Superfan Weekend/Darkhorse 40 Race Report

I raced the Darkhorse 40 this weekend. It was an awesomely eccentric event. There was a lot of beer and a lot of prize money given out. I would strongly recommend this event to anyone slower than me or not in my age category. If you're a 16-29 Cat 1 racer, though, this race sucked, stay far far away!

Before the race though, lots of other exciting stuff happened.

Saturday was the final US Cup of the season over at Windham, and since Linnea wants to sign up for a lifetime of getting beat down upgrade to pro, so it was a big event for her. Meanwhile, I am content with my faux-pro status and wanted nothing to do with an 8am start time, $60 entry fee, and $0 payout. Does this make me spoiled by Root 66 Pro/1 races? You betcha.

Of course I was still on site at 7:50 to be a superfan. Good times were had as Matty O and I ate breakfast sandwiches in the woods and I cheered for New Englanders I knew by name while hiding behind a tree. You could tell who was serious because they didn't even react to hearing their name behind them. Everyone who looked back, trying to see me... harden up!

As is the norm, Linnea crushed it and was sitting comfortably behind the girl in 2nd going into the final lap. I got out my little video camera and prepared to capture the inevitable sprint smackdown that was coming. Linnea came out of the woods a few bike lengths back, looking far too relaxed, and I started yelling something about how "no girlfriend of mine mails in a finish like that!" but then when she could barely go around the last corner I figured out she was riding a mostly flat rear tire. Ok, fair enough, although crashing out trying to sprint on a flat would have been a much better video.

Next up was the pro women's race and I was on bottle handup duty for Mo Bruno Roy. It was getting nasty hot out so I felt even more important than I usually do when someone tells me I can stand in the feed zone and give them bottles. Seriously, I love giving people bottles at big races or pitting at UCI cross events. It's vicarious racing... and I loves me some racing.

So I was the king of time splits and bottle handups for a while, told Mo she needed to pick it up on lap 4 to avoid getting pulled (which she did), and then got to sit in the shade while she suffered horribly in the still-rising heat on lap 5, wondering why she didn't just slow down and get pulled. Ha!

The final superfan excursion was pitting for Matt O'Keefe and Harry Precourt in the pro race. Once again stopwatches were run, time splits were slung, bottles were handed and I pretended to be important. It was insanely hot and Geoff Kabush is insanely fast, (when he's not hitting trees) so pretty much everyone got pulled, even Matt who was in 30th place (out of 80 starters).

After all the running around I had a perfect excuse for anything that went wrong at the Darkhorse the next day.

We were up at 6, heading for Newburgh State Forest with breakfast sandwiches in hand soon after. Coming down from Windham a deer ran out in front of the guy I was following, bounced off his bumper at 50mph, landed on its feet and kept running! How about that shit, I thought, so I watched, transfixed, as this stupid animal somehow managed to scale the far bank apparently unscathed.

I've clearly been out of Maine for too long because the fact that deer travel in pairs (or more) never crossed my mind, I just kept watching deer #1 run away, as deer #2 sprang out of the ditch on a kamikaze mission to keep me from racing the Darkhorse 40.

Since my Honda Fit weighs barely more than a deer, the damage was significant. I tried to solve the problem by looking at my crushed front corner and flipping out, while Linnea actually solved it by using a chain whip to pry the front fender off the wheel and then taping up the wheel well so the liner didn't rub.

A scant 10 minutes later I was somehow driving my car at 55 mph once more, albeit having sustained several thousand dollars worth of damage. Since the accident a few people have asked me why I didn't call the police, to which I say, "I had a friggin bike race to get to!"

I was worried about the car falling apart at 75 mph so I kept it pretty slow on the freeway for the next hour, slow enough we just barely made registration for the 40. My 8:24 arrival for the race seemed "fashionably late," but when I found out I had to ride over a mile to registration and we were staging at 8:40 it was revealed as "stupidly late." Luckily Linnea continued to bail me out and got my bike and bottle together while I frantically dressed, then came down later for feed zone duty.

Before the start I hung out with Greg Whitney and we talked about how it was already hot and we were probably going to die when the sun actually got high in the sky.

Being a 40-miler the first five minutes were obviously where the race would be won, so I went really hard, hit the singletrack in 3rd (Cat 1 16-29, that is) and quickly made some passes to get to the front. Oh yeah I'm totally dominating this race, I'm sure the fact that I've been doing 40-minute efforts for the last two weeks has nothing to do with why I am the fastest after ten minutes.

