Monday, January 26, 2015

Moose Brook Fatbike Race 2015

Mountain bike racing is tough.  I realize this every time I try it.  Sure there are plenty out on the course that make it look easy, but it's not.  Especially in the winter.  Your out there in below freezing temps, on heavy bikes, peddling through energy sapping snow, passing trees with inches to spare, potentially on ice, at speeds up to 20 miles-per-hour, pushing the limit of the 20" wide trail on flat tires.  Yup, that's fatbike racing.  And it sold out in about 24 hours too.  Of course I'm talking about this years Moose Brook Fatbike Race.
Whizzing Through Trees

This year was better than last year, let me count the ways.  First, I didn't have a broken clavicle.  This let me ride a closer to the limit than last year.  Second, it was a warm 17 degrees and while that may not seem that warm, it was tremendously warmer than last year.   Third, I've figured out the magic of tire pressure.  Actually, there is no magic, it's all a trade off between handling and excess power loss.  But I had it tuned in much better this year.  Fourth, there wasn't any ice.  And if there was I had enough studs to get over most of it.

Pre-Race Meditation

Race Time.  The pack was a little thinner than expected with 54 starters between the 2 races, 43 in the 16 mile race.  The conditions were very good for the race and the singletrack was well packed albeit fairly bumpy from walkers.  (Makes a not so subtle hint at a Bucksaw) The sections of snowmobile trail were softer but gave a great opportunity to pass.
On Your Mark, Get Set....
My strategy was the same as always, start slow, stay strong, and it worked.  I found a place near the back of the pack to warm up and worked my way up from there.  After much debate on whether to put the foul tasting water in the camel back under my coat or over it...I ended up with it over my coat...where it promptly froze despite trying to clear out the tube every sip.
( If you watch this video 8520 times and pretend 1/2 of it was uphill, that was the race.)

The 4 lap race format is nice both because it allows spectators a chance to see a lot of the race and you get to learn the course as you go.  The first lap is like a training mode for the subsequent trips around.  The narrow singletrack is tough for passing.  In places I was holding others back because my technical skill isn't up to par.  Not to mention that the original Surly Pigsley is not what you would call "Race Inspired".  But in other places those same people would be holding me back.  Overall people were very courteous and wouldn't let too much time pass before pulling to the side for a moment to let others get by.

Typical Single Track Section

Through the whole race I felt like I was holding my own.  Certainly not up with the top riders but riding with a group of very capable athletes.  I was riding along with the guy from Likin Bikin on his enviable full suspension (Bike Porn Alert) Foes Racing Muzt fatbike.  Fueled by envy alone I beat him by 20 seconds. :)
Bike Envy (Photo pilfered from Facebook)

Which brings me to the results.  I placed 20th out of 43 starters in the 16 mile race.  I had a laundry list of excuses in last years race where I thought I could make up 16 minutes of time.  It turns out I could make up 24 minutes.  Not too shabby, although some of that was the conditions.  Of course it left me thinking.  What could I do on a Bucksaw?  Either that or next year everybody has to ride 37.5lb Pigsleys. 
Stick a Fork In Me
The race itself was very well run just like last year.  There were enough pre and post race cookies to feed 200 riders.  I adjusted my cookie intake to make sure they didn't have too many leftovers.  The provided apr├Ęs race meal was an excellent chicken curry from The SAaLT Pub, Outstanding!  Check them out if you are ever in the area.

'Till Next Year...

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