I have absolutely no idea how to wrap a weekend on this scale into any kind of reasonable recap so I’m either going to miss a lot of stuff or this recap will be unreasonable. You’ve been warned.
I arrived early Saturday AM to get NEMBA’s expo tent(s) set up and situated before they closed vehicle access. The hustle and bustle was already starting and even at that early hour Sat it was impressive the amount of work that had already gone in to getting the event staged. Every time I try to fully wrap my head around every T that would need to be crossed and I that would need to be dotted I immediately get a headache. I’m glad we have guys like Pete and Marty who are willing to take on that kind of pain so that we can watch some of the fastest guys and gals on the planet and then race our own bikes on the same course. If you have the opportunity buy them a beer or at least give them a high five, they’ve earned it.
I signed up to be a course marshall for the UCI races. Figured that was a pretty good way to get some front row access and simultaneously help out a bit. I got assigned a pretty good spot (albeit a bit lonely) out on a section where I got to see the groups coming by twice each lap. It was pretty cool to watch the speed, intensity and focus in both the men’s and women’s fields. Truly a level beyond. It was also cool to see our local pros battling it out as well…I can assure you everyone was going as haaaahd as they could.
But enough about these really fast professionals, lets get to the coolest thing that happened all weekend…my bike. I made the mistake of floating the idea of racing my Y-bike monstrosity while chatting with Pete at NEMBAfest and Pete solidified that idea by changing my name in the BikeReg pre-reg list to Kevin “Y-Bike” Orlowski. I figured the weekend would be a little bit more party than fitness oriented for me anyway and there is nothing more party than the Y-bike so I decided to go for it. My latest iteration of this build is probably as solid as its ever been, but thats not really saying a whole lot. To put it in perspective my local shop will not work on this bike because it is nothing short of a shit show. A relic with somewhat modern tech bolted to it in horribly janky ways and to top it all off…no gears. Because if you try to ride a 20yr old bike with gears they are not going to work so don’t bother.
It was getting a lot of attention as shit shows are apt to do. I was fully anticipating getting all this attention at the start and people pumped about the bike etc. and then I would maybe make it through the start loop and then have the chain break or maybe the brakes fall off in the first 100ft. Amazingly not only did that not happen but I actually managed to finish a 15mile race in less than ideal conditions for keeping any bike together let alone one from the 90’s. I think I probably just got really lucky. There were plenty of times I thought for sure something had just ripped off the bike. Probably my favorite periodic horrible noise was I believe caused by the hokey brake mounts flexing to the point that the rotor would hit the caliper body and make a giant TWANG! sound. Both the fork and the rear shock sort of sounded like they had an old lady with emphysema trying to breathe inside. And the giant hollow frame was like a shitty bongo band following me around all day. I also loved when I would apply the brakes heavily in a squirrelly downhill section to the point that they would start to hum a bit in the wet conditions. Then I would stop braking but the hum would continue for another few seconds.
It probably took me the entire first lap to get “acquainted” with attempting to ride a 20yr old bike at speed. Forgetting all the jank the hardest part was probably just the 26in wheels. How did we ride those?! I easily spent 33% of the race just trying to not go over the bars and the other roughly 66% trying to figure out where my momentum kept going #brakerub. The second lap was better. I was starting to get a feel for the bike and even though it started to rain a bit more the course at least got a bit more consistent in the slipperyness…does that make sense? probably not. I got into a nice paceline with Grant H. for a bit which is exactly what I needed at that point in the race. Forget about everything else and just hold that wheel. Against all odds I was able to roll it into the finish a bit under two hours for 6th place. The results sort of made it seem like half the SS field DNF’d and I’m not sure the guy who won actually won looking at lap times I think something got weird there but SS’ers don’t really petition results so much as they immediately start drinking beers after a race.
It was a great time all around. Hanging out after the race was awesome. Such a great scene in the expo. This event has certainly raised the bar for mountain bike racing in New England. I’ll definitely be back next year to help out. but PRO TIP: if you agree to help with pulling course tape be sure to bring a knife, maybe some music, snacks, fluids. It’s an endurance event in itself. So much tape….SO. MUCH. TAPE.