Bear Brook Blastoff Race Report

I've heard a fair amount of hype about this race, so with a yawning chasm of four non-Root 66 weekends to navigate, I decided to head up to Manchester and see what the fuss was all about.

In retrospect, the 1-hour drive explains the popularity -- people will give you all kinds of silly reasons for why some events are big basically it goes like this: turnout = proximity to major cities - competing events. Nothing else was going on and Concord, Manchester and Boston were all nearby. The place was packed. Word on the street was over 300 racers.

The trails ultimately failed to live up to the hype, at least for this technical specialist. It was basically the same type of course as the Fat Tire Classic, albeit with a bit more singletrack and a much longer loop, but still just zero-recovery big ring blasting for 90% of the lap. There was lots of fast and smooth singletrack, which looked pretty but wasn't any more technically demanding than the wide open doubletrack. Probably more fun to ride in a non-race situation, actually.

Still though, close to Boston, I'll do it next year. Can't beat the short drive.

I ended up racing the "Expert Senior II" category (yes, EFTA splits seniors into two categories for some silly reason) because they had been threatening a 39 mile Elite race and my knee has made it abundantly clear this week that 3 hours of race pace is still a bad idea. 'Twas a serious turnout with somewhere around 20 dudes taking the line, including Kevin who ended up in the same category as me for a change thanks to the different age group.

Predictably we went scorching off the line and my zero-warmup plan was immediately painful. Kevin and an NEBC guy went off the front and I was sucking dust and lactic acid back in sixth or so. In retrospect, some spinning on the road would have been smarter than wasting twenty minutes to put on some hot pink OURY grips:

On the plus side every time I looked down at my bars I was like, "awww, they look pretty!"

Kevin's domination came swiftly to an end when he separated his Eggbeater pedal body from the spindle and ended his day after only two miles (ASK ME HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE EGGBEATER'S DURABILITY, I DARE YOU). So that was a nice ill-deserved place. Unfortunately I was still redlined (hopefully just like the guys around me) so I could do nothing but progress steadily toward exploding, as recovery sections were nonexistant.

Eventually I caught the NEBC guy, who heckled me for not running the seat cam, and we picked up two more guys to become a sweet four-man, 20-mph, singletrack-smoking train. As you might imagine trying to stay a foot off someone's wheel in singletrack leads to some excitement, and it only got more "exciting" when the lead Vet racer caught us and started trying to get through the line. Somehow it all sorted out without a crash (although plenty of feet were put down) and I ended up on the front of the group after the Vet guy got away and used my race smarts to pull everyone as hard as I could for five minutes.

Then I got tired, another Vet racer came by, and the dude who had been on my wheel jumped across to him and was never seen again. Whoops.

At the end of the lap I finally found the one legitimate mountain biking section on the course and went careening from rock to tree to rock down it, getting repeatedly bailed out by my super-hot, brand new Trek 9.8 (available now at IBC! Yes, that was a sponsor plug! But the bike is awesome!).

At the bottom, back on the double track, I had a chat with Derek Brinkerhoff (sp?) about our ages, he was like "I'm 23, I'm not in your category," and I was like "oh yeah, my racing age is 27 now" and then John Mosher comes screaming by us and says "and I'm 48!"

That's when we realized we were not actually that good at racing bikes.

The second lap was actually where the course grew on me, because all I remembered was suffering on double track from lap one, so every singletrack section was like a Christmas present I forgot to open. On one of these sections I found Dylan M, who had gone over the bars and "hit a tree at 20mph" and "maybe bruised his heart." He went to hospital and was fine, so now I can say HAHA DYLAN CRASHED HIMSELF OUT, WHAT A ROADIE!


The other awesome thing about lap two is that EFTA runs the sport and novice riders behind the experts, so you lap the everloving crap out of them. It's impossible to be too down about how your race is going when you're literally passing people at double their speed, and they are cheering for you like you're Adam Craig and not just some moderately good local expert racer. At one point I was chasing after one of the Vets who passed me earlier and three novice riders stopped, got off the trail, and then cheered "yeah, get him!" as I roared past. I rewarded them by going totally anaerobic up the hill, closing the gap, and detonating once out of sight. It was glorious.

