Monday, July 18, 2011

The Horror at Harding Hill Mountain Bike Race

If you're a promoter and you're trying to draw people in to your race. The title here isn't exactly the way to go. I know years ago in the mountain biking heyday there were all kinds of names like this. But maybe we should consider that it's different times these days. The steep entry fee had more than a few of us grumbling also, especially when you consider EFTA doesn't accept USAC licenses and so theres an additional cost tacked on as well.

I guess while I'm listing grievances I should also say WTF! to the promoters of the EFTA series and the Rt. 66 series. It seems like week after week we have mountain bike races on the same day. That is just stupid, it hurts everyone, most of all the promoters themselves. Mountain bike races don't exactly bring in thousands of entrants to begin with, so to put two well established series races on the calendar on the same day is inexcusable. If they looked at how all the cyclocross promoters communicate to avoid this exact issue, they'd see that its completely avoidable, and that they'd enjoy more $ in their pockets. Anyone thinking about a mountain bike race on any given day would have just the 1 option. Anyway that reminds me of a post I'm working on for Cross season and all the races we have there as well.

Onto the actual race. I hit the snooze on my alarm clock at 5 AM. I got up at 5:09. Whats with the clock makers cutting the snooze factor by a minute? I feel so ripped off when I can hardly get my eyes open. I guess nothing is safe from downsizing these days. I got out the door and on the road by 6 thinking it would be 3 hours drive time. (Elite race was at 10) To my surprise I got there in 2-1/2 leaving time for a pre ride lap since it was only a 5 mile loop. It was warm already.....I don't like warm. Hot is obviously worse. Opressive is downright disagreeable. I was scouting out a nice quiet place behind a huge dirt pile to drop the deuce when Matty O rolled up in his SUV and started laughing at me with my little roll of TP in my hand. Good times!

I'll do us all a favor and skip ahead a bit. Matty, Ski, and I kitted up and hit the trail for a pre ride. Matty had done this race about 10 times already and I'd never seen the course before, not sure but I think Ski was a "rookie" too. It was after 9 when we started and it was now officially hot and looking like opressive was a strong possibility. It didn't take long riding to be sweating profusely and I wondered how smart the 5 mile pre ride actually was. I wanted to see the course though so I carried on.

The course had a little of everything, it was pretty damn sweet actually. I felt like it suited me well but I was a bit paniced about the heat. I only had one gel left to my name and those babies are key in the heat. With just minutes before the start I went on a mission so sponge a gel or two from whoever was feeling generous. The boys at the NEMBA tent reconized the despair on my face and produced some power bar gel bloks (they're version of Clif Bar's Shot Blokz). I was greatful to them for hooking me up because I thought that might even be better than a gel since I could use them 3 or 4 times. Thanks guys!

The horn sounded and we were off. Matty took the hole shot and in no time it was the same 3 guys that pre-rode together racing up front. Matty was killing it as is customary at the begining of mtn. bike races. He carried on for quite a while and I just kept thinking that it was WAY too hard to try to do 5 laps like this. Half way into the lap I let Matty and Ski go in a measured risk sort of way. If they could keep doing that they were easily gonna mop the floor with me. Andy Gould who raced lap 1 with Matty and I in Moody Park came along and he was riding pretty fast also. I got on his wheel and tried to recover. I soon discovered that I like riding behind Andy, he selected some great lines and was smooth. Smoothness is paramount in mountain biking sucess. He seemed to want to go after those 2, but I told him they went out too hard and to just chill with me for a while and we'd see tham again on lap 3, 4, or 5.

