Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bear Creek Challenge--Macungie, PA (5/31-6/1/14)

Short Track  (Photo credit: Bear Creek Mountain Resort)
I had a great time last weekend. Not only did I get to preview the course that Mountain Bike Nationals will be at, but I also had some really good results. And to add to that, I also finished my first pro race, and gained some valuable information about myself as a racer and as a rider.

I was as excited as ever to get to Bear Creek, because I had some unfinished business with the course. I arrived at the resort Thursday night, and was relieved to have finally gotten there after the 15 hour drive. I couldn't wait until the next day to finally get out on the course. After riding a loop of the course on Friday, I felt sure of myself and couldn't wait to get out there and race.

On Saturday I had two races, the Short Track, in which I raced Cat 2, and the Super-D, in which I raced Junior Open. The short track was 20 minutes plus 3 laps, which in the end came out at just under 30 minutes. Knowing this, I knew it was going to be the longest short track racing I've ever done, but I was determined to finish strong. Off the start, someone clipped my handlebars and I stumbled a little and didn't get clipped into my pedals right away. Even with this setback though, I kept pushing until I was in second place and sitting on the leader's wheel going up the starting climb.  The person I was following was an 18 year old road racer who was incredibly strong. Throughout the race he made monstrous attacks on me on the climb and on the flats. And after 4 laps of pushing myself the hardest I think I've ever pushed, I finally tired out a little and he got a gap on me. For the rest of the race, I turned myself inside out trying to catch back up to him, but he was slowly increasing the gap. Finally, after the 29 minutes of excruciating pain, I finished 2nd.

Short Track podium (Yes, I know I'm standing on the wrong side.)

After the short track race I was determined to keep doing well and have a great result in the Super-D. I had an awesome start on the Super-D and flowed through the hardest section. I had an almost flawless run apart from one section where my foot managed to unclip and I was pedaling with one foot over the second hardest rock section. Once I finished, I had a time of 4 minutes and 57 seconds, which put me in first place in my category (and the Cat 2 category), and would've put me in 13th in the pro category. Not too bad for a junior on a hardtail.

Super-D podium

Pro/Open staging
Now on to Sunday. Oh boy. This was probably the most amount of fun and pain I have ever had in one 3-hour time period. I lined up on the front of the starting line and prepared myself for the pain I was about to endure. Originally, we were just going to do a 90 minute race on a course similar to the course I'll be racing at Nationals. I knew that the lap times were between 20 and 25 minutes. So I figured about 4 laps at the most. While I was lined up, I asked the race promoter how many laps we were going to do just to be safe, and he told me that we were going to do 6 laps. Now I won't call myself a genius, but I'm pretty sure that even at the fastest, about 20 minutes a lap, 6 × 20min = 120min. That's at least 2 hours, not to mention that most of the racers would probably do more like 23-25 minute lap times. So we were going to be out there for well over 2 hours for an advertised 90 minute race. Apparently, the race promoter didn't realize that the extra sections he added increased the lap times by 5 minutes from last year's course. Sorry for the rant.

Back to the race. Off the line, I managed to have yet another bad start and I had to put my foot down and push off before I could go anywhere. Going up the starting climb I was sitting in 6th and managed to maintained it for about 10 minutes. From there, I battled it out with the other racers until the third lap, where I was getting passed on the flats and passing back on the grass climbs and technical descents. By the time the third lap came around, my legs were shot. I had to stop in the feed zone for a couple of minutes to get some fuel in me and recover a little. After that I went back out and suffered up the climbs thanks to having too big of a front chain ring. 

Photo credit: Bear Creek Mountain Resort
On the fourth lap, the leader passed me, so I knew I only had to do 5 laps instead of the dreaded 6. So I kept pedaling through the pain. By the time I had crossed the finish line, my total ride time, including my warm-up, was well over 3 hours. Even with that, I still managed to not come in last, getting 16th place, and even got prize money for coming in the top 20. This race, went from being an easy excuse to race the pro category, because it was a similar course to mine at Nationals and a shorter race than what I would've done in the cat 2 juniors, to being the longest and most painful ride I have ever done on the bike.  

In the money, with teammate Veda, who got 3rd in the Pro/Open Women

But other than that, I had a lot of fun hanging out with current friends and making new ones. I also had a great time being at Bear Creek for Veda's birthday and seeing her do so well in the Pro/Open Women's class. Also, a super giant thanks goes out to Matt Donovan for making this trip possible.

Next weekend, I go back to road racing practically in my backyard at the Ocala (Almost) Stage Race.