Kenda Cup East #2 Weeping Willow

Dust bowl 2015!  I don’t know about anyone else but when I blow my nose its still coming out brown.  Super dry and super fast course this year.  Great event as always and a good first shock to the system getting used to race efforts early season.  This was my first race back in a while and my first racing a geared bike in close to 10yrs.

Needless to say I was late with my shifts 98% of the time.  But I was expecting to do worse than I did in the Expert Vet 1 field so I’ll take that as a “win”.  I have accepted the fact that I don’t really do well against most of those guys unless the race is at least twice as long.  Hopefully I’ll figure out how to shift by Millstone and the Marathon class will have a bit more attrition.

Here is my full account for those interested.

I was really pleased with the turnout from the team.  I was trying to run around and get pics of everyone but probably only managed about 2/3.  We had a great presence overall and it was great to hang out and talk shop at the team tent.  Felt like everyone had a hard but fun day out on the trails.  Looking forward to more of the same this season!

Home base, right next to the podium of course.

Home base, right next to the podium of course.

this race we WELL attended.

this race was WELL attended.

Jason

Jason

Joe

Joe

Tim right before he took the holeshot

Tim right before he took the holeshot

Win the Party – If You Don’t Win the Race

It’s always a party when I go to Blacksburg, VA in the Spring. In it’s ninth year, a group of friends meet at my college roommates (Chad) place in Jefferson National Forest. Huge rides, great people and lots of laughs for days. It’s always that, guaranteed. Each year has it’s own memories and things that stand out… this year was pretty special. We definitely won the party.

First stop – Carvins Cove, Roanoke, VA. Wait… it’s Thursday am, I’ve already ridden Patapsco Valley State Park (PVSP) on Monday, Tues and Wed. Putting in like 15mi each day, if you know me at all, you know my love affair with that place. Ok, Carvins. I rode here last year and loved it, but really had no idea where we were going; lost, we wandered, made some wrong turns but could tell the place was pretty awesome.

This year the entire group decided to meet here and kick off this Spring Classic. Folks that knew where they were going and could actually read a map, kind of. This is the first twist… I pull into the lot at Carvins and see all the regular idiots, new bikes, etc, taking it in. And then someone sticks out, I know the face, the stance… but it doesn’t belong here. Out loud, “is that my brother?”. See, Dave (brother) and I always do this trip, every year and we always invite B (brother). But it’s far, kids, schedules, it’s a big trip and he’s never been. But there he was, minus the beard. Chad and my family pulled off the surprise… same story, thirty years later.

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Carvins Cove rips. 17 miles of flowing, killer singletrack all day, we found it all. If you want to go bigger you can add in the big fire road climbs, tack on more loops. We caught a few crazy lightning storms in the mountains, a douse of rain, made it even more amazing. The folks in Roanoke are doing amazing job leading the way with building sustainable trails around a water reservoir. And they may have built one of the best technical trails I’ve ever ridden in the Rattlin’ Run. Go here, now… we’re off to Blacksburg.

I love Blacksburg and Jefferson National. I say it every year, the elevation, technical, the downhills, you feel like you’re going out into it, the depth. There’s a very distinct difference in riding parks, reservoirs, local trail and National Forest. You can feel the difference of wandering into that scale… and not to diminish those other destinations but places like Jefferson and where we’re headed next are special. It’s big and it’ll make you stop and really look around. Take some inventory. Blacksburg was perfect, as expected. The riding was huge Friday and Saturday, trails in great condition. All these guys bring something to the table and I love them all. To see them ride better than last year, the new bikes, the hilarity, the food (Cheffe)… it’s all good and that just doesn’t happen when you rodeo 14 people. Sunday was a day off, needed. And we were headed to finish this trip off… Southern Traverse.

Riding the Southern Traverse was on my list. I had ridden some of this part of the VA mountains in the SM100, which was a fail for me last year, so I was anxious to get back. We pull in Sunday to the Stokesville Lodge run by Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring. When you pull into an A frame window covered lodge, passing the Trek trailer on the driveway and up to nothing but bikes on racks you know you’re getting into something good.

If you have any interest in going on a Mountain Bike trip with your friends this is the place to go, hands down. I’ve been to Sedona, Downieville, KT and lots of other places and granted, I have an affinity for the east coast but this place is good. The lodge is fully set up, beautiful actually. I think it could sleep 15, at least, comfortably. The views are amazing, the place is totally appointed, Chris is a super nice guy… and you’re in George Washington Natl’ forest.

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Riding the Southern Traverse is no small task. 36 miles of National Forest, exposure, fire road climbs, absolutely huge, full smile screaming downhills. The geography is constantly changing from the beginning climbing up the fire road to getting onto the spine and the ever changing rock gardens as you climb up to the highest elevation. Pinning it on the downhills through pine and leaves and maybe 5 inch wide singletrack makes this a must do on your mountain bike bucket list. I was lucky enough to do this with such a great group. Sixteen of us set out on this… well, fifteen but New Steve showed up while we were pulling in. Lucky for him. Everyone rode so strong and had such a great day.

The highlight for me were the rolling hills back in. About nine miles of dirt road, road and insanely beautiful views. We broke a crank, flatted 3 times, suffered, saw a River Monster, ran an ambulance and a tow truck, took mid ride naps and everyone finished. It wasn’t a race but we definitely won the party.

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Next up… less partying – some racing.

 

 

 

 

 

Pukwudgie Time Trial

 

Sporting the new kit!

