2009 Norcross Scurry MTB Race Team Report - 8-29-09
The conditions were epic with T.S. Danny bearing down on New England just about race time. This meant that we had plenty of rain and that the trails were well soaked at the start. Temps were in the mid 60’s. The trails were primarily fresh cut so didn’t have a lot of standing water but the top coat of loam held the water making for greasy slick conditions.
The course was about 4 miles of mostly fresh cut, twisty, winding, old-school single-track with lots of technical features like rock gardens and stone bridge crossings. There was also about a mile of dirt road connector sections all together. Climbing surfaces seemed to be primarily slick to start and were just about down right impossible for all but the most adept circus performers to manage by the end. Fast lap times for the full loop were in the low 30’s to start but were in the mid 40’s by the end. This would have been one of the best courses ever, had the conditions not been quite so extreme.
Cat3 did two shortened laps, Cat2 did three shortened laps, Cat1 did three full laps and Pro did four full laps.
Excellent work everyone on a very, very challenging course with very taxing conditions. I’d have to say that this was definitely one of the most difficult races and courses that I have ever ridden. Once again great NEBC results for. Congratulations to Les and Kristen for their excellent finishes and the top podium spots. I’d also like to commend Keith and Cathy for battling sanity and their own personal demons to finish this race.
- Michael Rowell – (Pro/Cat1 Open Men – 5th)
- Keith Reynolds – (Pro/Cat1 Open Men – 8th)
- Wayne Cunningham – (Cat1 Men 40-49 – 7th)
- Cathy Rowell – (Cat1 Women 35+ – 3rd)
- Kristen Lukach – (Cat2 Women 19-34 – 1st)
- Les Bethel – (Cat3 Men 50+ – 1st)
Let me start off by saying just how much I like racing in the mud, let alone in the rain. We got both last Saturday. Oh well, what else are you going to do in a hurricane? The venue was great; a Boy Scout camp with a big lodge and a roaring fire. The course was rumored to be good so I was excited to check it out. We registered and got ready then went for a short pre-ride. It looked good with lots of tight, twisty, technical trail.
On the starting line it was lightly raining. The turnout was lower than usual but we still had a solid group including most of the top guys and Keith joined in the fun as well. We got our start and instantly I had mud in my eyes and could see nothing. In the first single-track climb it bunched up so I ran, and ran, and ran. We finally settled in and strung out to begin the personal battles with misery. The laps ticked by slowly as the conditions got progressively worse. I lost sight of those in front and those behind and simply went my own pace as is often the case in MTB races. Coming around on the third lap I stopped at the feed zone to grab a bottle and let air out, hoping for improved traction. As I got moving I noticed a rider coming up to me. That gave me incentive to push on, in order to stay ahead and put some distance in. This worked and got me to the last lap. I’d passed Cathy on the third lap and noticed she was suffering, as was everyone, but soldiering on. For some odd reason I seemed to be feeling better as the conditions deteriorated and for some masochistic reason, I found myself looking forward to the last lap. Shortly into the fourth and final lap I caught the guy ahead of me and managed to get by him and put so distance. Near the end I could see someone coming up to me so I pushed with all I had. It turned out that it was one of the race favorites who had flatted early in the race and had been chasing his way back up through the pack.
What occurred to me as I was wallowing through the mud is that in order to be proficient at riding let alone racing in adverse conditions, you need to train in adverse conditions. I tend to never ride in mud. Unfortunately, that is a hindrance. Tires and pressure are also crucial. Too little pressure and you flat, too much and you slip. This course was a flat waiting to happen but was also as slick as possible. I used mud tires that didn’t work well and had really high pressure. This is problematic. However, the biggest lesson to learn about racing in general is that in conditions like that, everyone has crappy traction and everyone is miserable. We are all dealt the same hand, it’s simply what we do with it that matters.
Rain prediction was an accurate 100%. Arrived warm and dry to the race but that would change. I knew turn out would be less, the mud would be more and my chances of pain were high.. so I signed right up for the pro/open, no question. I fiddled with tire pressure before the race, not entirely confident in the rear.
The start was a catapult of guys hitting the camp roads with high speed. I had wondered if we’d find any frazzled campers, but I guess they were probably staying dry if even camping in a hurricane was permissible. Water was flying everywhere, up from the tires and down from the sky. I literally couldn’t see much other than the big obstacles; rock walls, limb-lined bridges and taped off sections that kept me in-bounds. My rear tire started to burp air & Stans due to last weeks damage, by the end of the lap I was trail side making a fast change with renewed confidence.
Mud crept in everywhere; brakes were dragging, eyes were blurring and feet were sopping. I would run up the buttery hillsides and run across some of the hairier rock sections. Even so, I ended up touching down with my feet ahead of the front wheel preventing a topple. Another time I wasn’t so lucky. Then I was just waiting for the rotors to drag free of the silt. Eventually on lap 3 I got a little more than I had hoped, very little brake contact now that the pads were completely worn. The trails were tough going on foot or bike.
The final lap was a mental battle more than anything; in these conditions you just have think positive! So there I went, running up hills and sliding around corners. Straight to the finish and then to clean up and eat with the team where we swapped war stories and warmed up. Unforgettable.
This being a new race I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. The area was excellent for a mountain bike race: good parking and facilities.
I had never raced in the mud with the tires I had on my bike. During warm up I could tell they were going to be a challenge. Right from the start of the race at the first climb I, like many others, was off my bike and running the hill. Once I got to the top and started descending, it felt like I had snow saucers instead of tires. The bike was all over the place with only a vague sense of steering. I got caught up behind another rider and had to get off my bike only to lose momentum and contact with the others.
