This past weekend was the Fat Tire Classic, the first race of the 2016 Kenda Cup Series and race #2 for the Root 66 race series. B2C2 had a dozen-or-so racers competing. These are (most of) their stories:
Mike - Pro/Cat 1 Open
Oh man, I was excited for Winding trails. The first Kenda Cup, on one of my favorite courses, with like 10 of my teammates racing?! Infinite radness. The prereg list was like Tinder for weaponized quads. #Hypetrain was screaming down the tracks.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned assemblage of thighs and it being the end of the 3rd week of a training block wasn't exactly boosting my optimism for a good result. I scrapped doing openers the day before and opted to instead re-learn how to clip in to the pedals I hadn't used since last year (and the bike I have < 10 rides on). My warmup was a roll around the course and a few minutes of tempo on the road, followed by at least 5 minutes of "did I eat enough? should I have another bite? am I thirsty? should I pee again? maybe I really am hungry"
I was late to the start (obviously), and lined up almost directly behind the inflatable arch. Thankfully the guys made a bit of room on the second row and I wasn't going to start the race literally dragging the main sponsor through the dirt. Directly behind me was the recently "retired" Adam Myerson, who - despite his initial misgivings (and years of poking fun at "mountain cycling") - finally decided to hang out with us.
The start was, as usual, "Billy speed" - a pace best described as "you have got to be f-ing kidding me". In the scramble for unattainable wheels, someone tapped my rear derailleur - not too bad, but juuuuust enough to make my heart stop beating and max out simultaneously. My shifting was a little off, and I floundered a bit the first few minutes trying to dial it back in. Somehow, I made the selection (though one of the Bike Express guys did his best to O'keefe us off Hamlin's wheel) and slotted in behind Neal Burton. The next 10 minutes was a bewildering confluence of desperate cornering, overgeared stomping, and asphyxiated praying. After another few minutes riding the vomit comet, Neal got a gap, and I - being the last jackass in line and breathing like a broken vacuum cleaner - thought (hoped?) that one of the 2 guys in front of me would close it down.
They did not.
Eventually, our group was me, Andrew Freye, and another guy I don't remember who really, really liked spraying me with watts on the bark mulch climbs. Andrew and I took turns for a lap, and managed to get separation with 3 to go. He pulled for a bit, but wasn't as enthusiastic about making sure Mulch Watts didn't catch back on as I hoped he would be. I went to the front on the beginning of the 4th lap, and - by some christmas miracle - got a gap. I was confused. I was uncomfortable. I was alone.
I was alone!
Buoyed by that sudden revelation, and the realization that as much as this was hurting me, it was hurting them more, I fully committed
And was rewarded: A few minutes later, I caught my first glimpse of Chris and Neal.
It's difficult to describe the kaleidoscope of emotions at a critical moment in a race. Your brain is overwhelmed by output, driving lungs and legs and overriding every self-preservation instinct you have. In that moment, my panic-canvas was painted brightly in hues of disbelief, doubt, hope, grunting, calculation, and a thousand shades of every perceivable fatigue. I pulled the lens back, momentarily replacing the panic with a kind of grim detachment. I might make it. Stand up and hammer until your vision starts to shut down and there is a sound like an airplane overhead. Recover. Ignore the bit of bark you just tore off that tree with your knuckles. Try to be polite to lapped riders, and don't crash. Seriously, don't crash.
With one to go, traffic started getting bad. Most were very accommodating, some even just hopping off and cheering as I struggled by. Some were as blown as I was, teetering into the bushes in the direction I called to pass. And, as always, there were the heroes - the guys (always dudes) who think that they can hang - that even though you just lapped them, they can still show you up. Most are harmless: just bluster and lack of perspective, but a few - a very few - can be actively unsafe, leveraging their overestimation of their own abilities against your desperation to chase down an elite podium finish.
So I got tangled up a bit, but not enough to say it made the difference. Chris and Neal were gone, and I called it with half a lap to go.
