My first northern Colorado, NoCo, mountain bike race is in the record books.
I got a little nervous for this one because the course was so rocky, at least by Midwestern standards. I’ve been riding rocks since I got here last year. My skills have improved but a race has a way of exaggerating your weaknesses. I didn’t want to be the guy that crashed out with a broken collar bone, who at this race turned out to be a girl with gashed elbow. I also didn’t want to be the guy who biffed in the first few minutes of the race, who I passed along with everyone else approximately 5 minutes into the battle.
I was also a little worried about the effort itself. The race was two trips around a 20 mile loop with 3,500 feet of climbing per lap. There was one nasty 3 mile climb on a fire road and about 4 miles of mellow single track along the bottom of the valley. The rest of the course was technical single track that kept you on your toes. Rock gardens, boulder drops, ledges and troughs. I’d pre-ridden the course twice and survived but I’d only done a single lap and wasn’t 100% sure I could crank out a second lap. Turns out I could, first goal met. And I didn’t fall down, second goal met. Bam!
This race had three classes for geared riders, men’s open, men’s sport under 45 and men’s sport over 45. Of course I signed up for the men’s open class. I figured why not go for the top, make it to the podium, get cash!? When I checked in, the guy had a large question mark in his voice as he said, “men’s open?” I took that as a sign to drop down to sport, glad I did. The oldest open finisher was 45 I would have avoided DFL by one finisher and 5 DNF’s.
This guy was running the new Rockshox upside down carbon fork! I think it retails for a bazillion dollars.
We started on a stretch of gravel road. There were 27 starters in the sport class. We figured out who we wanted to be behind on the the first climb and started up. About 100 yards in, “that guy” wiped out. He was about 10 riders back from the leader so got to tell about 20 guys, he was ok. These NoCo guys are fearless descenders and I had to let a couple of them by me on the first downhill. No surprises the rest of the first lap until I got to the top of the long climb. My practice runs had cut off 4 miles of trail, crap! Each lap makes you climb the steepest part if the fire road twice, pure evil. The trip back down is intense and your shoulders and arms are cooked at the bottom.
One of the guys I had been trading places with on the first lap had his rear wheel come out of the dropouts close to the bottom of the Mill Creek descent. It looked like a mess with his derailleur in the spokes and his rotor jammed on top of the chain stay. I stopped, told him how to remove his derailleur, and wished him luck. A short time later I was at the finish swapping bottles and heading out on lap two.
Lap two took it’s toll. It was on the first descent I saw the girl with the gashed elbow. She had someone helping her down so nothing I could do. I found out later she’d lost the front wheel bombing down and taken a header into the rocks. I started cramping before the second trip up the fire road. They slowed me down but didn’t stop me. I saw several people off their bikes trying to stretch out, I started passing people and getting enough of a lead on them that they didn’t catch me on the downhills.
I stopped to help a guy who turned out to be a Korean tourist, who just happened to be checking out our trails in the middle of a race. He kept asking me, “you racing?” He’d broken his chain and had nothing to fix it with. I’ve been there and didn’t see the podium in my future so was glad I could help him out. I had a chain tool and a master link so it was a pretty quick fix. My new friend kept telling me “I preciate you” and had to snap a picture of me before I rode off. The rest of the race was about survival. I wondered if my brakes would hold out, the levers were getting uncomfortably close to the bars. When I pulled the pads out of the rear caliper after the race, there was just a thin sliver of pad material remaining. This race ended just in time.
Famous Dave’s BBQ and a sweet blue grass band was at the finish so I cleaned up, stowed the bike and got something to eat. When I checked the results I was happy to find out I was 9th overall in sport and 2nd in 45+. I think there were 26 finishers with only 4 of us old guys.
What else? I dig my bike. The front end is slacker than my previous mtb with a longer 100 mm fork which works great on the descents as long as you keep up some speed. The cramps told me I definitely could have used some more saddle time. I like hydraulic brakes. I need to keep working on descent speed. Never thought I would race on such big tires. Bacon works pretty good as race food. The Overland Mountain Bike Club has the best race volunteers.