I recently sold my old TT bike, as well as my old mountain bike. This past Father’s Day weekend, I bought a Specialized Tricross Elite (more on that
in a different post). It’s essentially a cyclocross bike. But I decided to enter a mountain bike race.
Over the Hump is a local mountain bike series hosted Tuesday afternoons May through September. I signed up for the Beginner 2 Class (Male 30-39). Since I’ve never raced off road and I didn’t even have a proper mountain bike, Beginner was for me.
I think I expected the event to be fairly unstructured, but it was highly organized. Lots of tents from sponsors, food, beer. Full timing with RFID chips embedded into the number plates. Very cool. Close to 600 people if I had to guess. Not bad for a Tuesday night race.
Got there at 4PM to register and do some pre-riding to check out the course. Did a lap of that. Lots of varying terrain. Some flat, a few steep climbs, fire roads, steep sandy descents (rode the brakes on those…), few technical switchbacks, lots of bumps – which are tough without suspension. Basically a fairly fast course with a good mix of challenging sections. They do change up the course and direction weekly.
Race. It’s a wave start with the group; waves go 1 minute apart. The Beginners M30-39 went 8th (There are Beginners, Sport, Expert and Pro classes). There were 50 of us. I lined up in the 2nd row. Horn blasted and people shot out. I took it easy and stayed in the top 15 or so the first part of the lap. On one of the descents my front brake froze up. The lever was tight, and the brake was rubbing. I tried to ride, but it was rubbing bad so I stopped to try to fix it. I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, so I loosened the tension adjuster as much as I could and started going.
As soon as I started, the front end dove in and I was on the ground. Ouch. Got up. Regrouped. Took a few breaths and started going. I’m here to have fun right?
By the time I got going, I was probably close to last in my group (upon reviewing GPS data post race, I stopped for about 20s at the 8:00 mark of the race), and some of the wave behind us had passed me as well. But I felt good. So I started pushing. At this point had nothing to lose, so I just pushed and pushed.
Up the climbs my HR was around 176 – which is like running a 5k all out for me… I just kept my head down and pushed. I was able to make a lot of passes on uphills and flats, and some of the faster turns. The really technical turns and really bumpy sections were slower for me, but whatever. It’s quite jarring and sketchy with no suspension and narrow drop bars.
Into the 2nd lap I caught up to a friend (who had said he would toss his bike into the lake if I beat him…). He has finished top 7 every week; I figured either he was having a bad day or I was making up some serious ground. I told him not to throw his bike in the lake as I rode by.
Went along, passing, passing, passing… Finish was approaching and a guy in my group passed me with the finish line in sight. I didn’t sense his charge and couldn’t react. Turns out… I had been in 1st. He out sprinted me and I finished 2nd just 3 seconds behind.
Unbelievable. Turns out my 2nd lap, was the fastest lap of the day of all beginner groups (over 200 people). This was by far the most difficult bike race I’ve ever done. Harder than any TT / road effort. I’d equate it to running an all out 10k over steep hills. It was rough.
I’ve already signed up for next week…
And here are some additional photos my wife took.