After a long layoff I finally got back to racing at Harding Hill. TVR turned out to be kind of a disaster; I raced sick and the main pivot went on my Superfly 100—again. Between five weeks to get a new bike going and other commitments a few months had passed. Forecast on Sunday called for 0-10% chance of rain which was surprising given the threatening skies. Shortly after getting off I-89 it started to rain. This bummed me out but at least it wasn’t pouring. After not having raced here for something like 10 years I didn’t remember the course so between that and the slick conditions in the woods I just wanted to stay on the bike. All the experts started at once and about halfway through the first lap I started moving up. I had no idea what place I was in but had a guy riding behind me nearly the whole race. My lap times were all within a minute of each other so I was consistent. In the final technical section I took a safer line and got passed. So I ended up 2nd in the 30-39. The fastest expert time was in the 40-49 but the top three overall experts were separated by less than 30 seconds. I’m hoping to do the Craftsbury race and maybe a few more.
After 4 years of gossip both good and bad from friends that had done this race in previous years I had to give it a try. The word on the street was there had been a lot of trail work since the 1st race 4 years ago.
The drive to Sugarloaf alone was worth the trek. Living in the Mt. Washington Valley sometimes I forget you can still find things worthwhile farther north. The drive up rt16 through Pinkham Notch, Berlin along the Androscoggin River, and through the Umbagog Wildlife Preserve is a really unique and beautiful stretch of New Hampshire. After Berlin I encountered more wildlife than cars for the next 2 hours.
The race announcer during the morning race meeting mentioned the course offered the “best and the worst” the area had to offer. I think he was right. The 1st hour was on some really impressive single track that was obviously labor intensive with extensive rock work, nicely built up berms, and well thought out switchbacks. It was really fun going up and down this single track and it felt like it would never end.
Most of the course was dry but there were some mud holes on some of the double track and snowmobile trails that required a quick gamble to either ride through or walk around. I lost the bet on one hole and tried to ride through only to go in axle deep and endo into the black pool. I completely immerged the whole right side of my body with a thick layer of goop that I got to enjoy for the next 4 hours. That event also changed my plan of being aggressive to just finishing the race in 1 piece.
Okay, the only thing that was ugly was me covered in black mud. Of course there were sections of the never ending grovels up hill, hidden water bars, and some loose rocky sections, but that seems to be par for the course on long endurance races.
Overall, I thought it was tougher than the Hampshire 100 and Vt50 but it also offered more varied terrain and between the opening single track, the multiple river crossings, and the final miles up the river side it really made a beautiful course that kept you on your toes for much of the race. I’ll be back.
That was fun.
I had heard about KT, knew Vermont well enough to know that I would be heading into an oasis of green, blue sky and quality microbrew…but I don’t think I knew it would be this good.
This was my first NEMBAfest, my brother and nine year old nephew made the trip from Baltimore, scooped me in CT and we pushed up 91. There’s a certain joy in going to a mtn bike festival with your nephew, particularly when he’s nine and starting to shred… even if he won’t stop talking and uses your headrest as a punching bag.
Kevin, of course, is the first person I run into when we arrive, it’s late, tents in the dark, beers, sleep. The morning shows what KT is all about, the views, the trails, the smell of coffee and an overly excited child poking me in the head.
This is where #kevinsfakingit started. Friday was the intro ride to KT; me, my brother, my nephew and Kevin. We collectively decided to go mellow, it had been a long drive the day before, we’re riding with a nine year old, Kevin is apparently confused by gears and is wearing some sort of carbon fiber splint device on each wrist. We’re off… the trails are amazing, it’s a beautiful day and there’s so much to be had. Rolling, fun, single track, berms, church, fun. We get about 8 miles in and my brother and nephew peel off, Kevin and I continue… suspicion has arisen.
Another 9 miles of decent pace, it’s technical and Kevin is moving, the clicks of gears are seamless… I’m following as he knows exactly where he’s going (you could tell by the lines). Some tight downhills and over the roots and rocks, he decided to lay down once on the trail on a tight switchback… clearly a move for sympathy, I rolled past him and may have asked if he was OK, I knew what was up. Road climb back to camp and a cold libation, so fun, such a beautiful spot… I called him out – we cheers. #kevinsfakingit.
NEMBAfest is a must. The team ride on Saturday was short for me as I wanted to hang with the nephew and brother… and my brother in law posted late Friday night. Mark led us through some of the good stuff and Emma, as Kevin mentioned, has no sympathy for you on her home trails. The trails there are second to none, you can ride for days and keep it on the tightest singletrack. Head down to Mike’s when you finish, beers on tap on the back side of the mill, food truck adjacent to that… it’s a huge success. We wrapped up our trip on Sunday am with a few hours at Burke Mtn, riding the gondola and ripping down the mountain, I need a full suspension.
Beyond that, it’s the people there… everyone is good. We had a recurring theme at our camp of how nice everyone was (and #kevinsfakingit). 50+ land owners and KT and NEMBA combined to put on a fantastic event. Congrats to all of those folks… PK, you all did one hell of a job, it’s an amazing event… I was proud to park cars and sign people in.
Can’t wait til next year… until then – next week, 35 miles at the Patapsco 100.
Another successful event in the books! Congrats to PK and all the volunteers that made it happen both from KT and from various NEMBA chapters. I personally think the move to the Darling Hill side ended up being ideal. Better demo loop, more traffic at the expo and direct access to all that great Darling Hill singletrack.
I don’t know about anyone else but I am really truly coming to love this event and what it seems to be becoming. This year especially started to just feel like a big family reunion. Folks you haven’t seen in maybe a year or more but you just pick up right where you left off. Everyone seems to be on the same page all working towards the same goal, jamming as much fun on bikes as possible into 3 days. The reunion is even complete with those crazy cousins that maybe party just a bit too hard, looking at you Death Metal RV (they definitely got the party KOM).
I was really happy with the team presence at the event and as always we got in a great team ride led by Mark T. A double loop of sorts with a more mellow pace to start, although someone forgot to tell Emma as she led the team hammering up some climbs and through the nice new berms on Riverwood. A few folks peeled off to meet up with family or go check out the expo and a slightly smaller group went off for loop 2 which ended up being an incredibly fun 7 man pace line with almost no regroups required, just go go go!
My wrists managed to hold up for the whole weekend (although I certainly woke up sore each day) and I was able to ride without needing to make too many compromises on speed or line choice. Mick even thinks I’ve been faking, look for #kevinsfakingit to start trending soon. I’m hoping I might be able to slot into a race here or there soon. Maybe Carrabassett? Who’s with me?
Amazing day in Newport, NH. Always a good turnout at the Pinnacle, particularly when the weather is good like it was this past Sunday, albeit a bit on the hot side. I was sad to not be able to race myself (first time missing the Pinnacle in 8 years!) but it was fun manning the tent and mingling with everyone looking for some shade.
Marc L. and Joseph R. got their first introduction to the course at the Pinnacle and on single speeds that can be a bit of a rude awakening but both came away smiling.
Seth B., Andy D., and Karina A. all raced strong in Sport and Eric N. represented in the Expert field.
The EFTA series takes a bit of a break now but there is still plenty going on. Pat’s Peak, NEMBAfest and right into a fully race-stocked July.