Then I realized that the nervous feeling in my stomach that wouldn't go away was actually a breakfast sandwich being digested at a HR of 185, so I backed it off a notch (a really big notch) and some guy had the audacity to pass me back and disappear up the trail.

With 35 miles to go I ignored him, and sure enough, passed him back as he addressed a burped tire near the end of the lap. Leading once more!

He fixed his tire issue, passed me back on a road section, and then broke his bike again somehow. Last I saw, he was trying to figure out what he had just broken, so I figured I had basically won the race (come on, we're 25% done at this point, it's OVERRRR) and headed off to kick asses and take names for a few more hours.

This was working great, as long as "kicking asses" means "holding my position" and "taking names" means "flatting on the leading edge of a wooden bridge so hard I dented my rim."

Whoops. The guy behind me fared no better, nor did two other guys who came through while we were having our flat-fixing party. It was a nasty one, a high-speed bridge in a dip that you could easily hit at 25 mph, and it looked innocent. I'm sure 25 people must have flatted on it, based on what I saw in the 6 minutes I was there.

Since my race prep was cut severely short I was rolling with only one CO2 and no pump, so I had to put a tube in or risk DNFing if it didn't reseal. And since I'm really stupid, I put about 30 psi into my rear tube (I was running about 24 tubeless, so 30 seemed wicked stiff). Guess how long it took me to flat again? Half a mile or less, and that was all she wrote, now I'm just a moron in the woods, a long way from his car with an unrideable bike.

So I counted my chickens a bit early on that one, I would say. Or perhaps the eggs hatched, but turned out to contain velociraptors instead of cute, fuzzy chicks. No matter the metaphor, something crappy happened that can all be traced back to me idiotically watching the car in front of me hit a deer.

Halfway through my walk home I came across the ice-cold-PBR-feed-station, which helped my perspective immensely. At least I was showing signs of fitness before breaking my bike, and at least I can still drive my car, and at least I'm in the woods slamming a cold beverage with a bunch of bikers instead of [insert lame activity someone you know does on the weekend].

I like bike racing.


Mike said…
I had a Mike Festa Signature Sidewall Tear (tm) while riding in 5th overall (PRO/Semi/ Expert)~20 miles in 2 years ago... I recieved enough beer on the way out of the woods that I was slightly buzzed by the time I got to my car. Truely a fanatastic race. Sorry to hear about Bambi.
Colin R said…
Hey Mike, that reminds me -- the Continential Mountain King Supersonic I was riding on is pretty much the best tire in the world. It weighs 460 grams, can be set up tubeless, and the sidewall is fine despite taking a hit that was so hard I dented my rim.

Compare that to Bontrager sidewalls, which tear if you ride across a dirt road.
gewilli said…
conti's kick ass
thanks for coming down! sorry to hear of all your craziness but glad you had fun regardless!!!!
Keith said…
Superfan- there was a woodland creature lurking during my laps @ Kenda. Was it you? Either way I need to harden up!

That was total commitment to the DH40, nice! hope the car heals up.
Alex said…
Sorry 'bout your car... but it does serve you right for forgetting your roots, city slicker =)

I have a dented rim too, my CX bike hit a curb... I have no idea how that happened... I swear it was just riding itself...
G-ride said…
i OBLITERATED a big doe several years back, going to Maine in my 72 Chevy C-10 pick up. I had to scrape chunks out of the radiator.

I cracked the plastic egg crate grill insert. I was pissed as that is a 75 dollar part.

Oh yah, the rest of the truck was completely unmarked like it never happened.

You are actually pretty lucky in a small car like that that the deer did not go up over the hood with that little pointy front end. That would have totaled the car, and maybe you.

I likes me some big chrome bumpers, I gotta admit it.
Colin R said…
Correct Jerry, the Fit is good at many things, but animal obliteration is not one of them.

Don't forget that I have a whole set of emails from you last year inquiring about getting a Fit, but yes, I'm sure your big truck is very manly.
Jonny Bold said…
Shit Collin, I can't believe the crap that happens to you! Good thing you have this here blog to tell us all about it.
See you at Keene I presume?
Big Bikes said…
Hopefully next time when the eggs hatch they contain Breakfast Sandwiches instead of cute, fuzzy Velociraptors. Or something like that.


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