Sunday, May 25, 2008

Coyote Hill Classic (VT)

Back in the late 90s when I first started biking I did a couple of mountain bike camps at Coyote Hill and rode on the Coyote Hill Team for a year, so racing at Coyote Hill was a bit of a homecoming experience for me. That and this was my first race in New England in almost 8 years, so I was looking forward to some classic rocky and rooty New England riding and the Coyote Hill Classic didn't disappoint.

After pre-riding the course the day before and camping out overnight (while getting well acquainted with the loads of black flies and going to sleep to the sound of trucks muddin' off-road nearby), I was ready to race the tough course, but unsure what to expect in the competition. I've been finishes around 10th place in Sport races in DC, but with fields in the 35-40 people when 10 guys lined up at the start, I figured my chances of breaking the top ten were pretty good.

Coyote Hill sits on a steadily sloping hillside nestled amongst rolling, verdantly green mountains of central Vermont. The rugged hills, which are matched by an abundant supply of tire-hungry rocks and roots, mean that flat sections are few and far between. The race started off with a steep half-mile gravel climb where one other rider and I were able to pull away from the main group. The other rider (I'll call him Tall Socks because he was sporting knee-high wool socks) and I ducked into the single track with a good gap on the riders behind and rattled our way over the undulating rocky and rooty terrain for about a half a lap until I made a few mistakes and Tall Socks got by me along with one other guy who was descending like a maniac and quickly took off with Tall Socks in tow. I rode alone for the rest of the first lap but was able to catch up to Tall Socks and the Downhiller guy by the top of the gravel road, only to be dropped again on the single track.

I was feeling like my technical riding skills had grown soft living in the mid-Atlantic when I got caught and passed by one more rider from my class. After he rode out of sight, I pulled things together and redoubled my efforts in the hopes of catching up. Riding through the grassy, open uphill switchbacks coming into the finish I spotted the crazy Downhiller guy up ahead and was able to close the gap between us to about ten feet by the finish, but I wasn't able to pass him.

So I missed out on the money (or the t-shirts and waterbottles more accurately) by 4 seconds! Shoot! Regardless, I had a great time on the tough terrain, didn't land on my head, got a chance to catch up with Tom Masterson who runs Coyote Hill and had a great time riding and cheering with the friendly folks from the Monadnock Cycling Club, Jacob and Dave.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

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