Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Brutal Surprise at Oak Park, AL

So here's the thing about mountain bike racing in a place you've never been. It's nerve wracking. But just like anything in life there's pressure put on you and pressure you put on yourself. I tend to put pressure on myself and probably always will until I'm just too old to have a chance at winning. And on top of that I choose really fast team mates who put additional pressure on me. What am I thinking!

Race#1 Heritage Park in February 2011
Here's what I was thinking at the beginning of the year about the Chainbuster 6hr Mountain Bike Race Series; Have fun, be competitive, don't make racing an endurance mtb race a new miserable experience. The best way to do all of those things was to NOT RACE SOLO! I did it the year before and was miserable (which obviously breaks rule number three). So this year it was important to find a team mate who shared my vision of how to race a mountain bike. David Shabat was willing and very excited. All year we've raced together. He trained hard and got better as the year went on. I'm really proud of what he accomplished this year as far as mountain bike skills go. We managed several podium places and scored enough points during the season to take 1st Place for the entire 6 race series. That's something neither of us thought was possible back in February when we started. To be completely honest the door was opened for our overall victory by two things; the rules and the absence. Let's start with the latter of the two.
All year long we've been chasing the "Gutbusters" Bill Lanzilotta and Alex Hagiano, and Team "Engine" Matt Hammond and Dave Chen. We've never beaten them. They are faster than we are and it's a fact. When they showed up we knew we were in for a long hard day. We might be ahead one hour and behind the next. The key to winning the overall as it turns out has a lot to do with showing up. Dave and Matt missed a race earlier in the year and the Gutbuster's didn't come to the last race in Alabama (a double points race). This becomes important later on in the story.
The rules. Let me see if I can sum it up for you. The key sentence in the rules is: At the end of the series if you have raced a minimum of 5 out of 6 races to qualify for the series we will then drop your worst scored race. The key point here is that the dropping of the worst score is mandatory. A team cannot decide to keep that lowest score. So I'll just let you do the math and look at the results. I say all this not because I think we shouldn't have won the overall. We earned it. We worked our tails off all year. But I have to recognize the fact that those guys ride like lightning. And it paid off with 1st place finishes in several races including Matt and Dave taking the top spot in our final race. However, they didn't show up at Tribble Mill and then had to drop their lowest finish. Hence we win by being the most consistent for 6 races. And the Gutbuster's? They just flat blew it by not showing up at the last "double points" race. So, the reality is that we are not the fastest riders...just the most consistent. Which according to Chainbuster Racing is exactly what the points system is designed to do. Reward the most consistent team or solo riders.

Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham Alabama
The Course

I was prepared for bitter cold that did not happen. When David and I arrived at the park we thought it would be much colder than it was. No wind. No frost. The sun was coming up bright in the sky. It was 39 degrees but warming up quickly. Soon after we set up camp there came the arrival or our friends Dustin Mealor, Trent Smith, and Todd Fisher (Team Spare Parts) and family. These guys were ready to have some fun. Having them there was a great relief. We were in enemy territory and needed some friends.
Team Spare Parts encampment.
I got ready and went out to scout the first few miles of the course. This ended up doing me absolutely no good for two reasons: 1. The start was a 1.5 mile parade lap on paved roads that basically cut off half the section I scouted. 2. The most difficult part of the trail was on the back side of the course about 4 miles in.
You can see in the 2nd video that I went out way too hard. I pulled the lead group up the road and then promptly found a place to crash! This gave me an idea. Slow down a little bit since you don't know the course. Duh!
I tried to chill out and ramp back up slowly. During that process Dustin caught me. He drilled it to catch up with the lead group and soon went on by me. I stayed with him until the time came to not stay with him. That time would be when the trail became something more like a moon crater. Or maybe the "lake" side of a dam. You know the rocks they use to keep the waves from eroding. That's what we rode across for half a mile.
One of many. But not my knee.
Up and down. Around the trees. Every turn was an "endoh" waiting to happen. There were people camped out up there. Waiting to see the carnage. Oh sure they rang cow bells and cheered for you when you made it down the drop offs without losing teeth. They stood ready to help in case you need life flight. But let's be honest. They were NASCAR fans. They were there to see the crashes. Only this part of the trail was a guaranteed crash fest. They didn't need to hope. They just needed to be patient.
Rollers are fun.
And so...I gave them what they wanted. I only crashed 4 times during the race. The first three on the first lap. Twice I washed out in the loose corners. But twice I found the rocky surface of this section too hard to navigate. It hurt my feelings and made me want to curse Alabama. If you can believe it I managed to catch Dustin after that and started talking myself into being happy. I noticed he had his cool video camera on the back of his bike and now I was the star. We were killing it over some big rollers and I just knew I was looking super cool in the video. Right up until I washed out in a corner and slid off the mountain. Nice.
The first lap was over and now I had to deal with the fact that the race wasn't. The course was in a word "brutal".  My mind was swirling with doubt. My legs hurt. I kept drinking and eating. By the time David made it back I was ready to take on Oak Mountain without incident. I wanted to disappoint the NASCAR fans. I wanted some revenge.

After that successful lap I felt much better about the race. I took time while David was on course to look at where we stood. At that time we were in second. I was very surprised. The course was so bad I just knew we were behind a lot of locals who knew how to navigate the bad sections. But there we were, in the mix. As I stood and waited for David to come in Dave Chen (Team Engine) rode in and couldn't find his team mate. He had to go out again for two in a row. I didn't realize this until I caught Dave on the trail. He was suffering but working hard. I passed him on the climb and then managed to complete the rocky section without a problem. Once on the rollers and heading back to the start it started to sink in that we were in the lead. I handed of to David but he had a big problem, a well rested Matt Hammond took over for Team Engine and was flying after him. Matt not only passed my team mate somewhere during that lap but pulled a double. He did two laps and got the second one in with only 4 seconds of time left in the race. Very cool. I told you those guys were fast. Great job Matt!

Oak Mt. Podium
By the time the Series Podium happened it was too dark to take pictures of it. I've got some great audio though with a black picture. If anyone out there has a picture I'd love to get one.

Team Spare Parts fought valiantly and settled for 4th Place by a mere 50 seconds. They were not happy but had a great time none the less. Great job guys!

Todd, Trent, Me
David and I finished up an unbelievable year in great fashion. We celebrated by eating at Cracker Barrel. That's right, Cracker Barrel. I had Mamma's Pancake Breakfast with bacon and extra syrup. David had French Toast. We both drank caffeinated coffee and took a to-go cup for the road. 4 hours to get home. 5 for David.

Another good thing about being in Alabama this weekend was the look on all the Auburn fans faces as the afternoon wore on. We had a radio and listened to the Georgia Bulldogs whoop up on the War Eagles...I meant Tigers. Sorry. It was great to be a Georgia Bulldog!

This coming Saturday I'll be racing the Currahee Adventure Duathlon with David and Craig Tinsley. That should be a great story. Last year I competed with Craig and a team mate at the last minute, David Park. We raced for 5 hours and it came down to the last 3 miles. That's a story for another day but if you ask Craig to tell you about the finish make sure you have some time to kill. It was epic!
Craig Tinsley, Me, David Park at 2010 Currahee Duathlon
Thanks for reading! See you all out there soon!


No comments:

Post a Comment