at 18-20 mph, which meant copious coasting for those of us in the pack. I did get to make a very sprited chase after stopping for a nature break (I'm not pro enough to do it while rolling) but other than that the first third passed without incident.

We kind of got dropped near the end of that segment and ended up riding the middle third solo, which was a lot harder than drafting (who knew??). My longest day of year prior to this one had been 45 miles, so I was definitely feeling it by the 80th mile as I dragged us into an annoying headwind to the 2nd checkpoint.

Refueled, we rode the last 44 miles back to Westfield, which turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be. I felt great at the beginning when we left with a group of 9 people, which slowly whittled down to a group of 4, then I decided I wanted to get home so I pulled for several miles, then I was tired and we still weren't home.

Anyway, it was a successful introduction to the Randonneuring scene, which is very different from the race scene! Out of 45 or so starters I didn't see a single Powertap... and plenty of hairy legs. I think it's great that a bunch of people whom most of us racerheads would talk trash about (hairy legs, fenders, with aero bars? omg lol!!) ride their bikes 200k-1200k for kicks. They aren't the pro-est looking dudes out there but still, you can't fake 125 miles... and that's the SHORTEST ride they do.

I was feeling pretty toasted after that, but 125 miles is no big deal to some guys so I won't complain too much. Sunday found me back in the Thomp-mobile headed to Faaaahmington, home of da Chainbite-ah, for some Root 66 MTB Racing. The course was basically the same as last year but with a bit more (new) singletrack.

12 months ago this was my first race of the year and I was stoked to get 3rd in sport; this time around I've raced 3 times already and anything outside the top half of expert is a letdown. Nice of my expectations to stay one step ahead of my fitness...

Not quite 24 hours after finishing the 200k the race started -- I knew that any early trips into lactate land would spell doom, so my plan was to take it out slow, spin as much as possible and try to get the job done aerobically.

You won't believe this, but I went straight to the back on the sandy start climb. DFL, hooray! I made a calculated decision to go hard enough to stay in contact for drafting purposes, which was harder than I wanted to start but ultimately paid off. Alex took this picture of me while I was tailgunning, and while I look all lonesome in it second-to-last place is only just out of the frame. I swear.

So for the first five minutes I hung on to a wheel in last place, getting as close as I dared for maximal drafting on the mostly-smooth double track and only slightly less smooth singletrack. A couple times I actually coasted while drafting -- which is probably a sign it was time to move up.

And it most certainly was. The course looped back and I saw the leaders busting through singletrack a good 30-45 seconds ahead, and while they were definitely unreachable there were some other groups just ahead that were worth the effort to go after. I stomped it on one of the few climbs and found out that my legs had approximately 10 seconds of anaerobic burst in them before going *ding*, and having toast pop out of them. Luckily, what constitutes a "climb" at Winding Trails is a 9.9 second big ring jaunt so I never actually had to break out the butter/jam/maple syrup.

And that's enough of THAT metaphor!

Somewhere along lap one I bridged a couple gaps and eventually ended up with two other guys riding in 6th-8th places. I clung to their wheels for a bit, recovering like the wheel-sucking vampire I am, and then took the lead into the singletrack as aggressively as possible. Thirty seconds of overshooting corners later, I was back on the doubletrack with just enough of a gap to make them have to really work to get back. One of them hammered through the start-finish area to catch and pass me, but that turned out to be more of a crowd-pleasing move than an accurate representation of strength. I passed him back soon after and he dropped away.

After that comes the predictably lonely part, I was sufferring in 6th, looking back and watching the gap steadily grow and trying to keep a balanced lung/leg sufferfest going. Near the end of lap two I caught up with Miles E, and it hurt a lot. So I then rode his wheel mercilessly for a bit to recover before taking the lead... but strangely enough when I hammered through the singletrack he just rode happily behind me.

Hmm, it appears that I have reached equilibrium.

He retook the lead and we ended up riding nearly an entire lap together. Late in lap three I was leading us on maybe my third or fourth turn on the front and I noticed that he wasn't quite hanging on that close any more, the usual 2-foot gap was a whopping 8 feet. Much to my legs' chagrin, my brain realized this meant I needed to seal the deal and I gunned it up the longest hill and went panting and thrashing into the singletrack like a man possessed. I was riding like a mess, doing that stupid thing where you rail one corner so awesomely you overshoot the next one -- because you don't actually have the skills to ride at speed -- ducking my shoulders around trees because I was too tired to steer right, but somehow it all worked out and I solidified 5th place.

The last lap was just a leg-liquifying rush to hang on, there were some singlespeeders stalking me but gaining just slowly enough I couldn't be sure they weren't my category -- so while I actually had a 60 second cushion by the end I came in totally panicked with a 10 second lead on two singlespeeders who were sprinting it out.

For some insane reason they paid 5 deep, so I was actually rewarded with CASH MONEY for my 86 minutes of hammer time. Depending on how much you squint this was my best Root 66 race of the season -- so I'm pretty happy with that, given that I put in a cool 18 hours in the saddle in the week prior. An 18-hour week... I assume I can just coast until cross season now, right?

For my numerous female readers (how you doin?) who will undoubtedly want to know how Linnea faired -- let me just say she got more cash than I did, and rides logs like a badass.


Goddamn, that sounds like fun. I might have to look into the MTB racing scene around here. I'm in poor shape now and I don't know how to tune up my bike, so I could really suffer.
gewilli said…
um yeah - she IS a bad ass


(nice report)

+1 for no mention of ponies
Luke S said…
Agreed, MTB racing looks like way more fun than any other kind of cycling.
Alex said…
Can I get some photo credits? Thanks =)
Colin R said…
You mean like "Alex took this picture of me while I was tailgunning,"?
megA said…
kudos to you, your dad and linnea!

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