This weekend the DS was out of town and there were two state championship mountain bike races that I wanted to try and do. The first race on Saturday was the short track xc race. Sunday’s race was the cross country race. I’d been targeting the sunday cross country race all year because I’ve been trying to win a state champs race for three years with no luck, and I thought the xc race was within my grasp because I’d done well in a few other xc races over the last few years.
I gave my sister a ring about watching the kiddos for the Sunday race, and to my surprise she was game to help watch them on both days, which meant that I could make the weekend a double header. Alrighty then! First up: Saturday Short Track State Championships.
Short Track MTB sure is a curious cycling discipline. I guess it slots in somewhere close to crit racing, xc mountain biking, and cyclocross. The races are only about 30 minutes and are held on small circuits that include everything from open fields, traditional trails, motocross tracks, and whatever else they try to throw in. When they call it “short” track they mean it. The race flyer said 30 minutes, but the race actually ended up timing out at a bit over 25 minutes. With a duration that short, the “warmup” was accomplished with a quick spin around one lap of the course in the sweltering 100 degree heat.
The heat kept the turnout lower than average, and on the gun me and my merry band of competitors charged into the forest. I initially slotted in last in the pecking order going into the singletrack, and wondered if this race wasn’t going to go so well for me. I followed wheels for a bit and watched as the leaders one by one overshot turns and got caught taking some less than ideal lines. Every time one of them would slip up I’d avoid their line and swerve around them while they recovered. That worked pretty well for a “strategy”, and pretty soon I found myself in the lead.
The course was extremely bumpy because portions of it used horse pastures which were tilled up by hooves when muddy. The result was total jackhammer conditions that challenged you to hold on for dear life on certain sections. Some of the others were riding hard tails and some were riding FS. Right away it became clear that FS had a distinct advantage because you could recover better on the downhills and through the bumps on the FS while on the hard tail you had to work really hard through those sections just to stay on the bike and stay on the trail.
At the end of lap one I had built a roughly twenty second lead on the number two guy. When I heard that announced I tried to measure my effort more carefully in order to avoid blowing up in the intense heat. The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful in terms of details to recount. I lost and jammed my chain while downshifting and thought my race might be over, but a quick dismount and a good yank got it unstuck and back on.
On laps 2, 3, and 4 I stuck to the fast-but-not-crazy strategy, and each lap I gained another ten seconds on second place. When I rounded the final turn I heard my name announced on the loudspeaker as the winner and that my lap times were the fastest of the day so far. Huzzah!
I have to admit, even though this wasn’t long huge race with a huge field, it felt pretty good to go out and race, hold it all together, and stick it to the line. In some ways this race was a bonus race because I hadn’t planned on it all year and didn’t know I’d even be able to do it until a few days earlier, but it took a lot of pressure off of Sunday’s race just knowing that I’d finally snagged one of those state titles that I’ve wanted for quite a while.
I’ll do a writeup on Sunday’s race asap. Here are some pictures from Saturday: