Eastern Grind Recap

What an amazing day! If you were scared away by the long drive or maybe the questionable forecast then you goofed.  This was one of those days where the course and the conditions combined to create a uniquely challenging day that any true mountain biker should be actively searching out.  I went in a bit skeptical of the move to Catamount because I was such a huge fan of the course at Millstone but I have to say this course was really great. Such a good cross section of true New England riding. Legit climb, technical descents, tight / fast and flowy singletrack…a real treat.  Throw in some mud and voila! perfectly brutal day on the bike.

There were a decent amount of day-of reg’d Marathon riders and the field was a bit bigger than I thought it was going to be.  Looked to be about 6 u40 and 15ish 40+ guys.  The initial grassy start loop did a great job of getting everyone soaking wet and muddy within the first 2mins so that was good.  Got that right out of the way.  A few of the real serious riders got to business right away but I was towards the front of the second group which is where I tend to like to be early.  It was nice being the first group on course.  Had a chance to get acquainted with the conditions and line choices without much traffic.  Luckily I made it through the first two laps without any major issues.  Bike seemed to be holding together despite the mud doing its best to grind everything to a halt.

Photo May 15, 1 02 05 PM

I was settling into a decent rhythm coming into lap 3 and was expecting a primarily solo day riding my pace basically by myself except for the occasional Cat2 and Cat3 traffic.  But then Tyler C. had to go and catch me on the dirt road climb coming into the feed area.  I stopped quickly to swap bottles and he opened up a bit of a gap heading into lap 3.  I was able to get back up to him on the climb and our paces were matching up, little gaps here and there but we rode much of that lap together.

He stopped for a feed coming through lap 4 and I was planning on getting my last feed for the last lap so I continued to roll on.  I didn’t exactly attack but as we hit the first climb I still had about 10-15secs and I decided if I already had the gap I was going to put in some effort to really make him work to close it back down. Rode the climb as hard as I could (which wasn’t really all that hard, calves were starting to flirt with cramping).  He was still there but I could tell the gap was starting to stretch ever so slightly.  I rode the descent and middle technical stuff pretty clean that lap and by the time we hit the twisty woods that made it very easy to check on your gaps I realized that I had managed to get out of sight. Although looking at the Strava Flyby this AM it was only barely.

I continued to put the pressure on hoping that if he couldn’t see me he’d subconsciously slow up assuming I was long gone.  Unfortunately for me Tyler did not fall for the out of sight out of mind trick, if anything I might have accidentally fell for the reverse.  I had sort of thought I had made it clear enough that lap 5 was just going to be riding tempo and stay consistent.  But rolling into the final climb and the initial switchback sections I swing around AND THERE HE IS AGAIN. 5-10 secs back.  As we snaked up the climb I could tell he was clawing me back slowly but surely.  I topped out still in the lead but only barely.  I was hoping to gap him back off on the descent but I was getting pretty tired and my lines were getting pretty bad.

He made the catch on the short little doubletrack section right before the main rock garden.  I basically sat up and slowed way down hoping that he would come around so I could just sit on his wheel but he didn’t fall for that trick either.  I led through the rock garden and into the next mud boggy sections.  My 3in tires struggled in that stuff, they picked up a lot of mud and had a tendency to float on top in the greasy stuff and get really squirrely.  I got a little sideways and was forced to dab and he came around and made his move.  He got about 10-15secs pretty quickly as I struggled with all the extra weight.  I tried but couldn’t close the gap immediately so I backed off and just tried to keep him close to try and capitalize on any mistakes he might make.

He wasn’t making any and things were holding at about 10secs.  Then the Pro’s caught us in the ‘twisty woods’ and I was able to sneak into their slipstream for a second as they blew by.  Funny how seeing guys smashing it gives you a bit of a mental boost to try and be doing the same.  It was the point in the course where there was really no point in attempting to reserve any kind of energy, time to go all in and hope you make it to the finish.  I managed to get into striking distance right before the last rooty little climb before the final dirt road haul to the finish.  With the Pro and 40+ Marathon traffic that was around I’m not sure if he knew I had bridged back up and that it was me sitting on his wheel.

He started to spin things up on the dirt road and I thought for sure at some point he would sneak a peak behind and see me right there and maybe sit up and try to force me come around and start my effort earlier.  But he never checked and I was able to hide behind him until the final stretch through the feed zone.  I opened my, what you might call a ‘sprint’ but after 5 laps I’m not sure it qualified, with about 50m to go and was able to get around him before the line.

It was a really awesome hard fought battle the whole day.  Many thanks to Tyler for turning the screws and making the day that much more interesting. Next time take a look behind you with about 500m to go and make sure there are no creepers like me getting a free ride!

Bear Brook Classic

Racing at Bear Brook is back! And in a big way at that, The State9 Racing crew did a great job as first time promoters.  I was there early helping out so I got to see first hand how everyone pitched in to bring this event to fruition.  The more I volunteer at races the more respect I have for promoters and the folks who run the various Summer series races.  There is a ton of work and coordination going on just to make sure you can race your bike.  Be sure to thank all those busy people running around doing their best to keep things running smoothly.

I worked the hustle and bustle of early morning registration right up until it was time to quickly get changed and over to the start line for the Cat2’s.  Warming up is for chumps! Lots of big fields in Cat2 (and Cat3 and 1 for that matter!) and I slotted in midpack for the start.  I no longer concern myself with getting to the front early.  Having emerged to the other side from some health issues and having been at this for a good amount of years now my race strategy is much more Zen than anything else.  Winning a race is something I’m now defining for myself and I can win races without finishing first which essentially means it is impossible to ‘beat’ me.  You can train for 25hrs a week and smash out loads more watts than me but I’m still going to win. On the flip side you could DFL and also still win.  Everyone wins! But I can guarantee you won’t beat me.  Make sense?

This was a fast course and we wasted no time getting right to it.  The start was laid out really well.  Just enough time and just enough climbing to get things strung out before the first little bit of singletrack and then it was just shred/hammer/shred/hammer repeat as necessary for 1.5hrs. Front group got away from me on the first longer fire road section but I was hanging in the second group without issue.  I love the Sentinal switchback climb and it was cool to be hammering up that in a conga line everybody maxed out.  I got passed by some power guys on the longer drag up Sentinal after the switchbacks and was unable to get some of those passes back before hitting Carr Ridge.

Carr Ridge backed up a bit as folks tried to navigate the burl without dying.  I didn’t witness any spectacular crashes although I heard some did indeed happen. I was pleased with how my ROS9+ handled that stuff.  I was a bit worried the rigid would really slow me down and beat me up but things worked out just fine and I even needed to request some full suspension race rigs get out of the way so I could continue my shred.

Second climb up Lane Trail was a grind but pretty manageable.  Luckily I was able to keep those guys with more power than me close and I was able to suck some wheels to stay in that second group that was starting to splinter.  I hitched a ride with Brandon B. as he smashed the fire road back over to Hayes and the start of Little Bear.  Have to tip the hat to the Southern NH chapter of NEMBA for Little Bear (and all the other great stuff on the course) really awesome stuff and in such great shape.  The descent down Little Bear and continuing onto Upper and Lower Bear Brook all the way to the finish was such a fun stretch.

Traffic had cleared out a bit and lap 2 was super fun.  I had a bit more room to pick my own lines and ride Carr Ridge and Little Bear ‘unencumbered’.  Really a treat. Trails were in such perfect shape for that slightly slippery but ultimately grippy experience.  So fun to just let it run and I thoroughly enjoyed the added traction of running 3in tires at 12psi.  I felt like I rode hard and finished strong but I also felt a bit too good at the finish and I probably should have gone harder.  But it didn’t matter because I still won* (see above).

Felt great to be back at it at a local event that seemed to go off without a hitch.  I think this event set a great precedent that racing at Bear Brook should continue well into the future.  I’d love to see State9 try to incorporate more of the trails in the park.  Maybe go for a similar format to Landmine with a 20+ mile single lap with offshoots for Cat2 and 3 and a two lap Marathon Class? I’m sure that’s not that much more work for you guys to pull off right?…..right?  I promise to help with reg again if that helps.

