First race of the 2015 season, and first Mountain Bike race for me in Boulder Cycle Sport colours. I feel like I’ve been part of the BCS family for a little while now, even though it’s taken me a while to do an MTB race for them. They looked after me throughout cross season, and I got used to seeing a lot of teammates around at the races on the Front Range. So it was a little strange to be in Utah for the first race of the season, surrounded by unfamiliar kits, and definitely no-one else in BCS black and orange.
I decided I wanted to race before lining up at the Whiskey 50 in a couple of weeks, and some googling led me to the Intermountain Cup series. I’ve heard about their races before, and seen through the grapevine some fun courses, so I thought it was worth the drive. It was. I rounded up three other people and we packed into the Prius for the six hour drive to the desert, then packed four people into a hotel room the night before.
The race had an air of friendliness about it, maybe due to the small venue and few people around. We hadn’t had a chance to pre-ride the course, and that was my main apprehension – Moab miles are measured differently than elsewhere on the planet, and I was nervous lining up for 40 miles of unknown trails. Pre-riding a Mountain Bike race is recommended, and definitely important, but with little choice, I lined up with the mindset that the race would be a test, and riding blind just added to that.
The race set off at 9am under cool skies, with about 100 people total in the race. The Pro Men’s field was compact but fast, with a mix of local riders and a couple other fast people too. Bryan and I had definitely fancied our chances going into it, and we both knew we’d be dissappointed with a result less than a podium.
Justin Lindine, a Utah resident, clearly had his intention on the win, and it didn’t take long til it was he, Bryan and I at the front. He knew the trails, that much was obvious. I stayed with him for a while, benefitting greatly from his line choices and skills, but I knew it was only a matter of time til I made a mistake. And I did. A bobbled uphill corner had me unclip and scooter along til I could get going again, and at that point all I could see was Justin riding off into the mass of red bluffs ahead. Once he was gone, there was no coming back. My second wheel advantage was over. I ploughed on, now about thirty seconds ahead of Bryan. The possibility of that gap shrinking was what kept me going for the next two hours.
The trails were rough. As I was expecting. But there’s two types of rough. The fun, flowy, fast stuff that rewards bike handling, and then these trails that were lumpy in unimaginable ways. Wheel sucking, speed robbing ledges and pitches that did not reward momentum, and could not be pumped. I was thankful for my suspension for sure. The slickrock sections were just three miles long, but took over half an hour to ride on each lap. Slow going. With little idea of which direction the trail went next, it was very hard to have any perspective of how long I had left, and that was the hardest part. Coming around for lap two, the vague familiarity of the trails allowed a little bit of respite, enough that I could eat and drink properly. Something I definitely failed at on the first lap. Towards the end of the loop was a trail called the North40, definitely the best section of the race. On the first lap I didn’t have any ability to enjoy myself, with another twenty miles of trail to ride, but with just a couple miles to the finish and no sign of Bryan on my tail, I could ride a little more smoothly and find some flow. It was a good finish to the race.
I came in over six minutes down on Justin Lindine in first, which was a little disheartening, but I was pretty happy with my own race, so that’s what I’m going to dwell on.
The first race of the year is tough – there’s lots of things to think about with bike set up, body set up, food and drink. It takes a lot of organising. I’ve had plenty of time to ride the Scott this year, so I think this event went better than other first races. I’ve also been using Carborocket for four years now, so I didn’t get any stomach shock either. Generally, it was a gentle introduction to the mountain bike season, and I only expect that the year will get tougher from here on out. I’m looking forward to it.