[Also posted at MTBVT.com]
Some mountain bike races races are little more than a road race with nicer scenery. The kind of races you’d expect to be dominated by guys with team kits that match the paint job on their bike, who have the upper body strength of your average 2nd grader, who talk about things like anaerobic thresholds, and who check their heart rate monitors like a teenage girl monitors her cell phone for Facebook updates. Treasure Valley Rally is not one of those races. This is the kind of racing where you look forward to the climbs in hopes to give your arms a break and you look forward to the descents to relieve your screaming quads. The course is made up of a relentless barrage of rock gardens that twist up and down through the woods in central MA. Every year, I swear, they must have Scouts out walking the woods all summer gathering up more rocks to add to the single-track for a merit badge, or something. It’s a tough all around course that favors bike handling skills and climbing power… and I love it.
This year they added two new sections to the course. The first was found early into the race and was obviously freshly cut. The surface was a bit soft and loamy. In spite of it being new and soft, it also managed to be quite rocky as well. Only at TVR. The second section started half way up the double-track climb and wound it’s way up to “the pebble” following a series of switchbacks and some really interesting ledge and rock features. This will be even more fun once the trail is thoroughly worked in. They are both great additions to the course.
Before the race, I learned that Shawn Mottram wouldn’t be racing in with the geared Experts instead of my class. That certainly opened up some possibilities for this race, at least in my mind. I’m a masher, not a spinner by any measure, but he was pushing a gear that even I wouldn’t attempt. I’ve gone the other direction by moving to a 32:19 which seems to be better for seated climbing than my 18t cog. That, paired with running 2.4″ tires, seemed to be a great combination for the day.
So, with a different lineup of riders than usual, our small single-speed class was unleashed between the Elites and the Expert classes. I managed to quickly work my way up into second place within the first mile or so. I hung on to this place for a while but gave up a few spots by the time we reached the pebble – a massive house-sized boulder at the high point of the course. I gave up a few more in the technical loop beyond the pebble, figuring that I could gain in the long run by pacing myself instead of blowing up early and merely surviving the second lap. Once the lead Expert class riders started catching me, I lost all sense of where I was in my class. By my calculations, I was in approximately sixth place but knew that I was just guessing. I rode the remainder of the lap pretty well, only walking a few of the climbs.
As I passed through the start/finish area to start my second lap, my wife informed me that I was in second place. That didn’t seem possible to me at the time. I rode much of the second lap entirely alone. That’s usually a good sign, further confirming that I might be in a good position. I was also able to ride at my own pace which often works in my favor. The pace had been hard and I was starting to feel the effects of fatigue on my biking handling. In the nasty rock gardens, I couldn’t find a good line if someone painted it on the rocks for me. It was like my front wheel was magnetically drawn the the largest, most awful rocks on the trail. The final climb back up to the pebble from the lake was painful; blinding, leg-burning, “why am I doing this to myself” pain. In spite of that, I somehow managed to ride more of the climbs on my second lap than I did the first time around.
With that final pebble climb behind me, I felt considerably more motivated to rip my way to the finish. I was still wrestling with some sloppiness but tried to focus on taking the smoother lines (where available) and keeping my momentum going. I actually started feeling better and seemed to be riding faster over the latter half of my final lap. On the last couple of miles, I was shadowed by an Expert rider who had an unusually loud freewheel. I could hear him behind me which gave me an extra push to keep the power on right up to the end. I fully expected him to blow by me once the course opened up leading to the finish, but he didn’t. I wheeled in at 2:16 for second place in the men’s single-speed category.
My daughter came in to win her race just a little while after I finished. She had decided to ride her fat bike on this course and it seems to have been a good choice. The fat tires just floated over the loamy stuff as well as taking the edge off the endless rocks and roots. She was having fun.
Team Bums puts on a great race. They even had a table full of watermelon waiting for us at the finish. Awesome. We had our choice of T-shirts or a BBQ meal with our registration, the winners in each category got prizes and they raffled off a couple of really nice frames from Carver Bikes. Attendance was down a little this year which was too bad because it was an excellent event. I swam in the lake, ate and just lazed around for a while before finally heading back home. Offical results are up on EFTA’s web site. This race puts me in second place in the overall points standings, at least until Moody Park. My Strava data for the race can be found here.