Rolling Thunder Cyclocross Race November 3rd

Monday, June 16, 2008

Discovery Mountain Bike Race - Who said road biking isn't good for mountain biking?

We had a great weekend at the Discovery Mountain Bike Race. The photos don't do the race justice. It was true mountain biking. Too often in cross and mountain, Montana races are flat, dry, and fast. Sunday's course rewarded technical riding. There was lot's of mud, water, and snow. Then, to really throw off the technical riders, there was a 3 mile forest road climb. I usually try not to throw a ton of photos of myself up, but my fiance was the photographer so I didn't have much to choose from.

More importantly, the winner on the day was Frank G. I love Frank's riding style. Just when you start to forget about him, he surprises you and takes a win. He did that during cross too. He kept placing high and not winning. I didn't mention him a lot and then all the sudden he took Helena and the State Championship. This road season he's been placing ok, but hasn't been a big winner. So, just when you think his form might be a little off, he comes back and steals the win from a solid field. Ever consistent John Curry took second, and Butterfield (who was killing it on the road sections) took third. I guess Frank the Tank road away on one of the descents and wasn't seen again. Doug Dale performed his usual Discovery tactics. Just like last year he went for broke on the first technical descent and had a solid gap going into the road climb. And just like last year his equipment/gear choice/partying failed him (Dale, your a good sport for coming out after Saturday night).

Other notables:

Downtown Joel Brown continued his rookie of the year campaign with a 2nd in sport. He couldn't overtake the always strong Thomas from GAS. In the ladies, crosser Michelle Richardson looked strong in the beginner. Soph SAK Kircos rode hard in sport to claim the only spot as did L Curry who came in with a great time of 1.58 for the course.

Cronicles from the back (long rant, sorry):

It was decided amongst the Missoula possie (Downtown JB, Horangatang, Dale, SAK, Mary, Connelly) that the key was to run the first part of opening climb. Some folks tried to ride it, but others like myself ran it. I ran behind Alex L for 50 meters. I decided that he knew what he was doing so once he hopped on I would too. This strategy worked great, but I was so afraid of blowing up so I rode easy for the first climb and tried to keep a couple folks in sight. Scotty passed me on the climb pretty fast, and I didn't think I could sustain his pace. So, more or less in the opening 2 miles I was with Alex L, Connelly, Herzig, and Sten (Muleterro). Down the first descent I saw Connelly, and immediately knew he had crashed. The kid is a wild man, and he was either going to be first on the descent by a huge margin or crash hard and be back with me. Our little group re-conveinced on the descent, but once we hit the rolly section Scotty was gone and that was the last I saw of him. Alex L. was pacing himself, and I thought I could pass him but I knew his strength and hesitated. I kind of wanted to follow figuring he'd pick it up and take me past people. Connelly flew past both of us and I thought to myself that maybe all those early morning workouts he'd been doing were paying off (I haven't ridden with C-man this year and didn't know his fitness). Alex, slowly climbed away from me and once we got to the road, I said good bye. So, alone again in a mountain bike race I had memories of last year riding two circuits and never seeing anyone, finishing dead last. I thought to myself at least the weather is nice and the mountain views are in full force. In mountain bike racing I always come up with little plans in my head. True mountain bikers just go hard from the gun and never stop. I'm not like that, I need action and tactics. So, once off the back I formulated my plan for the day. Unlike last year I knew this year had lots of technical riding on the back stretch. I am not as technically sound as Toby or Frank the Tank, but I knew for the back end of the field I was pretty good. So, once we hit the snow and mud I would go 100%. Maybe then on the second lap I could catch Connelly, Alex, or Herzig. The road climb was not a single speed's strengths, so I would go hard on the road climbs but even at my max rpm's I was still not close to my max power output, and therefore was getting sort of a rest on the climbs. With my plan in full effect I go motivated again and railed the first technical descent. On the road climb Sten from Muleterro came flying by me. This was not a slow pass, I mean flying by me, like twice as fast. It was a huge heartbreaker for me, considering I was spinning as fast as I could. I put my head down and stuck to the plan of going 110% on the technical section. My plan worked and I got Sten in the snow, and then passed him on the first snow hill past the finish. Talking to folks afterwards it sounded like the 29er tires had a bit of advantage. I kept thinking about Dave Hartman. He's a magician with his single speed 29er, and his secrets are balance, center of gravity, no fear and small stature. I knew I was small, and had ok balance, so all I was missing was the no fear. Through the snow sections I would repeat in my head "pedal, pedal, pedal." It was all about momentum. The last lap of the race I spun harder on all the road climbs, and took more risks on the descent. I had knew confidence from passing Sten and seeing Cass and Max at the start/finish area. Up every little rise I saw Connelly just about to crest. I knew the technical descent was coming, so I figured if I could keep him in my sight I'd beat him up the remaining climbs. Connelly is a great descender and I crashed hard trying to follow him. I was shooken up and took a pee break to try and relax. I said good bye to my chances of catching Chris, and kept looking back for Sten to catch up. He never did, and it made me feel better about the work I had put in on the technical sections to distance him. I got back on the bike with new confidence and spun hard up the road climb. I caught Connelly at the top and told him I'd let him lead on the descent. He led me through the all the technical puddles and ruts. I figured Chris would normally beat me through the snow section, but I knew he was tired or else I wouldn't have caught him on the climb. So, I powered away on the one of the tracks and tried not to look back. I repeated my chant again "pedal, pedal, pedal." I came across the line and felt great. I finished 7th, but that didn't really matter. The race reminded me of being in the sport category and really racing against folks. It was great doing battle with Sten and Chris. It made me remember why I like mountain bike races.