I rolled across the line 20 or 30 seconds behind Neal, who was just behind Chris, who was on the podium.
Overwhelmed and exhausted, tottering around and dry heaving, OF COURSE Thom puts a camera in my face. I really can't wait to hear what nonsensical firehose of word salad he got on video.
Thanks to the Kenda Cup folks for making this such a legit event and series. It's great to have venues where folks can hang out after (and before!) races, spectate, heckle their friends, and feel like part of a real community.
Charlie - Cat 1/Expert
In the Expert Cat 1 race, Kevin took the hole shot, while I was happy to slot into 4th position as we hit the single track. Kevin pushed the pace for half a lap, leaving a lead group of about 6 riders. At this point I figured things were going great: I would ride along at this pace for a few laps until everyone else suddenly got really tired and the race would be mine.
Then, towards the end of the first lap we hit the one steep hill and, since my bike came equipped with a front derailleur, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to use it. I smoothly shifted into the small ring and crested the hill, but then tried to shift back to the large ring and my pedals locked up (why my new "Shimano equipped" bike came specced with a front derailleur made by a different company that has basically given up on making front derailleurs, I don't know). As I futzed with this, I saw the familiar figure of Doug Thorpe ride through the lead group and off into the distance. Eventually, I was able to pedal again, but my front derailleur had shifted about 30 degrees and in every gear the chain was grinding against it. I limped along deciding to wait for a more opportune time to fix this. 1/2 a lap later this opportunity presented itself when I came down a fast descent and wiped out on a loose corner. I got up, dusted myself off, did some brute force trail side mechanics, and kept riding. But the lead group was gone and I had some lonely laps ahead of me.
Kevin continued to ride a good pace for the next few laps until he took a nose dive off the one big rock in the course, cracked his helmet, possibly concussed himself, and still held on for a podium spot (?maybe? I didn't stick around for results). I rolled in a few minutes later (probably somewhere in the top ten?). Colin showed up shortly after me and probably has some stories about that.
Colin - Cat 1/Expert
I had a gnarly chest cold, but the beauty of being an uncoached athlete is that I had no one to tell me that I shouldn't be racing my bike so I showed up to Winding Trails and hacked phlegm all over the woods for two hours.
I can't tell you anything about how the front of the race played out because I took the reverse holeshot and rode behind a dude with flat pedals for the first five minutes thinking "wow, either I'm sicker than I thought or everyone is really fast this year." Apparently this is because everyone was still trying to keep up with Kevin at the front? I dunno.
Anyway, after that guys remembered that bike racing is hard and started slowing down, so I kept using whatever parts of my lungs were actually working to motor along steadily. Over the next few laps I passed a bunch of dudes but never got anywhere near Charlie so it's safe to say I was well outside the top ten.
After the race I split time time between having dramatic coughing fits and heckling Preston for not riding "the rock." He claimed he was not riding it because he crashed on lap one. Here's a great video of a guy doing a reenactment of what I can only assume both Preston and Kevin's crashes looked like.
Alex - Cat 2/Sport
My biggest take-away from Winding Trails is that grip-shifters are the god-damned Devil.
Sharon and I drove up and had plenty of time to do a slow pre-ride lap. I began my day reluctant and a little pissed-off because the new bike I am desperately waiting for, has still not shown up. Begrudgingly, all I have to ride is my Giant with 150mm of travel front and rear (and lol, the frame shock doesn't lock out) and knowing what the course was like, felt like I was riding the Titanic through the power-hungry, flowy course. Not to mention the few screw-you accents where thanks to the 150mm fork, I was either perpendicular to the ground, or wildly spinning out my rear wheel. Not to mention the symphony of mystery squeaking and grinding that comes out of that bike made me feel really confident racing on it.
About 45min before our race, new KUDU teammate Matt finds me and unprompted, offers to lend me his hardtail for the day. Yes please! Elated, I happily took it, even with the grip-shifter. It was really poetic justice for how much crap I was giving Myerson over his. Nothing like racing on a borrowed bike you haven't even gotten to pre-ride on. Alas, at the very first tiny incline, I grip-shifted in the wrong direction and came to a dead-stop, dismounting and running, and watching the woman's race ride away from me.
