Boston Rebellion 2016

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.

*guitar wailing*

*guitar wailing*

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.

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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.

#TAPE

#TAPE

Carrabassett BC Challenge 2016 “Recap”

The Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge has become one of my favorite races of the year.  For me it combines all my favorite aspects of racing.  A well balanced course, distance (100K option), a removed adventure feel, and it benefits a great cause (local trail building efforts).  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them really dial in their operation over the last few years and their registration numbers are growing as a direct result.  I believe this year was their biggest and I’m sure that trend will continue.  Tip of the hat to you ladies and gents…keep up the great work!

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Now to my somewhat laughable go at this year’s edition…

I’ve done somewhere between 10-15 100K races in my career.  I could find you the exact number but I’m too lazy.  I’ve had the good fortune of finishing every single one of those races with hardly any issues and I have managed to pretty consistently improve my times at that distance down to sub 6hrs.  Sometimes a track record like that can cause the Cosmos to want to even the scales in dramatic fashion and this past weekend my number came up.

Fast forward to a few hours before my start.  Folks are milling around the parking lot getting bikes and bodies prepped.  A Ford Transit from a bike shop in Maine (I think?) pulled up and parked next to me.  He had a van full of Niners and we chatted about how he also had a ROS9+.  He asked me about my rims and whether or not I had had any problems with them yet.  He mentioned how he had destroyed his and that he had heard lots of stories about others having issues with the 1st generation HUGO’s.  I told him “Nope! They’ve been great so far no issues!”  Now that I had thoroughly taunted the Universe at large I figured I’d get a little warm up in before the start.

I know this course fairly well at this point and I was looking forward to the early parts of the course.  It suits me well and provides a great warm up before things get serious.  It can get a bit crazy though as the Elites, Experts and SS all head out in a mass start.  Things always get sorted fine but the first few miles are typically pretty high speed single file shred.  At the gun I got myself up to the top 25% or so of the field and was feeling ok there.  Weather was perfect and I was getting settled in a nice tempo mentally preparing myself for a long day in the saddle.  Got the first little section of singletrack out of the way and popped back out onto some nordic trails.  The train was flying down a little downhill section and up in front I could hear folks ‘slapping’ through a little divot in the trail that had a rock at the bottom of it.  Almost like a mini water bar of sorts.  You’d hear the tap-tap as guys absorbed and continued on.  Wasn’t anything crazy and it didn’t seem to be causing anyone a second thought.

It came to be my turn and my 29+ failed me.  Hard telling if it was just an early rim failure due to speed and force or too low pressure on my part.  I’ve been running the pressure I was at to great success for months now riding burly trails pretty aggressively from time to time.  It happened fast but I never really felt (or heard) a rim out on the rock.  Just heard the tire go flat fast.  Pulled over and spun it around fast giving it a quick once over.  I didn’t notice anything at that point and hit it with CO2 hoping to set the bead again and be on my way thinking it was just a violent burp.  But all my CO2 did was shoot Stan’s from the real problem which was a smashed (and cracked rim).

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For a moment I thought about going caveman on it with rocks but then thought better about riding another 62+ miles on a caveman’d rim.  Yes that’s right my DNF came at mile 1.5. Such is life.  Luckily I’ve reached a certain level of Zen with my racing nowadays and something like this doesn’t even phase me.  No frustration at all, just an acceptance with a bit of mild sadness for all the rad trails I missed out on this year. Took the (short) walk of shame back to the start and drowned my minimal woes with a few early AM beers.

I’ve received word today that Stan’s is standing by their product and is going to warranty the rim and I’ve heard rumors that the 2nd gen HUGO’s are much stronger.  I’ll be back at it in no time.  Next up is the Boston Rebellion PRO XCT at Adam’s Farm.  That is looking like it is going to be a mega event this year.  Everyone should come and hang out at the NEMBA Tent and race some bikes, drink some beers and heckle some World Cup level racers.

Pat’s Peak 2016 Recap

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve raced Pat’s Peak.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the course way back when so I’ve sort of avoided it in favor of other races.  Now that we also have our Gravity team this event presents the only real chance for both sides of the team to be racing the same event at the same time.  So it seemed like it was time to give it another chance and get the team together for a cross over event.

nemba

All smiles at Pat’s Peak!

I had been hearing rumors that Pat’s has been working hard to improve the course and I’m happy to report that they have been very successful turning a course that I have avoided for years into a challenging, fun course that I will probably try to make sure I do in the future.

They reduced the amount of time on actual ski trails, they added some really well built switchback climbing, lots of bridges spanning wet areas, there is even a tunnel to ride through that goes under the DH course!  There is some great new terrain up top that is technical but still flows really well and the main descent towards the end of the lap is burly, fast and super shreddy.  You need to be a well rounded rider for sure.  Congrats to all the folks who have worked hard on this course over the years.

We had a good sized Cat 2 field.  I was able to get myself pretty well positioned early on, maybe about 4th wheel(?) and made a few passes on the early technical climbing and was riding in 2nd for the second half of the first climb.  A small group bridged up to me at the top.  One guy got away but I was able to hold my own on the descent and lap through in 3rd with a bit of a gap on the rest of the field.

Kenny F. and Stephen K. bridged up before too long and we settled into a paceline on the way up battling for that last podium spot.  If I was a more competitive person I probably would have (and should have) attacked in a few spots where the pace softened a bit but I was comfortable and happy with where I was so I went the lazy route.  Everyone was being very mindful of gaps because it was apparent we were all pretty evenly matched so any gaps that grew too big would be very hard to shut down.  Case in point, Stephen bobbled a bit in a tricky spot up top on lap 2 riding second wheel.  I got around and the gap Kenny got and the gap I got probably held about true to the finish.

I felt like I almost closed on Kenny heading into the main descent, maybe within 5 secs or so but I chose a poor line heading into a little bridge, dabbed, lost another 5-10 secs and wasn’t gonna make anything back descending on a rigid bike so I ended up in 4th maybe 20-30secs behind Kenny.  I’m happy with the day.  The course was super fun and it felt good to be up there battling with some great riders on my 29+ rig.

Congrats to all our racers who got on the podium, a very successful day for NEMBA Racing!

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/