Good job to Frank, John, and Matt. See ya'll up in the fish!


Anonymous said...

I usually enjoy your blog. I follow the MT bike scene since I used to live out that way and have friends who race there. I am very disappointed to read your blog today. It sounded to me that the race at Discovery should have been canceled. Having a race in snow is not safe or smart - racing in snow is certainly not what we do out East. By not canceling the race organizers put pressure on racers to take unreasonable risks and choose between probable injury or risking their race standings. That is simply wrong and self serving on the part of the organizers, as well as other racers who just don't care about reasonable safety. Unless you plan to start a special "snow Mt bike race" then I would certainly not put much emphasis on who won and did well. THE REALITY IS THAT KIND OF RACE IS NO REFLECTION OF HOW WELL SOMEONE CAN MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE (especially when top riders in last year's race were not even part of this race because they chose to do what was reasonable and boycott an unsafe race...too bad more of the riders who also said they would boycott did not do so on race day).
Your point that this race has something to do with road bikers being good MT bikers is lost on me.

Shaun Radley said...

Round, thanks for your comments. I was unaware that there was a rider boycott. I don't mountain bike race a lot, but I thought it was a fun race. I apologize for offending anyone regarding road biking and mountain biking. Anyways, thank you for representing a side I didn't even think about. It's good to to hear from a different perspective.

Bill said...

Well I assumed it did not happen until I got the results in my inbox this morning. I can't believe these promoters put this thing on. It is not only dangerous for the racers but for our relationship with the Forest Service. I meet with the two promoters (Pete maybe), Garland T, Zephanie Blasi, Rich Chandler, and a guy I think named Thadeus at the gate on Saturday evening. Our attempts to pre ride were unsuccessful.

Us racers decided it was too dangerous for bike and body. We recommended that we get refunded and that they consider canceling the race. We understood they were going to attempt to pull it off though.

None of us showed up the next day because we assumed that it would never be held. We went on a epic ride instead.

I have left blood, guts, and skin all over East Cost and I can tell you that comparing this course to a style we have raced on the East Coast is comical at best (I know you were just throwing that out to flavor the blog). I have been in
more muddy and WAY more technical but never on slush, ice, and snow.

I must say I am little shocked by this post. I took video of the start finish area ==>

Bill said...

Shawn, classy response. I am little more emotional now that I know I missed out. I commend you on your open mind about "round"s post. I guess I was one of the boycotters ... although I never called it boycott, just "Decided to not race". Did anyone question the organizers on race day?

Shaun Radley said...

Thanks for the comments Bill. I was wondering where you were at the race. That all makes sense to me. I pre-rode with a group of beginners on Saturday as well. We did the small loop, and it took us 1.5 hr with walking and some riding. I had the same thoughts you did. However, I'm not deep enough in the scene to realize the forest service and safety stuff. I just thought it would be like a cyclocross race where we would run and ride. It turned out that there was only a couple sections we ended up running. We had a discussion at the beginning of the race regarding the start time. The promoters decided to push it back a half hour to let things soften up. They ran over the course with four wheelers, so there was always a patch of dirt to ride.