Relegated to what I thought had to be last place, I tried to chase Sharron around for a bit before I inhaled a cloud of dust on a fire road and started hacking like a lifetime smoker and coughed up some blood. The hacking continued for 2 laps. Meanwhile, Sharron powered away from me. After deeply debating DNFing on lap 1, I rallied and had a dumpster-fire of a second lap. My back started hurting so bad i was seeing stars. I then caught my handle bars on a tree and launched myself down a hill (but stayed on my feet!) collected myself, again considered DNFing going into the 3rd lap, rallied again and managed to find that 'runners high' for bikes on the third lap and caught two of the woman in my race as well as a lot of the back-half of the mens race.
I thought I did bad. I actually came in 4th which is amazing all things considered. I thought I had to have come in last or close to it. I had no expectation coming into my first CAT2 race, especially on a borrowed bike, and I don't think I've ever felt so physically horrible at any race in my entire life.
Visions of TSEpic dancing in my head.
Like a metaphor for my day at Winding Trails, as Sharron and I made our way back to the city in bumper to bumper traffic on the pike, glowing on the horizon was the biggest car-fire I had ever seen.
It could have been worse.
Andrew - Cat 1/Single Speed
B2C2 had 2 of ~15 riders in the Cat 1 SingleSpeed race, which has gotten way more legit than a few years ago.
Based on the placings, one might think that Matt and I had ridden together for a significant portion of the race before his inevitable, watt-filled, freak-out left me behind. Sadly, that happened before we even entered the woods on lap 1. Last I saw of Matt, he looked comfortable in the lead group of 4 and I spinning as fast as I could with my under-geared legs to hold the wheel in front of me at the back of the third group.
Once we entered the woods, my lighter gear choice seemed way more practical and I was thankful for not having blown myself up in the initial sprint. I moved for the front of the 3rd group then opened a gap. At the end of lap 1 I caught Shawn Mottram as he rejoined the course after making a wrong turn to lose the front group. I thought he would be my express ticket to the front, but then he sat up, so I attacked way to hard and was not at all surprised when he blew by me half a lap later. Lap 2 ended with me sitting in 6(7?)th, greedily shoving shot-bloks into my mouth. With fresh sugar coursing through me, lap 3 flew by. At this point I knew the turns and could take them smoothly, I even started laughing as I remembered just how elegant and fun a mtb ride can be. I passed another single-speeder or two, and was surprised to see ahead of me Mottram again.
Coming up the hill to start lap 4, my legs really began to feel the sadness, but I had Mottram to catch and had glimpsed my housemate through the trees and knew that #HOUSECLASH was on. I caught Mottram for the second time and left him behind, passed another single-speeder, caught Steven and was just preparing to make fun of him when he crashed into a tree and I hit him with my bike instead. Then I ground it out to finish and was thrilled to find out that I had pulled everyone back accept the lead group of 2, in which Matt had smashed hard all day.
Kenny - Pro/Cat 1 Open
Coming into this weekend was a mix of excitement and tremble in my boots fear. The prereg list ensured me I would be a small bait fish in a very bog pond. In classic fashion I had some bike troubles Saturday night that were addressed at 6am race morning pre departure.
When it came time to race bikes I lined up in shmedium position and had a pretty mediocre start into the woods. Over the next 2 laps I proceeded to bleed positions, open gaps, and generally go slower than the people around me until I was dangling off the back of what could surely be described as the srub zone group.
At this point I started started getting a little down, what had I done wrong, did I miss a fast guy memo, were my new found calf muscles just dead weight, but then the turn tables turned. Somewhere in third lap I started feeling, dare I say, better, and over the next two laps I proceeded to chase Pete (fellow ECCC mtber), who was forever in and out of sight, through a field of prematurely detonated riders. Some passed riders were kind, realizing there implosion, and waving us by, while other clung to their position tooth and nail, resulting in some good elbow bumping and their bikes tangled in some shrubbery.
