I knew when I registered for this race it was not in my sweet spot; 14 miles, CAT 2 and not much elevation… throw in about 5 inches of rain two days before the race and all bets are off, it’s survival. If you know me, have ridden with me, you know that short distances, little elevation and mud is a triple whammy of disaster.
I had heard that the CAT 2, 40 – 49 guys at the ROOT 66 series were fast, I hadn’t raced in awhile, was excited for the adrenaline of racing, the intensity and for the temperature check in a field of guys who were strong. Getting up to the start I could tell it was going to be a mess. We were a late start at 2pm and riders were coming in covered in mud, having been on the course since the am. Here we go…
The hole shot was like a blur, ripping up a paved access road and left into the singletrack. I hung in the middle and followed the first group into the woods. The first quarter mile was fine and then you could see some trouble. It got soft, fast. We started to climb and there was a lot of walking and the sound of suctioning Sidis. Up and across the access road back into the singletrack and this was pretty sweet, I had the group in sight and was starting to calm down. We start climbing a technical rocky section and I’m right there, I think I passed a couple people… I liked this section, ending with a hop over the guard rail and back onto the paved access road, fun. As soon as we hit that road it was like the hole shot all over again, dudes were flying, I was thinking about the three beers I had in the cooler of my trunk. I think it was here that I realized this was really a sprint and these guys had serious sprint in them.
The access road up to some more sweet technical singletrack. Fun, flowy stuff, rocky… it was all pretty dry as we climbed up, guys were still in my view but I knew if there were no big climbs and more wide open roads that I was now in this for the ride and not the podium. We rolled along the top for a bit then down a real rocky, technical downhill; I loved this section…. wet, roots, rocks; no mistakes, go faster. The bottom put you onto a fire road which rolled for a mile, I hung onto them for a bit… but this didn’t make sense. It was hub high mud in some of those fire road sections, turning big gears… it’s just not my game.
The rest of the loop was good. Off the fire road and into more flowy singletrack, a couple more short climbs that were technically challenging. Down into an absolute quagmire of mud and running water that I think covered 2/3 of a 29in wheel. Another mile or so of fire road, through a field, more singletrack, more mud… all good. The lap wrapped up with a short section of gravel grinding along the lake, a short climb off the fire road and left into another bit of rocky singletrack. You climbed up another short technical section before wrapping around and down onto the paved access road and down the hill to the start/finish.
I had lost the group, was totally enjoying the ride and the day. I’m not sure where I ended up in the results, me and the two Coronas didn’t seem to care. My second lap was certainly faster than my first… and more fun than my first.
A few things I took away from racing here: I was immediately “the NEMBA guy”. I actually forgot I had the kit on and was confused the first two or three people calling me that, by the ninth and tenth, I had it down. Along with that, and I’m not sure what this meant.. but as I was ripping down the rock garden downhill on my second lap, someone shouts out, “hey, I thought you NEMBA guys hated rocks”… I took it as a compliment. Finally, I like to race… it’s been years since I raced with a plate and it’s fun. But I also think it’s a lot of fun to meet people who love to ride their bikes and talk about their bikes and tell you how nice your bike is… I’ll go back and race the wrock, definitely.