I spent the whole lap chasing the Vet (Brian Currier) and finally closed the gap coming down the legitimate mountain bike trail at the end of the lap. I got onto his wheel just in time for the stairs and I was giving him zero space, so when he endo'ed there was nothing I could do but grab a ton of front brake and endo as well. We picked ourselves up to the amusement of the crowd, ran down the stairs and then hammered stupid-fast for ten more minutes to the finish.

Brian started one minute behind me so there was no reason to sprint it out, which is the perfect scenario for me to win a sprint! Off the last turn he put in a cursory sprint effort, but I went for the full-blown "sprinting like my life depends upon it" approach and beat him to the line by a fair margin... for no good reason.

Finished up with 3rd in my category and some elusive bragging rights over Hill Junkie (who admittedly had done the Waterville Valley TT Saturday), so I was stoked to be that respectable on such a roadie-friendly course.
I did my best to get in Linnea's way but she still won the Elite Women's category.


Unknown said…
is this what you were doing sunday night instead of doing your homework? now you're going to get in trouble at work for not completing your assignment.

at least you wrote an entertaining blog entry and that's much more helpful to me.
solobreak said…
It is rather amazing that those pencil legs can make a bike move forward at all.
G-ride said…
Solo, I had the same thought. I mean, John Funk has skinny legs, but they look like, well, skinny biker legs. So odd.

Glad I slept in instead of going over there on the single speed.
Colin R said…
Oh yeah G-ride, you made a great call, not like there was a 25-guy singlespeed class you missed out on or anything.

Unknown said…
yeah g, you missed a great single speed course with a BIG single speed turnout. btw, colin failed to mention his better half won the elite woman's field (of 2). since efta doesn't give money to the elites (ask matt o'keefe how he feels about that) colin still has to report to work this week.
Cathy said…
Thought I'd let you know that I continued my cramp coaching this week ;). Ended up trading places with a guy who had to walk all the hills on the second lap cause he was cramping so bad. I beat him in the end, but he thanked me for the encouragement. I'm getting good at this! ;)
mkr said…
I actually thought that was a really good course, especially compared to the 1998/99 ones, which was the last time I did it.

No place to recover? The rocky downhill technical section and the couple screaming slightly bumpy downhills were good for me. The high speed pounding flushed the goo right out of the bloody meat-stumps allowing for another gloriously mediocre performance.

Also, those are some very pretty grips.
G-ride said…
dude, get yourself some lock ons. seriously. no more fighting with grips.

Is that picture with Linnea some of the "single track"?

I was up for a nice long MTB ride, I actually wish I had gone, but a fast course sounds like it would ruin the nice ride part with alot of trying to go fast and not get last. Though, in my experience, last place pays out.
Colin R said…
OURYs beat lock-ons any day of the week, dude.

That is not really a single track section. More like 1.5 track. Much of course was way, way tighter than that.

No place paid out at this race, not even 1st place in elite men. Don't get me started.
Anonymous said…
you shall beg for forgiveness in october...jk.
well i was actually having lots of fun until i destroyed myself.
Cary said…
I'm going to make fun of your pink grips at the start line at Putney. And anytime that I see you before then. There can only be one Thom P...Looks like you put 40minutes into our ultimate fighting friend! Did he and O'Keefe reconcile?
Julia said…
Skinny legs, pink grips, Polly Flinders dress for Halloween in 5th grade... Hey, stop making fun of my, er, son!
Colin R said…
Cary - did you forget that you race in a pink Spooky kit?

Mom - awwww, no one had to know about the dress incident...
kevin said…
That was only 2 miles in where you passed me? I had almost a minute on you after only two miles?

Your facts are faulty, eggbeaters both structurally sound and beyond reproach. Stainless steel however, that shit needs to step it up a bit.
G-ride said…
oury makes a lock on...
Anonymous said…
Hey man, I was the vet who messed up the second lap stairs for you. A very proud moment in my life indeed, sorry 'bout that. You should come up to the Pinnacle on the 13th, much higher percentage of technical singletrack than BearBrook. Enjoyed you recap.

bikemike said…
They really did not pay? I was paid well for third last season at this event.

Last season they were great at all the events, odd to see any differences this year.

Popular posts from this blog

A letter to everyone's parents about Coronavirus

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Do-It-Yourself March Cycling Blog Post