On lap 2 I was already overheating and my jersy was completely unzipped and flapping in the wind. I hate how that looks and think it's pretty 'unpro" but I had no choice. It also makes finding the things you have in your pockets pretty hard too. I went to the front on a fire road and just turned up the pressure ever so slightly. By the end of that lap Andy was just off and I could catch a glimpse of Matty and Brian every once in a while. The gap stayed between 20 and 25 seconds. Then we hit some major lapped traffic. I'm usually pretty polite when I come up behind someone, I know they're race is important to them, but the way the rule is written is that the slower rider has to actually pull over and give the trail to the faster rider if it's single track. One guy just ignored several requests for some leeway and then flat out said "If you're that good go around". What a dick! It was in the most technical, rooted section out there and momentum is everything. I finally got by with a hairball pass that he left me no choice, but to try, and then without the momentum I needed I bobbled a root section and had to stop. He screamed at me to move out of his way as I was trying to get off my bike, Ya right buddy! He came to a stop and then couldn't get his foot off the pedal and had a slow motion tip over into the mud. That was awesome! I said "have a seat" as I took off. That cost me some time, but I still had more than 3 laps to start riding harder.

On lap 3 I turned up the pace just a fraction again, and less than half way through the lap I saw Matty coming off Brian a bit on a climb. I bolted past Matty and got up to Brian's wheel. He was going strong and I was content to follow for a while. I eventually went by and just tried to do my own thing, there was no attack, too far to go. At the very end of the lap there was a small rock pile that we had to hop up onto to continue pedaling out onto the field and finish/lap area. Brian did something behind me and I heard him say argh or something to that effect, so I put in a little pace increase to start lap 4 also. The plan was to ride harder each lap, but when I got to lap 5 with about 20 seconds on Brian, it was all I could do to just keep the same pace. Cramps were twinging through my legs everywhere. I was really scared I would end up on the ground clutchin at a leg. I simply couldn't push it. I kept checking to see if he was gaining on me, but he was having similar issues, as was everyone, I found out later. Lap 5 was a death march. I kept it going carefully and I was definitely still having fun with the course, but I knew one slight muscle contraction could spell the end of all the fun.

It ended up being uneventful for most of the lap, and I cruised in for the win just 30 seconds or so ahead of Brian. I'd say Matty was just another 20 or so behind him. The temperature had hit the 90's but the humidity was high and there was no breeze, especially in the woods. Racing a mountain bike in these conditions at full effort for 2 hours is something you oughta try sometime if you think you're pretty tough. Humility is good for us all.

Oh, it turns out those Power Bar gel blocks are almost impossible to swallow. For some reason the makers decided they'd be easier to swallow with a big chunk, of what felt and tasted like chalk, pasted onto the bottom of each one. I used to have PowerBar as a personal sponsor back in my Triathlon days and they're a great company....but this is a huge FAIL. It took me half a lap to get 2 of these little crud burgers down. Not to be ungreatful to the guy that gave them to me, but wow! Those things suck!

Thanks for reading, JB


the bully said...

Nice post, rider that gave you the blocks was Carl Devincent. I agree gel is the way to go. As to EFTA vs Route 66. Staggering seems like a good idea. Better idea, I would like to see is a Northeast Championship and a standard categorizing. Seems like the entire country uses Cat 1-5. How about the top 10-15 riders getting an invite.

Alby King said...

I'm giggling. Thanks.

SteveS said...

I have to believe that if it was all about putting money in their pockets the promoters would have "figured" it out. The horrible truth is that from May 15th to Labor Day there's at least one race (sometimes 2 or even 3) every weekend in New England with the exception of July 4th. I suppose you could race on Sat but would you get that many people doing the double? I just find it funny how often people complain about having too many good mtb races in the area.

As for the $4 day of EFTA license I think someone who doesn't feel like dropping $60 on a USA cycling licenses (required for cat 1) might have a different opinion.

Great write up, though. I always enjoy your race reports.

Peter Jantzen said...

I agree with your sentiments on letting faster riders pass, as you came by me during my 3rd lap in CAT2 doing Mach 1, but you clearly said "Rider" to me and passed me with no drama. Anybody that holds you up at your level is a clown and needs to HTFU.

Jonny Bold said...


Thanks for the back up, but the last thing I wanna do is start calling people clowns. That might discourage people from wanting to go to mountain bike races. I did have a few choice words though in the heat of the moment.