Sorry about the east coast comment. I didn't figure this post would stir up the pot so much. Guess I don't know crap about mountain biking. I did a cross race in Portland last year with lots of mud. We ran for a quarter of the lap. It reminded me a lot of that.

Thanks for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I have raced much more dangerous, dry, NORBA sanctioned events than what we were dealing with up at Discovery Basin. There was a some snow. Which in the event of a crash actually made it less prone to injury. If the percieved adverse conditions were a tipping point for you guys. Thanks! The course wasn't cluttered up with people complaining. IT'S A MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE. We had a blast... well except Scotty.


Bill said...

Frank where were you the night before the race when we had a discussion about the course? You could of talked us into it, how much fun it would be, and gave us a lesson on what is "Mountain bike Racing". We could of used your help!

Anonymous said...

In response to round's comment - the reality is, is that the semi pro/ expert group had some of the best cyclists in Montana. Yes, not all the top racers were there but the ones that were have the ability to win any race whether its a road, mountain or cross. The reality is, is that the guys at the front of this race will be at the front of the next race.
Bob Presta

Anonymous said...

Good report Shaun. That was a sweet, epic race. It's a race I will never forget. I think the promoter put in a lot of effort to make the race happen, and I'm glad they did. If they hadn't "set track" with 4 wheelers then the race would have been questionable. It ended up working out well, with only a few minutes of running in a 2 hour race (although lots of fun technical challenges). People showed up in good numbers and eveyone had a blast (I'm sure even Herzig had a little fun)! Regarding the safety issue, as Frank said, a fast dry course can be more dangerous than a slow wet one. At the end of the day everyone decides how much risk they are willing to take and races accordingly (or choses not to race).

-John C.

Anonymous said...

Bill, I lead a multi-dimensional life. Which to you should mean, I don't have the time or have chosen not to show up the night before a race to discuss conditions as a product of the value of that time. Thanks to you guys who dialogued in that forum. It is an important consideration. Had they followed your invaluable input. The headlines would have reported it this way the next day "Mountain Bike race cancelled because riders were to dismount and run 500 meters through snow and 70 degree temperatures on 10 mile circuit". I have been on many, many un-marshalled corners on the road that were much more dangerous than what we dealt with. End of story.


Anonymous said...

Well, since both John Curry and Franky G. both mentioned my name and fun in the same sentence, I have to respond.

First off, many folks crashed at Discovery and at least a couple of them still won. Very few people even finish a road race/crit/tt after crashing and they almost never go on to win. My point is that danger is subjective. I'm terrified going down hill in the snow on fat, knobby tires, but I'm comfortable riding a crit in the rain on skinny tires with a bunch of other guys. Danger is subjective.

If a person thought that the race was too dangerous, then they shouldn't have raced. They probably would have got themselves hurt. In order to make a sound judgement on a race course, a person needs to see it and ride it at race time. Judging from across the country or on a different day doesn't seem to be that effective to me.

For the record: I didn't win, but I didn't crash. Now that my bike and I are all cleaned up, I have to admit I did have some fun. I'll be working on my downhilling for Bohart. I hope it snows because I've got some experience with that now.

Thanks Shaun for a great site and thanks to the promoters for putting on a great/safe race.

Scott Herzig

Doug Dale said...

I usually try refrain from leaving comments but I can't hold back my feelings on this particular topic. 1) The race is at a ski area and it's june, of course there is going to be some snow, stay home and weed your garden if you're too scared. 2) Since when is a few inches of snow dangerous? We ski on it, drive on it, yet some of you are too scared to ride on it? If anything it slowed the pace a bit. 3) One more thing: What is the point of MTB racing if all the courses are safe and adventureless, it would get boring so quick. When I looked around after the race all I saw were mud stained smiles. It really comes down to one question: Are you ridin' or are you hidin'?


Anonymous said...

I was a little concerned for my safety when I witnessed a couple of pissed-off beavers building a dam in one of the ponds I rode through on Sunday, but they were content to simply make rude gestures and roll their eyes at the crazy human on wheels.