Sometimes you act on a whim. While poking around on the EFTA forums, I discovered this little race in Sandown, NH. I had pretty much considered the race season complete for me with the Treasure Valley Rally last weekend, so I wasn’t really looking for anything more. Still, it sounded like it could be interesting. I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to do it since it was located in southern New Hampshire, and I didn’t want to drive that far. When it was mentioned to my daughter, Emma, she responded enthusiastically to the idea. That tipped the scales back in favor of the race so we were going. It would give her a chance to compete in one more race (hopefully) without the problems she had at Treasure Valley.
The race itself was set up as a two hour race – whoever completed the most laps in two hours would win. This is somewhat similar to how cyclocross races are generally done. Personally, I find this to be a little demoralizing because, in a “regular” mountain bike race, I motivate myself to go faster so the race will end sooner. None of that here. Still, it was quite enjoyable.
The course was arranged in two loops each connected to the start/finish area like a lollipop. The first loop was connected by a double-track split with a yellow ribbon down the middle. It was a small climb up to the loop from the start. From there, it was a general downhill for the first half with a mix of single-track and some incredibly wet double-track. The wet sections weren’t merely muddy but were really large puddles that we had to slog through. Although many tried, it wasn’t possible to avoid the water by riding around on the edges; that just made it more muddy. There was no way of getting through here without getting drenched. It was inevitable. From the low elevation point, the course climbed back up for the remainder of the loop on a gradual incline double-track.
The second loop was connected by a section of single-track. For some reason, I found this to be a bit confusing. We were negotiating a segment of trail with riders going in two directions with minimal room for passing. It did work out; but I was so disoriented in the winding trails, that I couldn’t figure out why I was meeting riders head-on until I had done a few laps. This second loop was far more technical than the first. Even though it was a bit shorter, I think it took about the same amount of time to ride. It was almost entirely single-track. There were more rocks but it wasn’t brutal by any measure. There were several steep drops paired with short, tricky climbs. It was pretty fun all around.
The turn out was pretty small but that wasn’t too surprising considering the short notice of the race announcement. There were less than 20 riders and only two of us on single-speed bikes, myself and Kevin Orlowski. Several of us had raced the Treasure Valley race last weekend. It was actually rather nice to have a small group where we could hang out and visit a bit.
The race started out at a pretty quick pace. I hung back on the initial climb and listened to a couple of other riders encouraging Kevin to shift. By the start of the first loop I had started to pick up my pace a bit and began passing riders without shifting myself. By the time we were in the second loop, I was catching up with Jesse Taylor. I settled in on his wheel for a couple of laps. He was maintaining a good pace, and I didn’t see the need to push much harder at this point. Our lap times were around 19 minutes.
Starting with the second lap, people on the sides kept telling us that we were “gaining on Andy” or that “Andy is only a minute or so ahead.” This kind of thing continued throughout the race. Who is Andy? On the third lap, I decided that I would pass Jesse and see if I could catch “Andy” and any other rider that might be ahead of us. As I passed, I asked if he knew how many riders were ahead of us. “Just Andy.” Wonderful. I still didn’t know who Andy is. Was I supposed to know? I rode the next three laps essentially alone. I was occasionally lapping other riders but there wasn’t anyone else with me. I met Emma a few times as I raced along. She seemed to be doing well. Andy and I must have been keeping roughly the same pace as spectators were occasionally telling me that he was about a minute ahead of me.
At some point in either my fifth or sixth lap I smacked my pedal into a rock pretty hard. In doing this, I dislodged one of the retention springs so that it would no longer hold my left foot to the pedal. I soon learned just how much I depend on my cleats for pulling up on climbs.
I completed my sixth lap just before the two hour cut-off. I was told that Andy had gone out for a seventh lap just a minute or two ahead of me. At this point, there weren’t any other riders near me and I could have quite safely stopped here and held on to my second place. Still, I couldn’t let go of the chance that I might be able to take first if I could catch him with one more lap so off I went. Between general fatigue and the broken pedal, I was not able to reel him in on that final lap. In fact, he was able to gain on me a bit and finished three minutes ahead of my final time. On the more positive side of things, I maintained a 19-20 minute pace very consistently throughout the entire race.
Emma had a pretty good race overall. She had a little difficulty on her first lap with getting lost on the second loop. I’m not entirely sure how it happened but she managed to ride the second loop twice on her first lap. This set her back a bit but at least on her second lap they let her skip the second loop. This basically balanced things out so that she did two complete laps. She was the only female to complete two laps so she had that going for her.
Once the race was over, I actually met Andy Gould. The awards were given out shortly after I finished. Apparently there was some confusion in what was supposed to be provided for prizes. I don’t think anyone really minded since the race was so small and there weren’t any huge expectations to begin with. Andy Gould took first, followed by me in second and Jesse Taylor in third. They did award a prize for one rider who rode over the big teeter-totter every single lap. That was cool. I didn’t even know the thing was there due to my racer’s tunnel vision.
Emma got the best prize, a box of cupcakes, for being the only female to finish two laps. I’m jealous.
Final results should be published on-line tomorrow. For now, this is a photo of the score board after everyone was in.
After the race, there was a little festival of some sort. Good food.
Update: Kevin also wrote a nice review of the race on his blog.