In the end I could not get Pete but I ended up sneaking just inside the top ten and passing (6?) people on the last two laps. It was a new experience for me to pass riders late in the race, it has always been the other way around, but I have to say it was kind of nice. Either way, hard race, fun race, and a great job by all B2C2 members.
Sharon - Cat 2/Sport
The night before my first ever race after upgrading in any bike discipline, I started getting in my head about how lucky I was to be racing at all two years after the whole "accident" thing, and also that I was completely in over my head in the Cat 2s because I still don't feel comfortable hopping even small logs and still corner like a lumbering oaf (though much improved since getting my awesome new wheels last week). Preriding with Alex did nothing to make me feel better about this, because she sped away from me at every twisty section and didn't balk at the damn logs scattered around getting in the way of all the pedaling. I have been feeling for the last month or so that I'm finally getting closer to the strength I had before the whole coma/months in a back brace and cast business, but I had no idea where I was compared to anyone else.
Alex and I both apparently had suboptimal starts, but rode together for a while, trading places a couple of times while I desperately tried to follow her lines in the turns. We dropped another woman who'd been just behind us, but eventually then we separated as I realized I felt pretty good in the straight power sections and I wasn't able to help her draft as much as she'd helped me in the technical sections. I got a bit tied up passing some dudes and not quite knowing how to get them to let me pass them, but kept feeling good until the third lap, when I started getting tired and also started cramping after the loss of my water bottle, dropped 2mi into the race. I fell ~4 times on the last lap, the last time sailing off into the brush after spectacularly failing to 'awp a small log, and realized I had to back off a bit in order to live til the finish. Luckily, most of the spectators were gone so I don't think any mishaps were captured on camera. I still wound up coming 5th OA, 2nd in the 35+ Cat 2s, which I am more than psyched about.
I am somewhat less psyched about the fact that I get to road trip back tomorrow in order to collect my wallet from the Farmington Police, where some wonderful citizen dropped it off after I TBI/post-race-brained-ly left it on the roof of my car while refueling and drove off. Though I'm seriously debating bringing the bike back down for some more cornering practice.
Matt - Cat 1/Single Speed
Before this past weekend, I had not done a proper xc race in about 2 years and it certainly wasn't on a single speed. I had zero expectations as far as results were concerned and was focused more on having fun ripping the incredible single track Winding Trails in known for. Which is weird, because that's not typical bike-racer-me. If i'm racing my bike, i'm going to ride as hard as I can and try to beat everybody I can. I can't help it! Kevin (Travis?) and I made the drive out, pulling into the parking lot a stones throw from reg (yes!), friends(double-yes!!) and the perfect space to sprint out of the car,directly into the woods to pee for the 5th time since leaving Somerville (HELL YES!!!). I guess drinking two bottles of water on the car ride down will do that. But I was determined to not dehydrate! Long story, seams to happen at mtb races, ask Mike.
Suited up and numbers zip-tied, we headed for the finish to take our pre ride. We waded through a sea of familiar faces and old friends. Groups of fans screaming for their seemingly broken comrades, as they pushed themselves up the very last, LOOSE uphill slog. Teams, young and old, elites and jrs, masters and first-timers spinning around the field, drinking bottles of pre and post race concoctions, stretching, eating, celebrating and crying. The whole venue seamed to be alive in a way I've only been able to experience at cyclocross races. This was going to be awesome. During the last mile or so of the pre-ride, I stumbled upon someone who was still finishing out their final lap. After 2 or 3 stops to let them get out of sight, catch back up, and wait another few minutes, I looked at my watch. I should probably get to the staging area. So i jumped out of the woods, onto the driveway to make a short cut back to the finish, figuring, "That's pretty much the whole lap. I think i've seen all the key obstacles. Right?"...?...
