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!

NEMBA Racing is accepting new racers for the 2015 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 30 racers for the first time in 2014 and I want to see that number grow even further.

We have several new things on tap for 2015 that I am very excited about.  The first is our new NEMBA Racing Enduro Team.  We will be adding enduro style jerseys and gear to our kit order this year and I want to have an entire gravity off-shoot to the team representing NEMBA at all the new Enduro events that are showing up all over New England.  I know we have shredders in our midst, why not fly the NEMBA flag as you #braaaaaaap?

This year our kit order will be much more streamlined.  All purchases will be made online at a custom web store set up by our vendor.  Ordering will start in February so we can receive our gear in time for the riding season.

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, new and more endurance events many of which are closer to small festivals now, we even have a ProXCT event on the East Coast for 2015!  Family friendly, local vendors, its not all just suffering.

I want NEMBA Racing to be a home for every type of racer.  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 2015, 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

Gordon Barker No Brakes

The 2014 Gordon Barker No Brakes Race was a great experience. It was a bit chilly hanging around before the race but perfect once we got going. The start is a fast mile or so on a wide path and I had my usual slow start. At times I thought the race should be called No Passing instead of No Brakes. Feeling good, I worked my way through the field never really knowing what position I was in until the end of the lap. Having my girlfriend there to give me a bottle at the start of lap 2 was huge because I was able to maintain speed on a fast section and distance myself from two other racers I had been jockeying with. The rest of the second lap I only caught one other person but rode a negative split by nearly a minute. This was a great, fun course that was well-marked with plenty of volunteers. I finished in 1:29 for 4th in the Expert field. I guess you could call me the first loser because I didn’t get any prizes. After finishing, I was kicking myself for not doing more racing this year because it can be a lot of fun, especially on an awesome course. Oh well, there’s always next year . . .