It goes for everyone too. If you're a sport racer passing a beginner they have to give way, same for a sport rider with an expert coming up behind. I think we've all experienced saying "on your left" only to see the rider move to the left. I've actually had a very heavy crash because of that. In my mind it's easier to let the slower rider know you're there, then the rider can go wherever is easiest for him/her. Yesterday lots of riders were mad at me because they said "which side, I can't read minds". But I also can't see the trail because they're blocking it, so it's hard to say which side is better. I know it sucks to have to stop, but thats the rule. We go through all the racers in the field so your competition has to deal with the same thing, which should make it all come out even in the end.

Maybe a little explanation of how to actually execute this by the promoter at the start line would help get everybody on the same page. It's a major issue in every race.

I also think we should all line up according to category, but when the gun sounds we all should go at once. That way it would take a lot longer to actually catch the beginners and sport riders and some we would never catch. I think it'd sort out in no time after the start.

Raineman said...

Nice race. You have uninformed and intolerant comments though. You may want to refer to the EFTA Member Handbook and Rule of Racing regarding passing:
"6.6 Lapped riders must yield to leaders. Leaders should verbalize the command “track” when overtaking another. It is the responsibility of the challenging rider to overtake safely. You must yield to the passing rider on the first command.
6.7 In the event two racers are vying for position, the leading racer does not have to yield his/her position to the challenger. However, a racer may not bodily interfere, with the intent to impede another racer’s progress. Traditional rules of racing apply: the leading racer does not have to yield his/her position to the challenger. However, a racer may not bodily interfere, with the intent to impede another racer’s progress. Traditional rules of racing apply: the leading racer owns the track."

You have many complaints and sound like you have little respect for other racers.

Jonny Bold said...


I have to appologize to you. It seems there are definitely some clowns in our midst.


Are you kidding me? I linked the EFTA rule book in the post. Those aren't just different color words, they're a direct link to further explain the topic I'm discussing at that moment. Talk about being uninformed!

Furthermore the rule 6.6 says in the first sentence that LAPPED riders must yield to leaders. Thats basicly all you need to read. Thats the topic here....LAPPED riders. It goes on to say they must yield on the first command. I don't know how that could be any more clear.

Ignoring the commands and then flat out being a wise ass/dick by saying "if you're that good go around" is a huge display of disrespect to a fellow racer.

Rule 6.7 refers to 2 riders in the SAME CATEGORY vying for position, in which case it's race on. It's 100% irrelevant to the lapped rider rule.

You're probably the DB that held me up intentionally. If so, YOU need to learn some respect. Anyone that knows/races with me, knows I show respect. What I don't respect though, is ignorance or ignorant people. You sir are in that category.

SteveS said...

Come on, guys. Play nice. Lets not escalate the war of words. It doesn't benefit anyone.

Eiric said...

First congrats on the win and I hear you @ lapped riders. At the Big Ring Rumpus I yelled three times to get a bunch of riders spread across the trail to move. I was polite and used the line I learned from Lynn Bessette "Course Please"

Chris Gagnon said...

Nice work and awesome recap. Sorry I missed the race but was playing with cougars and bears. 2 hours of racing in that heats is brutal but 24 hours in it back in 2005 was simply insane. Stay strong.

Fred said...

Completely agree with your sentiment RE: lapped riders.

While I'm certainly not an Elite, as an Expert rider in this race I passed many Sport and Beginner-level riders, and while most were pleasant and quickly yielded the trail, one guy -- possibly the same one that gave you a hard time -- absolutely refused to let me pass him, and of course it was through one of the rooty, twisty singletrack spots. In the end I had to make an a-hole pass maneuver to get around him. It didn't cost me the race by any means, but this seems to be happening too regularly, and was a splotch of unpleasantness on what was an otherwise very enjoyable race.

Jonny Bold said...


Yes I agree, 95% of people getting lapped are super cool about it. It's too bad a few don't get it.

Thanks for stopping by, JB

thierry said...

Speaking of race names affecting the enthusiasm of prospective racers, here's one nearby in upstate NY that I'm amazed the promoters still haven't smartened up and changed: Hike-a-Bike. Yeah, OK, I'll definitely be putting that on my calendar...