Results: http://results.bikereg.com/race/7398

Interviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU1F3IShyHcOJUmv8nH48kQ/

 

Fatty Walrus Arctic Kick Off 2016

Racing in New England year round is a reality! Fat bike racing last winter got a bit wiped out thanks to copious amounts of snow and a stretch of 40+ days below freezing keeping that snow light and fluffy and less than ideal for fat bikes (great for skiing though!)

This year is the other side of that coin; warmer temps, mixed precip, freeze/thaw cycles.  Bad news for skiers but great news for fat biking!

Our first big Nor’Easter decided to stay south so I figured I would check out the first race in the Fatty Walrus series put on by our friends at Riverside Racing.  I had heard good things about the course at Plug Pond and its a pretty easy drive down to Haverhill for me.  It was a pretty good turn out, probably about 30 racers in the ‘Polar Bear’ division.  Probably only about an inch or two of snow coverage in the park and the course was hard pack and only icy in a few spots. Nice and fast and drifty.

These shorter higher intensity races aren’t my strength but I like them for training.  I can’t convince myself to work as hard as I can on a training ride as I can in a race.

Photo Jan 24, 11 06 15 AM

not sure about you but I can’t spend 88% of my ride at 80+% max unless I’m chasing someone

I slotted in about mid pack or so after the initial haul along the pond. The course actually had a decent amount of climbing, almost 1000ft for the 10mi race with some really fun descents mixed in.  Everything was completely rideable, a few turns were a bit sketchy and I would have loved studs in those moments but as long as you saw them coming you could run an outrigger and tokyo drift your way through.  Which is probably more fun than safely riding through with studs anyway.  A few of the descents were fast and a tad scary with the slick hard pack / ice conditions but I managed to stay upright all day.

I would highly recommend checking the rest of this series out.  I believe the next one is Feb 13th, Register Here.

Join Us for 2016!

NEMBA Racing is accepting new racers for the 2016 Season!

I’m hoping by now many of you have seen our riders/kits around, either at NEMBA events and rides or at local races or even just riding your local trails.  The team is growing every year; we topped 50 racers for the first time in 2015 and I want to see that number grow even further.

We launched our Gravity team last season and I’m happy to say it was a great success. We had a core group of riders representing NEMBA consistently at the East Coast Gravity series events. We are looking to build on that success and grow the Gravity team even more in 2016!

Racing can be many things to many people.  The production value of local MTB races is getting better and better every year. There are new summer series races popping up, the gravity series are stacked with events, new and more endurance events many of which are closer to small festivals, we even have an HC US Cup event on the East Coast for 2016!  They are family friendly, they have local vendors, it’s not all just suffering.

I want NEMBA Racing to be a home for every type of rider.  New and developing riders looking to get fit and challenge themselves, strong riders looking for other like minded folks to help push them further, riders looking to ride new trails with lots of other folks and then have a beer afterwards. Join us for 2016, I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

The Racer Application Form can be found here: http://racing.nemba.org/?page_id=1835


Questions about the team can be sent to Team Director Kevin Orlowski at kevinorlowski[at]gmail[dot]com or Gravity specific questions can be sent to Stacey Jimenez at flionfree[at]gmail[dot]com

Gravity XC

The SM100

I know where it started for me… In 2002 both of my brothers finished The Leadville 100, long before Leadville was the race across the sky. I knew it was rad, I knew they suffered, I knew it was a pinnacle moment for both of them. I knew they both took several IV’s after and I knew it was something I had to experience. The stories were too good, to shake their heads and laugh saying, “I can’t believe we did that, that was amazing”. I wanted to experience that, and I wanted something as cool as that Belt Buckle.

After last years SM100 I came home thrilled with how I felt, how far I had gone, how I had ridden and totally disappointed with not finishing. Getting 60+ miles in and hitting Aid Station 4 was far, and quite an accomplishment… but I was obviously irritated with myself for not keeping on. For the past 360 days I blamed it on my brother, sister and parents for working that aid station and having a Bloody Mary bar and beers waiting for me. I mean, no matter who you are, when you see your Mom after 60 some miles holding a Bloody for you, you’re going to sit down and take your shoes off. I think I may have been one of the first twenty people to register for this years SM, as soon as it opened. I’m pretty sure every one of my friends (all three of them) and my family were tired of hearing me talk about it… I was annoying. I wasn’t ready last year, this year I would be.

