Monday, July 12, 2010

OMBA Caramba recap

This weekend was the OMBA Caramba mountain bike race at the Sac River Trails in Springfield MO.  The race is part of the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It was pretty cool because most of the Springfield bike community pitched in to support the racers; Springfield Bicycle, A&B Cycle, Queen City Cycles, Cycles Unlimited, Sunshine Bike and Kuat Racks were out in force.

I've been looking forward to this race for a long time.  Several years ago I learned how to mountain bike at the park and one year ago I did my first XC mountain bike race there which got me hooked on the sport.  I really wanted to do well and have been training on the event's course for the last couple months.  I was probably more nervous coming into this race than any I've ever done.  I've done more important races but I wanted to win this one more than any of them.  

We got some rain in Springfield on Thursday which was just what the course needed.  It had been so dry that the trails were getting pretty dusty and the corners were getting a little loose.  It's a trail system with few straight lines and if you can't carry your speed in the corners then you'll wear yourself out quickly and feel like you're fighting the trail. 

I knew going in that the 8 mile laps were going to take over 40 minutes and with the heat I didn't think one bottle of water+heed would be enough for each lap, so I took my folding table out onto the course at the 4 mile mark and set it up next to the trail with 3 bottles.  That meant I would get a bottle at the start of the lap and another at the middle of the lap.  I would not be dehydrated and could save weight at the same time.

I was hoping for a great turnout with a field like we had at the Mo State Championship games in St. Louis a few weeks earlier.  There are a lot of really fast guys in St. Louis but they have so many races on their home turf that they don't have to travel to race and many of them don't. But a handful did show, like Tim Kakouris  (who won Brommelsiek 2 weeks earlier), and Rock Wamsley.  Travis Donn  and several others made the trip from KC and Dan Miller from Columbia.  Also my Revolution Cycles Racing teammate Jeff Yielding made the drive from Herman.  Some of the Springfield notables in attendance were Cale McAninch and Brad Huff. I think there were 15 or so total Experts that signed up.

At the starting line I was between Tim and Dan.  When we took off the 3 of us were at the front and Tim let me take the lead heading into the singletrack.  For me that was huge because I know those turns so well I can ride them without braking and I didn't want anyone in front of me.  I hit the first section of switchbacks pretty hard and was at the top of the hill by the barn in about 8 minutes.  I was winded but I knew there wasn't anymore climbing for a few minutes.  On the steep climb to the outer loop I lost Tim and I was alone for the rest of the first lap.  I just rode everything as fast as I could trying to take clean lines and gaining as much time as possible.  It was pretty cool because Beau and PJ were at the junction by the barn where we passed by twice per lap.  They were there to give out water if anyone needed it and they were cheering me on like crazy.

Near the end of the lap on the turn that leads to the levy trail, I took it at full speed really leaning into it.  For some reason my rear tire washed out and it caused me to oversteer. I laid the bike down but not before running into a tree.  The tree struck the head tube on my carbon fiber bike and it scared the crap out of me.  Luckily it didn't do any damage, so I jumped up and ran up the hill to the top of the levy.  Unfortunately there were people there taking pictures so I felt a little embarrassed and wanted to say "I can ride that section, I really can!".  I finished the first lap in 41:14 which was the fastest I've ever recorded.

On the second lap I continued to ride hard and built up a couple minute lead.  Then on one of the turns about 25 minutes into the lap as I was really leaning the bike I rolled my front tire off the rim.  That's a testament to how well the rocket rons hook up.  I run a fairly low pressure on the front (about 20psi) and that tire just sticks like glue.  So I flip my bike over, pull the wheel off, check for thorns, find one, pull it out with my teeth, take the stem off the rim, put the CO2 together and hit my only spare tube with some air before putting it in the tire.  As I'm doing this Travis, Cale and then Tim ride by.  They each offer me some encouragement.  After getting the tube in the tire I re-seat the tire bead in the rim and fill it with my remaining CO2.  Luckily the tire holds air so I put the wheel back on, stuff everything in my pockets, flip my bike and off I go.  In 4th place.

I used my only tube and CO2 in the repair so if I flat again I'm done for the day.  I ride the rest of the lap as hard as I can without further incident and finish it with a time of 49:51, so I figure I spent at least 5 minutes on the repair.

At the start of the 3rd and final lap there is a long straightaway with a gradual climb and I could see Tim in the distance.  I didn't know if I could make up much time but my goal became trying to catch him.  I was feeling pretty good but I had to focus on staying on the trail in the corners since I couldn't risk another flat.

I caught up to Tim right where I set up my table with the water bottles.  I followed him for a while and when we got to a hill climb I made my move and passed him.  I rode as hard as I could to get out of his sight and he didn't try to hang on.  Then, about a mile later I saw Travis.  When I caught up to him he pulled to the side of the trail to let me pass.  He said Cale was only 30 seconds ahead and asked where Tim was.  I said about 30 seconds to a minute back and took off to try and catch Cale.  We were getting near the end of the lap but there was a section of tight twisty singletrack just ahead where I usually ride pretty fast and I thought I could catch him there.

I was right and I caught up to Cale about 2 miles from the finish line.  He sped up to hold me off and there weren't any good passing places so I followed him for a while.  I didn't want to have to sprint to the finish so right before the section with the drop, I hit it hard and made the pass.   It was a little sketchy because right after I passed I had to cut him off to avoid a tree next to the trail.  I apologized for the move and got a little worried because the effort made my left quad twinge with a small cramp.  I rode hard to keep him from hanging on but couldn't go all out because I didn't want my leg to seize up.  After a few minutes I looked back and he wasn't there so I slowed a bit and just focused on finishing.  On the last climb before the finish line the cramp on my left leg flared back up and my right one started talking to me as well.  It was worth it though because I won the race.  My time for the 3rd lap was 45:26 for an overall time of 2:16:40.

As usual the post-race festivities were fun and since there was a big raffle just about everyone stuck around.   I had an awesome day and even though I would have preferred not to have had the stress of the flat, I'm glad I was able to come back from it.  Granted I had a HUGE home field advantage knowing the trails so well, but I'm very happy to come out on top.

Ryan and everyone did a great job with this race.  Made me proud.

When I find any photo galleries or official results posted online, I'll update this post with links.

I'm going to miss the next couple races on my schedule because I'm leaving Friday for the seven day Durango to Moab Hut to Hut.  It should be an epic journey.

My next xc race will be 8/8, the Trailblazer Blitz at Spanish Lake

There's some great news on the Springfield Dirt Crit front, but it deserves it's own post.  More to come.....

UPDATE:  Queen City Cycles has posted some photos on Facebook.:!/album.php?aid=191633&id=67598378356

UPDATE2: Tyler Meinecke found some great pictures from the event.  Here's me at the drop:

Check them out:  


  1. Nice job this weekend, sounds like it was a good battle.

  2. I'm picking you for the hut to hut win! Great racing this past weekend, you were definitely the fastest guy out there...Cale

  3. Great race!! I participated as well, didn't finish nearly as well as you did however... Any ideas on whether or not there are pictures from this race?

  4. The only photos I've seen so far have been on Queen City Cycles facebook. I updated the post with a link. I'm hoping to find the ones taken at the drop on the first lap. I caught some pretty good air there.

  5. Hey Mark,

    Enjoyed the blog... as well as the race on Sunday... I found a link with some nice shots of everyone hitting that jump about 3/4 through the race.... Check it

  6. Congrats Mark. That's a big step.
    I said "Oh No!" out loud when read the part where you rolled your tire. Coming back from a mechanical in those conditions is huge.
    Enjoy the hut-to-hut. That terrain is epic.