Monday, April 27, 2009

Bear Springs Trap XC Race Report

Bear Springs Trap XC
April 25, 2009

Cool and Sunny; significant snow cover in spots
24ish mile course on Mt. Hood

Bike Setup:
Steel Quiring 29er, Steel Salsa Fork
Specialized 2.3 tire front
WTB Nanoraptor rear
I9 Wheels
32x19 gearing

This blog started as a way for me to record information about my races. Since I am doing a few more XC races this season, I’m going to restart that practice.

I did not have a great start to this race. It wasn’t clear when the singlespeed race was going to start. A group of us were clumped together as the Pro and Cat 1 racers were starting. Although we had agreed amongst ourselves to wait until after those racers were away before beginning our race, we saw other singlespeeders take off and were forced to follow suit.

The race started out going up a long, steep ATV trail. There was quite a bit of snow on this hill, and most racers were forced to walk. I never start well, and this race was no exception. I saw a group of singlespeeders find a line to the far left, but I was committed to a line on the right and watched them move off into the distance. I spent most of the first mile running and dealing with traffic. By the time I got to some snow-free singletrack, I was a bit annoyed and had to focus on having fun and enjoying the ride. This mindset made for a better day on the bike but isn’t the proper mindset to win a XC race.

I spent the first four miles or so stuck with a group of about six riders. They were just fast enough that I couldn’t easily pass them, but they were slower than me in all the technical and uphill sections of the course. At the end of the start loop I was able to power up a long, technical climb and pass these riders. The rest of my day was spent chasing down the riders that had put time on me at the start.

I noticed that many of my main competitors suffered flat tires on this course. I saw at least three riders that I recognized from other races sitting on the side of the trail fixing flats or dealing with other mechanicals. The course was quite technical, with wet roots, sharp rocks, and a shale field that all provided the opportunity for problems. I was fortunate to have no mechanical problems on the day.

I was very pleased with my bike setup. Although the course was rough in spots, my decision to run a rigid fork was the right one. The combination of a fat 29er tire and my technical riding skills got me through almost all the tricky spots on the course. In fact, there were several spots on the course where I was forced to dismount because riders ahead of my on full-suspension bikes were unable to continue, although it was clear to me that I could have maneuvered over those obstacles with little difficulty. I think I could have run a gear that was one tooth harder; there were very few climbs on the course and I was able to sit down and spin up most of them. One tooth harder would have allowed me more speed on the road sections. I think I could have carried more speed in the bermed singletrack sections as well.

As always, the steel Quiring 29er performed flawlessly. Every time I ride that bike I think kind thoughts about Scott Quiring. The bike is solid; I never worry about the chain dropping and I feel like every ounce of energy I put into the pedals contributes to pushing me forward. Although the steel Salsa fork is heavier than my carbon fork, it was the right choice for this course. The steel fork inspires confidence in rocky and technical terrain; I just don’t worry about it getting damaged in a crash or from flying debris on the trail. I also felt good about the performance of the I9 wheels. While they can sometimes feel too stiff in a 24 hour race, they were perfect for the three-hour effort required for this event. The tires were also a good choice. I was very impressed with the Nanoraptor in the rear; it hooked up in the snow and mud far better than I expected and the low rolling resistance on the road and singletrack was greatly appreciated.

In the end, I was pleased with my performance. Although I was never able to get fully into ‘race mode’ I was able to do well enough to achieve 5th place, about 15 minutes off the leader and within 5 minutes of a podium spot. I’ll take it!


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