Different from my memory, The Cat 1 single speed race was THE LAST field of the Pro/Cat 1's to be sent off, putting us about 5 minutes behind the elites. AWESOME. It began with the usual pre race things. The colors of the arrows, what our field is called, how ma..#05Y..*#@*....*... This particular start had me half-listening and half-thinking about how real the possibility was of getting run over by Crystal Anthony, Billy Melone or one of the countless other super legit folks representing in the elite fields. Coming to this realization, my attention snapped back to the officials words just in time for the warning to be given about the huge rock towards the end of the lap that had no B line. As he called out "30 seconds!!" I retraced my mental pre-ride tracks furiously but could not picture the rock that he was describing. "15!" he cried. Not a second too soon and much to my surprise, Matt-the bike-racer showed up. Everything became incredibly clear. Then the whistle blew.
To be honest, I don't remember a whole lot of the first lap. I somehow stayed on Shawn Mottrams wheel to the top of that god-forsaken, wood chippy driveway, going into the top ridge 2nd wheel. I was able to stay where I was through the first 1/2 of the lap before the eventual winner came around me and attacked Shawn on what was probably the longest of the fire road/field stretches. So of course, I was going too. We had chatted earlier before the start about single speeder things and over that time, I learned he was pushing two teeth taller than I at 34X18. For the not single speeders out there, THAT'S A BIG GEAR. So, I, with my 32X18, made the call that if I could suffer at his pace for a while on the fire roads, i'd get in front later and try to force a mistake in the single track. As we turned off the fire road, I had a moment to look over my shoulder to see if anyone had come with us. No one in sight. Not even Shawn! We hit the next two sections of single track so hard that, in no time, we started to run into traffic. I wish I could say a rider got between us or I crashed and lost him that way, but it worked out that this guy could just rip the downhills better than I could. It was humbling to watch and I was defiantly way outside the comfort zone in my best effort to stay with him. Towards the end of lap 1, he had what seamed to be 15 or so seconds just as i found the "big rock" that I had unknowingly skipped in pre ride. I charged through the finish, hungry for more laps and the chance to catch back on. For the first time EVER in a mtb race, I felt like my laps got faster as the race went. I was able to put power into the climbs and recover on the descents. I remembered to drink water too!!! I crossed the line in 2nd. I was ecstatic. I was confused. Where did that ride come from?! Maybe it came from the training. Maybe it came from all of my incredible teammates cheering me on every time I crawled through for another lap.
I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face as we pulled out of the parking lot to head back home. The whole team had gone out and had stellar rides, each in their own way, all day. Some of us came back from crashes. Some came back from mechanicals. It's pretty inspiring to hear and read the stories of everyones experience out there. Ya'll are super tough and I couldn't be more proud of this team!
Tess - ECCC!
Here's a quick recap from the last ECCC weekend of the season!
On Saturday, our killer MIT women won the Women's A TTT, and I helped the BU team snag a podium finish for the Women's C TTT.
Later that day, we all took on the crazy challenging RR course. Preston drove the pace car to a clear victory in the Men's A field. Brandon, Nick, and I all had intense efforts but P&P finishes, and learned the valuable lesson that hill repeats will be in our summer training future. Jen and Anne killed it in Women's A both with top 10 finishes!
On Sunday Anne, Jen, Brandon, and Nick S raced the crit. It was another challenging course: Jen had a top 5 finish in Women's A (WOO!), Anne and Nick both had solid efforts with tough finishes for a hard final race, and Brandon had a solid pack finish in Men's B, getting back into his racing groove!
Overall, Anne and Jen helped the MIT women win the season as the ECCC champs! And Emma was an amazingly helpful volunteer that weekend too!
All in all it was a hard weekend of racing, and Anne and Jen might have more to share from the women's A races. This season reminded me again after a hard year of school how much I love bike racing and racing with a team, and that I have a lot of training to do this summer to help B2C2 kick some butt too!
We got a picture of Nick, Brandon, and me (plus another BU friend) which is sunny and cycl-y. Wish we had taken a B2C2/ECCC pic of everyone!!
Banner image photo credit: Alice Vail Johannen