Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Reforestation Ramble

The Brown County Reforestation Camp in Suamico is my favorite place for mountain bike racing. I won my age group as a Cat 3 in a WORS race there in 2012, and there’s no WORS or WEMS venue I have raced more frequently. Today I placed 11th of 22 in my age group and 64th of 160 overall in the Cat 2 (Sport) WORS race. Whenever you don’t win, you should be at least a little dissatisfied and certainly I would have liked to place higher, but I’m OK with today’s result because I know it was the result I deserved.

Tim Grace (Heavy Pedal Velo Club) won the 45-49 age group in 1:41:57.3. Next was Bob Zimmermann (Team Pedal Moraine) in 1:42:54.0. With just three races remaining, Bob is second on series points and today edged a little closer to Jody Arlen (Bike Connection), who couldn’t compete due to a scheduling conflict. Overall, today’s Cat 2 men were led by 32-year-old Marcus Gagnon (unattached) of Deerfield, who finished in 1:37:09.6.

My time of 1:48:06.9 was the product of a very consistent effort:

Lap 1 — 53:52.8
Lap 2 — 54:14.1

I had a strong start, and with more than a mile of ski trails before the first section of singletrack I put many of my rivals behind me for good. This year’s race combined familiar trails in unfamiliar ways—there are many possible configurations at the camp—and I was happy with the course. I’m not a great technical rider and this was not a technical layout. On Lap 1, true to form, I lost most of the places that I was going to lose. Top rival Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) got around me by the midpoint of the lap and I figured I wouldn’t see him again. Near the end of the lap I was happy to follow Matt Keon (Colectivo Coffee) through the last sections of singletrack.

Keon beat me by more than 2 minutes in the 3-hour WEMS race at Suamico back on June 7. He is a better technical rider and the WEMS race featured more miles of singletrack. But today I was faster on open terrain and early in Lap 2 our brief collaboration ended. I might have continued to follow him through the singletrack, but I couldn’t wait to reach it. Keon went on to finish in 1:50:38.5, good for 11th of 16 in the 40-44 age group and 79th overall.

Alone, I began to pick off the riders ahead of me. For the most part they were younger guys who had started in earlier waves, but I got a big confidence boost when I went around age group rival Jeff Hatton (Titletown Flyers), with whom I have a long history of closely contested races in both mountain biking and cyclocross. Unfortunately, my steady progress then hit a snag behind a junior racer who was being paced by an adult companion through the singletrack. There was no room to pass two riders working in tandem, so I waited for the next section of ski trail. The delay allowed another age group rival, Ernie Huerta (Vision Cycling), to make it back to my wheel. Huerta and I then caught a small group that included Jeff Wren. A well-timed pass allowed Huerta to get into the next singletrack section before me, and he quickly opened a gap. Wren was just behind me, but after the race he confessed that his tactics then shifted to consolidating his place rather than challenging me on the wide-open ski trails that were about to take us to the finish line. Huerta came out of the last singletrack section with perhaps a 10-second gap on me, and, significantly, with another rider between us. Racing in the 50-54 age group, Dave Reich (Team Extreme) was now a buffer for Huerta and time was running out. I out-kicked Reich before the finish line but fell short of Huerta by 1.1 seconds.

What’s Next?

After pre-riding the Reforestation Ramble course yesterday, I went to Ryan Park in Kewaunee to check out the trails that will be used for the WEMS race next weekend. I’m glad I did, because now I know that they aren’t trails on which I should be racing just before the start of the cyclocross season. A more technically expert rider will enjoy all the rocks and roots, but I could see only the potential for injury in a race I wouldn’t win in a series whose points championship I am not contesting. Looks like my next mountain bike race—perhaps my last one in 2014—will be the Northern Kettles Fall Epic at New Fane on Sep. 13. That race will feature plenty of rocks and roots too, but at least I know where they all are!

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