While surfing the mud was fun with both tires sliding out at unexpected times, running up all the hills was not. Unfortunately, though, your only choices were spinning out your rear tire and having to get off or grinding a larger gear at a slower speed then running and burning out your legs at the same time.
It was not a good race for me but it was fun to ride in a hurricane. I definitely will go back again next year… though I hope there won’t be a storm again.
Thanks for reading.
This race was miserable. After last week’s epic climb-fest, I didn’t think anything could possibly be as difficult – I was proven wrong. Riding a technical MTB course in a tropical storm is anything but fun. After two laps, I was ready to call it quits. I didn’t care about my finish, or the series at that point. Coming through the start/finish, I checked in with Jill who said it was up to me, but that the other two were out there for their third lap. I looked longingly at Aleksandra (she races Pro, and was smart enough to call it after 2 laps), and went out for the third lap of my race. I don’t know how to quit, unfortunately. So, I endured another hour plus of walking, running, slipping, sliding and some riding before finally finishing another 3+ hour race.
Fun? Nope. Not even now, five days later :)
For about an hour before my race, I sat in the car watching miserable, dejected cat 1’s and pro’s amble slowly through the start/finish area and grudgingly head back out for more laps. It started raining even harder. I got changed into my kit and began shivering even though I was still mostly dry. I put on my heavy, long sleeve jersey and knee-warmers then checked the calendar on my phone to make sure I hadn’t slipped into a coma and woken up in late September(?). Nope, it was still August. With about 9 minutes to go before the gun, I finally got out of the car and put my bike together, threw on my helmet and high-tailed it over the staging area. Wayne was just finishing up his race and stopped by to say hi, as did MKR who informed me that I didn’t want to be informed about the trail conditions. Both guys were absolutely dripping mud. I really wanted to go climb back into the car, crank up the heat and go home.
There were six cat2 women altogether, four of whom were in the upper age bracket. We headed out into the woods and directly into gobs of nasty, slimy mud and everyone was off their bikes and pushing up the first hill. I got the reverse hole-shot and was rewarded with a nice big clump of mud directly in my right eye. Lap 1 was miserable. I kept thinking that there must be places where the mud would be less deep and there just weren’t any. It was three or four pedal strokes, then off the bike for some running, then back on the bike in places where the trail looked like it might be ridable, but it wasn’t, so three more pedal strokes and I’d be off again. It was faster to stay off the bike the majority of the time and so I ended up running at least 4 out of the first 5 miles, pushing a bike that just kept getting heavier and heavier. Progress was very slow. Toward the end of the lap, one of the marshalls pointed behind me as I passed by and said sometime like “There are a bunch of yellow jackets back there” which I interpreted to mean he could see a bunch of Cyclonaut racers or someone from Biker’s Edge. It turns out he meant the kind that sting but I spent the next 20 minutes looking over my shoulder, panicking that I was about to get lapped by one or more of the guys.
It’s odd how I always seemed to be surprised at the course layout and level of difficulty, even when I read the description ahead of time. I must haveread the description of the expert course for the Norcross Scurry, rather than the cat 2/3 course. I was expecting it to be extremely difficult butit turned out to be mostly fast single track with some technical sections thrown in, and no sustained climbing. The weather forecast called for torrential rain, but it turned out to be moderate, and the course was drier than expected. I lined up with the over-40 cat 3 group, which really did seem to have lots of novices. Most of the better riders have upgraded by now. The under-40s left a minute or two earlier. Our group did two 4 miles laps. My goal was to keep pace with Claude who has won several of these races. He and I have sprinted for the win twice in the past. I easily went ahead of him in the early going, and I attempted to gain as much time as possible before hitting the technical sections where his skills are better.Each time the trail looped back I could see that I had only a 5 to 10 second lead. I got hung up in a moderately technical rock garden that I really should have ridden cleanly and he came by me. We were continuously passing riders so that he would build a lead after passing, but then slow down while waiting to pass the next rider. But then he crashed crossing a stream at the end of the first lap and I came by him. I went as hard as possible to build a lead. I didn’t see him until after the race when I learned that he had a problem with his seat that caused a big delay.
I rode the second lap more aggressively. I went as hard as possible through every technical section with the mind set that I’d either crash or make it through. These weren’t extremely difficult, so I wasn’t taking that big a chance. I assumed that Claude was still chasing me close behind. I didn’t make it through a few of the sections cleanly, even a couple of relatively easy ones. I alternated between being happy that I was in the lead, and being disgusted with myself for not riding the technical sections better. The marshalls on the trail said that there was only 1 rider ahead of me with about a 20 second lead. With a bit more than a mile to go I started to see him ahead. He dismounted and ran through every technical section, butthen really went fast on the easy sections. I put everything into catching him even though he and I weren’t in the same age group, and hadn’t even started at the same time. I gained time on each technical section and then lost most of it on the fast sections. With less than a half mile to go he dismounted to run up a rocky incline. I came by him and gave it everything I had. Unfortunately I had little to give. The last part of the course wasfast and he came by me at approximately twice my speed. He was quickly out of site and finished well ahead of me. I later learned that he was in the 12 to 18 age group. It was almost 10 minutes later when the next rider inmy race finished; these really were beginners. I suppose I’ll ride the last race as a cat 3 and then race cat 2 next year. That will allow me to secure 2nd place in the points series, although I’m not sure that 2nd place is meaningful.