Any time there is a race near Boston and the weather conditions are perfect (mid 50’s) people are going to come out and race. Rob and I got there a little after 10am and the place was already packed. My guess was 400+ riders which was a fantastic turnout. We quickly found a nice spot to setup the tent and grab some photos:
The Cat3’s had just finished their race which had started at 9am. After catching up with them Rob, Shawn and I ran over to the start to watch the pros and Cat1 (including Dan Ward riders take off at 11am. We would have to wait till 1:30 for the start of our race.
The course was incredibly fast with very little technical so it would be on the gas the whole time. I believe the lap distance was a little over 7 miles. First half of the course was rolling single track. In the middle there was a mile+ of double track. The last few miles were single track culminating is a bunch of really steep short climbs. While some sections were on older trails with some exposed roots it’s really a good course for a hard tail bike. Passing just about anywhere was easy also as the trails were wide in many sections and due to the sandy soil the vegetation was sparse. The only issue was the dust due to the dry conditions. Poor Rob was coughing the whole way home. Thankfully Shawn, Steve and I had ridden the course thanks to a Bike Barn racer we had randomly met up with on a random Saturday over the winter. Knowing the course is always a nice advantage.
At the start Shawn, Rob and I lined up together with the 45+ other riders in the 30-39 age group.
Notice of course we all have our number plates folded back at the bottom for that extra aerodynamic advantage
Everyone told us to be one of the first into the woods or traffic would be an issue. Unfortunately for me, there was an 1/8 mile stretch of pavement and a single 30 tooth ring on the crank of my bike. Halfway down the paved section I realized the futility of my gearing situation and ended up rolling into the single track mid pack.
Thankfully traffic did not seem to be too much of a problem for me as everyone in front of me was pinning it trying to stay with the leaders. The only spot I probably lost 15 to 20 while queuing was at the bridge crossing early in the lap. At the back side of the bride was a 2 foot step with an exposed route that was catching people up. Once past I was able to settle in somewhat and began to pass several other riders. Have to say everyone was super nice, I made sure to call out all my passes and everyone let me by immediately.
I spent the first half of the opening lap working my way past the slower riders which I love. At a few points on the faster sections of the course I was even able to do some drafting. It was strange being able to draft during a Mountain bike race. Rarely are we going fast enough for such a thing but I was thankful for the chance to recover some. After the race someone said we averaged close to 13 miles per hour which was crazy.
The last third of the lap I caught a Team Bums rider. After a couple of leapfrogs I decided just to stay on his wheel best I could. The last mile and a half of the course had three short very steep climbs. The first was no problem but the second was a run up. Dan was here taking photos and it was nice to have some words of encouragement. It was also a surprise when he said Shawn was less than a minute ahead. At the last steep climb a few minutes later. Steve Crossley, Marty Allen and Andy Gould were camped out at the top to cheer (read as heckle) us as we attempted to clean the climb. This one was difficult due to the loose soil and exposed roots but I cleaned it finishing the first lap.
Transition was the once place to grab some hydration, assuming you could breathe
I continued to follow the Team Bums rider as best I could, but half way through the second lap he took off chasing a third rider who passed us out of nowhere. I kept the cranks spinning as fast as I could content in the belief that Shawn was still mixing it up at the front…
As I approached the run up climb towards the end of the second lap I don’t believe what I see, is that Shawn!? As I pulled up I had to ask what the hell. Two days ago he crushed me on our ride at LLF. Apparently it’s his tradition to go out way to hard and completely blow himself up at the first race of the season, be sure to ask Steve about the Grind last year. All he could mutter was “I’m done dude” which to me was unacceptable so I pulled in front trying to goad Shawn into chasing. (which totally worked)
As I rolled up to the last sharp climb I once again see Steve, Marty and Andy at the top. I jokingly called out “I’m beating Shawn!” This hurt my focus and I picked a poor line up the slope and was forced to dismount. The guys told me to run, Shawn was right behind me! I bombed down the back side as fast as I could and the second I hit the pavement it was into a TT tuck, engines to full. Next thing I know Shawn is pulling up next to me sawing the bike frantically. Ok I’m in for a sprint to the line, engines to ludicrous speed! He ended up getting at the “line” by inches but no matter what he tells you I passed the timer 7 seconds ahead, as proved by the results
Considering the competition the NEMBA boys had a good showing. This was a tough race no doubt but I had a blast. It was great hanging out with the team and all my other buddies on Riverside and Blue Steel. This is what racing is all about. Looking forward to Willowdale in a few weeks.