If you’re not Jeremiah Bishop, or of that ilk… (and there are plenty who race this event and absolutely crush these trails effortlessly) this event is about finishing, I think. It’s not a “race” for so many of the people who enter, but it’s an event that they’ve said, “I’m going to ****ing do that”. And I know these riders, I’m one of them. We ride when we can, have jobs, kids and every ride is finished with several beers talking about how fast we are, how nice our bikes are or belittling one another to amusement.

The NUE series and Chris Scott, Shenandoah Mountain Touring are pros, by every sense of the word. The event is huge, the trail system is a mix of mechanized screaming downhills, huge fire road climbs and some of the longest, raw technical descents that you’ll ever do, it is absolutely outrageous. Combine the 13.000 feet of cumulative elevation, the technical singletrack along with the distance of a 100 mile backcountry race and you have what many consider the most difficult of the series. Chris and his crew of volunteers make it great and smooth and it is no easy task… it’s a total pro situation.

sm1

I went into this year physically prepared, I knew I wasn’t far off last year and I felt great leading up to the SM. The Patapsco Epic a month earlier had given me the confidence physically, I felt strong finishing a very difficult 50 miler and knew that more than anything it would be the mental hurdles that come with being on the bike for 100 miles… and there are plenty.

I’ve thought a lot about the day and how I felt crossing that finish line. The accomplishment, the exhaustion and the excitement of having done something that was so difficult, something I set out to do, something that started for me 13 years ago. I didn’t care about my time (it was 12:50 in case you’re wondering). I remember the downhills being so long and just holding on, so technical and so fun. I remember climbing up Hanky the second time and just looking at those “S” turns up and laughing at how ridiculous that was. I remember telling myself it’s one day out of your life, it’ll be fine and to shut up. I saw my brother at AS5 and there was some relief and we laughed and him telling me that I had this. But, much like my other posts, this race became about something more than the bike…

I’ve seen a lot of wrecks, I’ve wrecked a lot. There is an inherent danger to Mountain Biking, I know that, my kids know that, my friends, family… it’s dangerous. A fatality in a race that you’re in makes you stop and say “what the f***”. I did not know Ross Hansen, I did ride alongside him for about 50 miles. We shared the banter that comes with passing someone back and forth. We’d acknowledge one another, laugh, say “see you in a few”, ask how one another was doing. We didn’t talk much, we just suffered together and loved it, knew exactly what one another was feeling because it was exactly the same. We both were clearly racing to get to the beer. I came upon his wreck pretty quickly down Braley’s, folks were already springing into action, other riders quickly pulling phones, staying with him, like they had been friends on a ride… it wasn’t a race, they were helping their friend.

It wasn’t until the next day that I knew Ross had passed, I still don’t believe it. The degrees of separation are so small in the Mountain Bike community… his friends on Long Island are my brothers friends in Baltimore. From what I’m gathering from social media and communication with folks in both organizations is that he was loved and awesome and fun. I think I knew that after my time with him. Memorial rides are being planned from DC to Long Island, the outpour has been staggering. And I realize, I love the bike, the freedom, being a kid, the suffering, the wandering into the woods… but it’s the community that Mountain Biking brings that does it for me. It’s starting the race with Sean Schmidt who I’ve known for 30 years, it’s acting insane with Todd Bauer, running into Ryan Delaney and suffering up Hanky together, seeing Tom Howe everywhere I go, the familiar face of my brother at mile 80, the awe of Larry Camp riding 17 of these… it’s all of that, and the guys you ride with, if only for a short time.

sm3

Thirteen years later I feel so lucky to have had the chance to ride in this race. Things like this that’ll change the way you see. And, I’m not so upset about that Belt Buckle from Leadville anymore… you can’t drink a pint out of that.

Next up… The MOCo…