Tuesday, March 16, 2010

UFD Leadbelt XC race recap

Sunday was the inaugural event in the United Federation of Dirt mountain bike race series.  It was the Leadbelt XC and took place at St. Joe state park in Park Hills MO.

I've been looking forward to this race for awhile.  My first Expert level race on my new bike and I was excited to find out what would happen.  I made the trip to the race with Jessie, Brett and Lori, leaving Springfield around 6:30.  Lori races in the Woman's Beginner class which has a start time of 10am.  We pulled in at 9:50, but Lori is used to that. 

When we arrived I found out my Revolution Cycles Racing teammate Zdenek was racing in the Marathon class.  I expected to be racing against him and wasn't disappointed I was wrong.  There weren't many people there yet but I did talk to a few folks I met at the 2009 MWFTCS events.

The weather was less than optimal for mountain bike racing.  It was cold and wet.  It wasn't really raining, but there was a mist in the air that sometimes turned to sprinkles.  I was having a hard time deciding what to wear.  I wanted to stay warm but I also wanted to stay light.  I erred on the side of light after I saw Chris Plock and Bob Arnold of DRJ Racing pull into the parking lot.  They are in my class and they are both really fast.  Eventually more people started pulling into the parking lot and while the field was not going to be massive, it looked like there would be a respectable number of racers.

As the beginner riders started finishing the race my heart sank.  They were a complete mess and were talking about how muddy the course was.  Slogging in the mud wasn't the kind of race I was looking forward to; but we had driven 3.5 hours to get there and I was going to race no matter what.

At the starting line I found out there were only 4 people in my Expert 30-39 class; me, Chris, Bob and Wes Biermann.  There were 6 Expert 19-29 riders and 1 Expert 40+.  They started the youngsters first and a minute later let the 30+ crowd go.  After a short bit of asphalt we hit the singletrack and I was in 4th with Chris, Bob and Wes in front of me.  Immediately the ride became difficult because of the mud.  I was having to fight it to maintain speed and keep the bike upright.  After a mile or so Chris and Bob started to gap Wes and I.  Then we started catching up with the younger experts.  Wes and I passed a couple of them together, then I made a move to pass Wes and went out on my own.  I could tell he was fighting the mud as much as I was and I imagine he was more concerned with not wrecking than what I was doing.

I was able to catch and pass the rest of the 20-29 group on the first lap and started to catch up with Bob.  I got within probably a hundred feet or so when he saw me and he sped up and pulled away again.  The laps were 8 miles long with the last half mile or so on a paved greenways trail.  The paved section ran parallel to trail dirt portion of the start of the lap so as you were finishing you could see how far ahead the people were in front of you and vice versa when starting the lap you could see who was behind.

It's hard to put into words what riding in those conditions was like.  I was tense the entire time because I was having to fight to maintain both traction and momentum while not wrecking.  The hills took a lot of energy and there wasn't much relief on the flats and descents.   It was just a lot harder than it should have been.  I don't know what my time was on the first lap but I was in 3rd behind Chris and Bob.  The second lap I never saw anyone.  Then about 4 miles in my rear tire went flat.  I was in the section where you cross a creek several times and I just rolled the tire and burped out all the air.  I only had about 19lbs in the back tire so there wasn't much air to lose.  Luckily the tire stayed on the rim and I was able to air it up with a CO2 canister.  The only problem was I emptied the canister and it was the only one I was carrying.  I had another one I meant to put in my jersey pocket, but forgot it before the race.  That meant if I got another flat I'd be SOL.  The rest of the lap I just rode as hard as I could, trying not to roll the rear tire and hoping that the organizers were going to stop me and say they'd made it a 2 lap race.  As I was riding in on the paved trail I saw Chris and Bob going out again and knew I had one more lap.

On the third lap I rode pretty cautiously.  I passed a few lapped riders but my brakes were pretty much shot from the mud.   I figured I had 3rd place wrapped up because barring a mechanical I wasn't going to catch Bob or Chris.  Then when I got to the river bottoms where I had flatted the previous lap I was riding very carefully and noticed I had a rider behind me; one of the 19-29 guys.  I sped up and lost him only to have him catch back up to me later.  I sped up again and lost him for a few miles.  Then with only 3 or so miles to go I saw him again on a hill climb.  That time I took off and rode as hard as I could to the finish.  I was somehow able to put 3 minutes on him in that time.

When I finished I was covered in mud, couldn't feel my toes and felt exhausted.  I ended up in 3rd overall about 9 minutes behind Chris and 3 minutes behind Bob.  I was happy with the results but not happy with how I got them.  The entire race felt like work and while I'm sure those trails are a blast in good conditions, they were no fun for me on that day.

I haven't been able to find any photos from the race but if I do I'll update this post with a link.

Here's a picture of my medal:

Here and here are the official results.  Zdenek finished 2nd in the Marathon, Lori won the Woman's beginner, Brett finished 3rd in Sport 19-29 and Jesse unfortunately DNF'd because of a mechanical. 

My next race is the Ouachita Challenge in Oden AR on the 28th.  It's a 60 mile race and I'm really looking forward to it.  I just hope its warm and dry.  I did receive a package yesterday that will allow me to more accurately report on my racing:
It's a Garmin Edge 500 and I can't wait to start playing with it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job Mark, mud races are no fun for sure, not to mention the bike cleaning aftward. Good luck next weekend!