Report by Avanell
Predicted conditions: 79 and sunny
Actual conditions: 56 and misting/raining.
Riding a moutain bike in the actual mountains is much different than riding in the Williamsburg area. Rocks become a factor (big ones too), you still have roots, creek crossings, RIVER crossings, and oh the climbing! The race started with a gradual but difficult, 7 mile climb. There was about a mile of descending that broke it up but 7 miles to the top of the first mountain. Through the extremely tight singletrack, switchbacks and slick, loose rocks, I got to the ridge in what I thought was 4th (Paula Smith, Fiorelli, took a wrong turn earlier only to come back strong and pass almost everyone up again for 2nd overall). The 3 mile descent was a blast. The rain/mist had made it a little slick in sections but the short rollers allowed for some air as well. After a near and almost severe wipeout at 20 mph I came off of the first mountain in 2nd (still thinking 3rd since Paula had not yet caught back up. Max speed on the descent? 23.3mph. The 2nd mountain was not as long, about 4.5 miles, but much more brutal. Lots of very steep hike-a-bike sections (at least for me anyway) with lots more rocks. More switchbacks and much more demanding.
This second climb is where Paula caught and passed me...again. With about 1/2 mile to the top, I see 4th place expert, Donna (Niner Factory Team) about 50 yards back, just a switchback behind. This forces me to stay on the bike for the rest of the climb. The descent was slower than the first, but with Donna being so close behind and her being quite a good descender, I had to take more risks than I was intending to. This 2nd descent had a lot more switchbacks and a lot more rocks than the first. When it leveled out, there were a lot of small but fast creek crossings to tend with before the big momentum killer. The river, that all the creeks dump into, needed to be crossed. You could, A, jump off the bike, climb the small, steep steps, run/ride across and climb down similar steps, or B, go through the water. As there was a trafic jam going up the steps, I chose option B. The water level was way too high to ride so I ran in toe spikes on slick rocks in knee deep water across a 30ish foot river. With 5 feet to the bank, the bed dropped over a foot and I slipped, submerged almost up to my neck with my bike in my right hand barely keeping the headset out of the water. But I got across in much better time than everybody waiting to go across the bridge. The last 5 miles, which were perfect dry, fast, trail conditions the previous day on the pre-ride became tacky from the rain and extremely slow. Riddled with creek crossings there were 3 miles worth of climbing where bonking and calf cramping were extremely possible with my Camelbak and waterbottle drained. The last 2 miles were all downhill...although quite muddy, rocky, and slick in between the remainder of the creek crossings. The finish line was taped off in the start field where spectators, finished racers, and the race promotors/volunteers were clapping for everyone coming in and distributing necessary burgers, chili, and beverages.
Thanks to Kyle and all the mtb enthusiasts from mountainbikevirginia.com, Virginia Off-Road Series at ors.cycleva.com, and all the sponsors and volunteers that made this fun but brutal race possible! Also a personal thanks to Lester Gamboa for working for me at BikeBeat so I could leave and Robert Maye and Dave for getting me up there when my car wouldn't make it!
Jeff Cup here we come!