This is my second time riding the CircumBurke Challenge. I missed the on-line registration deadline, so I showed up a little bit early to sign up. It was a good thing, because the registration line soon stretched up the stairs in the lodge. There were enough people that they pushed the start time back 1/2 hour because registration hadn’t caught up.
The turnout this time around was surprisingly bigger than last year’s. There were 145 bike riders preregistered but, by the time we lined up to start, it seemed like there were a LOT more than that there. There were only three or four other single-speed riders – not as many as I had expected for an event this size. I would be riding with a rigid fork on my race bike this time. I guess I was sticking to the theme of riding “old school.” I was really counting on David Tremblay to join me again with his rigid single-speed but that didn’t work out this year. It seems like he and I cannot coordinate a ride together at all lately.
They started us in the lower parking lot in front of the lower lodge this year. I’m thinking it was because the group was so large, but that’s just speculation on my part. The first two or three miles is just a long, steep climb and there’s really nothing enjoyable about it with the possible exception of the Camptown trail. I took off a bit faster than I would have liked so that I wouldn’t get stuck behind someone climbing slowly in the initial single-track. It worked out well, because I was somewhere in the top 10 when we finally entered the woods. The Camptown climb was almost fun, and we were soon on the old CCC road that crosses the main mountain. There were sections of this climb that were quite boney with loose rocks. Unfortunately, those loose rocks were all covered by a thick blanket of leaves which made keeping traction an interesting affair.
The CCC road eventually turned downhill. The descent goes on for at least a mile, which was a little more challenge than I expected with the unsuspended front end of the bike. This was mostly because of the leaves that obscured the ruts and rock. Still, it was nice to have a chance to recover from the long climb.
The descent was followed by more double-track. This placed us on some dirt roads out in Victory. We rode the roads for a mile or two before returning to the trails and the first aid station. The trail started out with a section of double-track that was quite muddy with large rocks hidden beneath some grass and weeds. I had to pick my line well and try to stay light on the wheels to prevent any unexpected hard hits. This lasted for about half a mile before things became a little more enjoyable. We hit another short portion of dirt road before getting back to the trails.
Soon after leaving the road, I took a wrong turn which led to a log road intersection which obviously was not intended to be part of the course. I had to turn around and back track a little. Once back on track, I was on the “never ending” single-track section of the ride. Nearly all of this single-track was freshly cut. I think a lot of this was the same as the single-track we rode last year, but some of it may have been rearranged. Some parts I recognised and others seemed like I might have been riding it in the reverse direction. I’m really not sure because I was completely turned around after about 10 minutes on those trails. Like I mentioned last year, these trails were really, really fun to ride. I love this section. The Jabber with the rigid fork was amazing in this stuff; the handling was lightning quick and I could pick my line with amazing precsion. It felt faster, even without the plushness of a suspenion fork. It would be great if Kingdom Trails could somehow make this part of a regular trail or route that was available to ride all year long. I mentioned this to Tim Tierney, the KT director, at one of the aid stations but he didn’t seem excited about the idea at that moment.
From here we rode on and eventually were on the Gold Trail. Things were quite a bit drier here than last year. There were a handful of riders that were in view now. I wasn’t exactly racing at this point but for all practical purposes, that’s how we wer riding. Over the next few miles, we traded places a few times and generally provoked each other to work harder. Eventually, I was riding with only another rider on a green, rigid 26″ bike. We stuck together through the North Pasture trail.
Soon the trail opened up to Magill Fields. Now I knew exactly where I was. We rode the edge of the field to to Pinkham Road. Once we crossed over to Trillium, I let the bike go and flew down the familiar trail. This was followed by the gradual descent down Dashney Rd and then to the Burke lodge. I finished in 2:22 which put me in about 6th or 8th place overall. Here is my Strava data.
After the ride, I changed into some dry clothes so I could sit down and enjoy the lunch from the grill. Very good food. It was nice to hang around and visit for a while after the ride. The weather was particularly warm for this time of year which made the whole day quite nice. I’ll be putting this on the calendar again for next year.
- Herb Swanson has TONS of photos on his SmugMug gallery (over 1000 now).
- A blog post by the guy on the rigid green 26″ bike. He did a second lap – most impressive.
- Finish times, and a few more photos are up on the event web site.
- I’ve added a pdf of the mountain bike finish times sorted by time here.
- A report from Northeaster Backcountry and another from a runner.