Monday, September 26, 2016

Arctic MTB Race 6

What made this race so cool was that Bernie was visiting, and took second in the sport mens race! Bernie hadn’t raced a mountain bike event since doing an Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference race in fall 2006 at Plattekill back when we were all racing for Skidmore. Bernie is often my confidant when it comes to racing, and a few weeks before his visit he asked whether there would be an XC race during his stay, and if so if we could do it, as he’d heard so much about racing up here from yours truly.

The answer was obviously yes. Bernie had some typical “roadie” issues early on in his race (dropped a bottle, came unclipped, etc) but got his act together and ended up passing nearly the entire sport field and taking a sprint for second.

Team photo

The race went well for me, but was pretty damn exciting thanks to some moose.

With Bernie in town, I rode a bit more in the days before the race than I probably would have otherwise, but was glad to see from a fitness perspective, that it didn’t appear to have much effect.

The course is one of my favorites, taking off from the stadium and going down Northwest Passage and an associated climb back out, with a very healthy dose of roots.

The race was pretty unsettled off the start as we shot into single track early on, but once we got down into the gravel pits and meadows, the second pack group started to form up. We had myself, Charlie Renfro, Clint, Owen Ala, Lee, Megan, and Andy.

I drilled the climb back up and took over the lead. I tried to call out the slick corners on the double track on the way back to Middle Earth, but Owen went down pretty hard at some point. I basically lead this group through the entirety of the first lap.

Through the stadium, Lee took off and disappeared, and Charlie came around and lead through back down NWP.

Photo: G.S.

I came around on the climb, and the group started to thin out some. I think we lost Charlie. Owen gave me a run on the climb, but was timid about the next section given his fall last time.

About mid-way to Middle Earth we encountered a cow and calf. The cow ran down a trail behind us and the calf ran out in front of us. I briefly hesitated but Clint commented we better go for it. I was really nervous the cow would turn and chase the group, now chasing her separated calf, but she didn’t seem to care at all and eventually the calf bolted off the trail.

About a minute later I saw a second lone cow, standing off the trail in the woods. I figured she was weary off all the bikers and was staying off the trail. “Good,” I thought.

I again lead through the second lap. My gaps would open on double track and sections of roots, fading on other sections of STA.

As we climbed up Bolling Alley back to Mighty, Clint, who was right on my tail, sucked up a pin flag into his rear derail with a loud thwack. He dropped off.

When we crested the climb I asked if anyone knew if he was chasing back on or if he was screwed. No one knew. If he was chasing, I wanted to slow down the pace for 30 seoncds give him a chance to catch back on. I know that’s a really roadie move, and maybe if it wasn’t the last race and he wasn’t right on my tail, I would have shrugged my shoulders, but if he wasn’t down and out, I felt like it would be better let him clip back on.

Turns out, we would get the opportunity anyway.

Through the stadium, Megan took off and attacked.

She dropped the group on the way to NWP, though I chased her down through the meadows and the group essentially reformed, with Megan leading off the front by about 5 seconds.

Back up the climb and on the way to Middle Earth, the lone cow moose came out from an intersection charging for Megan.

The chasing group let out a collective yell, and the moose changed and charged toward the group, letting Megan through.

What ensued was a 3-4 minute Mexican standoff between a bunch of lycra-clad bikers and one seriously ticked moose. This was the lone cow I’d seen the second lap, and I’m really sure this was the same moose that ran me over in May. What moose is willing to charge a group of this size? Any normal “wild” animal would have fled with so many amassed and yelling at it.

At first I was near the front of the melee, but already having earned my moose print badge for the year, and feeling my adrenaline surging, I stepped back and begin to look for a way through the woods.

While we were stopped, Charlie and Clint caught back on, and Lee, who I guess missed a turn and fell behind, caught up too. Charlie and Andy nearly missed getting kicked as they tried to go around the moose through some woods, but the moose was having none of it.

Eventually we were able to sneak by her, but it was an uneasy truce.

I was feeling pretty drained from the moose encounter, and all her fake charges, and fell back a few placements to recover.

I got my strength back and passed Charlie and Clint, but never caught back on with Andy or Owen. I think they both had a lot more leg than I for the last lap, and despite the moose, I’m not sure I could have fended them off.

Who knows. I really hate that moose though, one way or the other!

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