Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wisconsin Stage Racing

I've heard a lot over the years about the good bike culture Wisconsin, especially around Madison, but the Subaru Cup would be my first mountain bike race in the state as well as my first stage race ever. The flooding that hit Iowa hard mostly left Mt. Morris, located an hour north of Madison untouched. I arrived on Friday night to grab a camping site and get ready for the cross country race the next day. That night I met a number of really friendly folks, including Jan, Ross and his daughter Anna who I tossed a frisbee around with for a while. Jan helped me out a ton the next day by letting me hang out in the shade of his pop-up tent instead of getting fried under the hot sun.

Cross Country
The Subaru Cup is a national calendar race and looked to have big fields, so I was excited to see where I would finish. Once I arrived at the start and saw the 48 people in the Sport 19-34 category, I realized I should have arrived at the start line earlier. After the top 10 in the series were called up, I ended up lining up on the 4th row with probably 30 guys in front of me. The race started out with an immediate climb up the base of Nordic Mountain that allowed me to catch up to the front guys within the first mile. After some initial shuffling, I caught up to the race leader whose name was Jesse and we rode together for the rest of the race. The course consisted of lots of rolling single track with several spots with tight corners and technical rocky sections but no long descents where you could rest. Whoever designed this course did a really good job of laying out the turns and picking the terrain. Jesse and I took turns leading, briefly chatting about strategy and the need to keep things smooth to ensure that we didn't get caught by someone from behind. On the final lap of three laps, I pulled away by a few hundred feet on one of the climbs, which Jesse closed coming into the finishing singletrack section. I exited the single track first and started my sprint as I heard Jesse swing to my right to start his sprint in the longer grass. We both threw our bikes across the line and I ended up getting first by an inch or two. That was definitely the closest finish I've ever had in a bike race! Our close finish meant that I had a .2 lead over Jesse going into Sunday's Super D and Short Track races and 3:30 on the guy who finished in third place.

Super D
Though Nordic Mountain has only 265 feet of vertical, it feels like at least 3 times that tall for some reason. For the Super D we would take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and ride down sections of the xc course in reverse to make for about a 10 minute race that was about 75% downhill. I managed to miss the start of my category, but the race officials were cool and let me start with the citizens group, which meant that I was basically on my own with no idea how I was doing in comparison to Jesse and the rest of the people in my category. The course was really fun with some great fast, flowing downhill switchback sections. I ended up finishing 17 seconds behind Jesse which moved me into second in the overall standings. I continued my Super D problems by missing the award ceremony for the race...looks like I have some work to do on my Super D just getting to the start line to start with.
Short Track
Like the Super D, this was my first Short Track race ever. The race would be really short, only 10 minutes plus 1 lap on a course that took about 3 minutes per lap. We lined up with all the age categories of the sport class, but this time I squeezed into a spot on the front line. I had a great start and rode in the front of race for a couple of laps before a junior rider passed me. I kept looking back and seeing the gap between me and Jesse opening, so I was just hoping that I would end up with more than a 17 second advantage. Every time I came through the start/finish area, the announcer would shouted out my name, place and that I was from Washington, DC, which I think confused people. On the second to last lap he blew up on the one steep hill on the course and I kept the pressure on to the end to finish 51 seconds up on Jesse.

When all the dust settled, I ended up finishing first in the Sport 19-34 stage race, 34 seconds up on Jesse. Overall this is one of the best put together races that I have been to. Everyone was super friendly, the trails were great, and the venue was perfect with good camping and access to the lodge. Even the weather was perfect with sunny skies and hot temps. I ended up the weekend with some sweet tan lines on my forehead from my helmet vents! A huge thanks again to Jan for lending me some much needed shade and a place to sit in between races!


ManCans said...

Hey Loren. Justin here, the slow WORS guy you met at Nordic! My legs finally woke up the week after Nordic and I had a better result thankfully. Happy to see your travels are going well. Best of luck as you continue on your way.


Loren said...

Hey Justin, glad to hear the legs are coming around. That was a tough weekend of racing for sure and not a course where you could sneak by without feeling good. I hope the rest of your racing season goes well!