Photo Credit: Matt Jones

I went into the weekend of this race being both excited for the first race of the season, and also with a bit of trepidation for a few reasons. First was that due to a trip out west (which did not involve any riding) and some of my staff being out at work, I had yet to actually ride my mountain bike outside before that Sunday. Secondly, I had switched to a 1×10 setup over the winter, which had yet to be tested, and although I was pretty confident it would be fine based on gearing calculations, it was still a bit of an unknown. Lastly, having ridden Freetown back in September, I knew the course was very rocky and was not exactly what I would have chosen for my first time on the bike for the season. That being said, after being buried under snow all winter, I was pretty stoked to get out and ride again.

The morning was chilly, but I knew it was going to warm up later in the day, it was just a matter of when. I rode a few miles at the beginning of the course, and then looped back to ride a few miles at the finish, trying to conserve some energy for the race itself. Everything was shaping up nicely, the new setup felt good, legs felt ok and seemed like I was remembering how this all worked again.

This was my first race in sport class, so not really knowing any of the other riders I lined up in order and prepared to get rolling. With the course being only a short 7 miles, I knew that I would be able to go pretty hard the whole time without burning out, and that the first section was very fast, so my plan was to start fast, but ease up a little after that to make sure I saved something for the more tech sections and the fireroad sprint at the end. Within the first 10 min. of the race I had already picked off the 2 racers in front of me and was feeling pretty good. I dropped one of them like a fly, but the other kept sticking around, and stayed pretty close on my tail. Probably close enough to hear me laughing as I came around a corner and saw the “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign before the small lake we had to ride through.

About two thirds of the way through, I managed to get my foot wedged between my pedal and one of Freetown’s many rocks. I caught the rock at just the right angle that my foot did not unclip, which just led to some awkward balancing act, and allowed the guy who had been following me to pass me and open up a gap. I knew that he had started in front of me, so my goal at that point was to make sure I kept him within the 30 seconds he had started ahead of me. Another rider passed me from behind and now I was right on his tail through the big rock garden. I knew we were almost to the finish then so I tried to stay close and prepare to but the burners on once we reached the fire road at the end. That rider had opened up a pretty large gap before we reached the road, and I could see the guy who started in front of me just ahead of him, so when I reached the road I just went full out. About halfway to the finish line, all of a sudden a random jeep wandered out onto the fire road in front of me. He clearly saw me, but I think underestimated how fast I was going be quite a bit. I didn’t have to slow down at all, but there was sort of an awkward moment as we tried to figure out whether he was going to speed up and try to stay ahead of me, or slow down and let me go by. I eventually just decided I was going to crank it up and blow past him, which was probably the right decision because I ended up finishing only 1 second ahead of the guy I had been leapfrogging with all race.

I was happy with my 5th place finish, and all in all it was a great first day on the bike. The Rock Hard Racing guys put on a great event, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing how the legs hold up to some longer distances. Hoping to see some more black and green out there at the next races!

Steve Fleck

Photo Credit: Andrew Wooley

2015… I Had To Buy a Fat Bike

There’s only so much snow you can take, as a cyclist and as an adult human with two small kids. I’ve been saying for probably two years that I was going to do it; prices come down; eBay, too many bikes… finally I had a few too many beers at the Stop, Swap & Save bike swap in MD and the decision was made… thanks to Jeff and the folks @ Aviation Velo in Linthicum, MD.

It was one of my favorite winters I can recall. I generally loathe the snow, I can’t ride, my kids stare at me, it’s a mess when they come in. This year I could ride, over anything. And the work of some amazing folks in the Trumbull, CT area on our trails made it one of the fastest snow packed trails around, maybe in the Northeast. My kids became tolerable, they wanted to ride… it’s the elusive win/win.

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So, it’s Spring (Easter actually) and the dreaded freeze/thaw cycle has begun. Trail builders are furious, riders are losing their minds, every corner of social media is being lit up with when you should ride and a steady dose of passive aggressive… or, in some cases, just aggressive. Personally, you have to live with yourself, if you ride it, make sure you get your ass to a trail work day. I’ll just head south…

2015 promises to bigger than 2014, for me, and for NEMBA racing. Excited to see us grow to 20+ new members, spreading the word and getting our brand out there. For me, it starts in MD next week at the little known Quakers Cousin and with my friends from Team XXL. See last years posts… these guys are the guys you want to ride your bike with. After the Quakers it’s the 9th year of the Spring Classic, which is shaping up to be bigger than ever. Beyond the spectacular riding of Jefferson National Forest in Blacksburg, VA, we’re adding in Carvins Cove in Roanoke, VA on the front end and finishing with the IMBA Epic ride of The Southern Traverse out of the Stokesville Lodge (Stokesville, VA) with Chris Scott and the crew out of Shenandoah Mountain Touring.

And that’s just April.

So, I’m looking forward to 2015. The MORE Epics, back to the SM100, NEMBAFest, building trail, a few libations, watching my kids get faster, throw in some Root 66 races and it’ll be huge.

More soon…

Applications are in!

That’s it for the 2015 new rider application period! And what a doozy it was. There have been at least a few moments where I have had the “oh no what have I done?” feelings but they have quickly subsided because I’m up for the challenge.

That challenge being trying to coordinate and manage 57(!!!!!!!) racers spread all across New England.  2015 saw 23 racers returning to the team and we netted 34 new racer applications this year. We have 14 members racing for the new Enduro team this year which I am very excited about. And we also expanded the teams footprint a bit with more new members in RI, CT, ME and even VT and NY! The NEMBA word is spreading!

This year looks to be a huge bump for the team and really shows NEMBA member’s commitment to all things MTB. Build. Ride. Race. Repeat.

Here’s to a great 2015 season!