Fall is here!
Let's back up a little. I've been meaning to write a review for some time now from my last race of 2017, the Fall Classic MTB Race in Breckenridge. I simply forgot to write it for a while and then got busy with life and work but I'm finally finding the time to sit here and recap. I find a good deal of satisfaction when it comes to writing race reports. It helps me gather my experiences and formulate ideas about how I want to approach future races. I understand not everyone likes to write out their races but I would say try it out and maybe you too can benefit from recapping. Even if you never share your reports with anyone, you can create an organized race report library for yourself to help in future race endeavors.
Last year the I raced the Fall Classic and the weather was brutal. It was in the mid 40's with a steady cold rain coming down. The trails were slippery and wet and made for some high anxiety racing. This year was the complete opposite. Sure it was cool in the morning but the trails were tacky, dry, with the sun shinning through the trees. My confidence was also beaming as I was fresh off the Breck Epic the month before. So when it came time to race again on familiar territory in Breckenridge I was totally stoked!
I warmed up for the race on the course with my friend James. We chatted about the course, our seasons races, and it was a nice relaxing way to get ready for racing. The start is on French Gulch Road a couple hundred feet above Main Street in Breckenridge. The race goes right into a half mile lung buster climb that averages 12%. I always like starting a race off on a climb as it spreads out the group. I'm still getting used to riding near a lot of mountain bikers. I'm sure its the same feeling some of them have if they signed up for a Criterium with 50+ riders.
The field is already strung out on the first climb. I'm sitting 7 back in the white helmet.
The race started off fast and I was expecting it to from last years race experience. Right away on the climb the top group of riders were shelling those who didn't want to go out at a murderous pace. My legs felt good so I took the bait and latched on to the top 5-10 riders. At one point I even found myself on the front. As we crested the top and I was somewhere in the top 10 overall and felt strong, even though my heat rate was north of 185 BPM. The next section has a few short steep climbs but its mainly downhill on a double-track fireroad. I was descending much faster than last year and I caught up to a familiar rider who I had seen at the Breck Epic. We hit the first downhill singletrack section and I stayed right on his wheel although I could tell he was way more confident than I was. He seemed to float downhill so effortlessly whereas I was on the rivet just to hold his wheel. At some point I lost his wheel and he gained more distance on me during the fast downhill section.
By now I was all alone on the course but was having fun riding the same trails I had covered during the Breck Epic. Road or mountain it doesn't matter, when you know the area you will be more confident and understand how to pace yourself during different sections. The next climb started but was a moderate 6% for 1 mile (Gold Run Gulch Climb). Then it flattens out, before leading you into another insanely steep lung buster called "Heinous Hill". Its about one mile long with an average gradient of 12%. As I started the brutal uphill I was caught by a rider named Jason from The Adrenalin Project race Team. I knew him from past races and being in my category I really wanted to stay with him. He had paced himself better than I did during the early stages of the race and it was paying off. He passed me and I couldn't follow. For a tall guy who probably weighed considerably more than me, he was making this climb look easy. Right ahead of him was also a rider wearing a University of Chicago team kit who was currently in second place in my category (Expert 30-39). They were both out-climbing me and there wasn't much I could do about it. I just tried to pace myself and get over this climb and then focus on catching them later on.
Up and over this tough climb and you hit a series of short hills, fast downhills, and beautiful views of the surrounding National Forests. Boy do I love Breck! This led to a downhill section called Sidedoor. As I wrote in my Breck Epic report this is one of my favorite descents. Super wide flowing downhill, man its fun! After this descent it spits you out onto French Gulch Rd (Fire-Road) and you begin a long but not-so-steep climb. This next section which is about 3-4 miles is all fire-road. Half way through the climb it gets much steeper and leads you to the top of the Sally Barber Mine. Crazy to think decades ago miners carried all this mining equipment up these mountains and built mining dredges at 11,000ft. Although they destroyed a good deal of the natural habitat in the area, what they left were a series of trail systems interconnecting various parts of Summit County together. Perfect for mountain bike racing. At the top of the Sally Barber Mine you then hit a singletrack climb called Nightmare on Baldy. Its a tough climb but nowhere near as hard as Heinous Hill. Maybe its called Nightmare on Baldy because you have to climb for so long before you reach it. I was still on my own at this point except for some of the slower riders I was passing. I believe their category cut off the first section of the race course and that was the reason I was now catching them. I knew I was riding well even though I had not caught up to Jason or the University of Chicago rider. After Nightmare on Baldy, it was mainly flat with a mild 3% climb on Boras Pass Rd. I now started to pass a few more riders from various expert age categories and it felt good to leave them behind and continue powering up the road.
The last section of the race is pretty much all downhill with short punchy climbs but nothing too tiring. Towards the end, you go through the infamous river section which I had flipped over during Stage 6 of the Breck Epic. This time around I stayed on my bike the whole time!
I crossed the line with a time of 2:34:31. Good enough for third place in my category and over a half hour faster than last year. I felt I still could have gone faster on some downhill sections but overall I'm happy with the effort. It was nice to end my season in Breckenridge. Originally I had planned to race in Vail at the end of September but with some cold mountain temperatures I decided not to.
This year has been an eye opener for me in regards to mountain biking. I've learned a lot, met so many great people, and have a new found appreciation for those veteran mountain bikers.
2017 Race Results:
*Age Group Results
Battle the Bear - 3rd
Gunnison Growler (Full) - 4th
Firebird XC Colorado State Championships - 1st
GoPro Games XC - 8th
Winter Park Super Loop - 1st
Firecracker 50 - 2nd
Winter Park MTB Series #3 - 1st
Breck Epic - 2nd
Fall Classic - 3rd