Last weekend, members of the Half Acre Cycling mountain bike crew headed up to Mt. Morris for the WORS Subaru Cup and a weekend of racing and fun. Overall, HAC represented 17 times throughout the weekend across all three events: XC, short track and Super D. We raced with heart and when the mud settled, we took home three medals and a little sunburn.
<b>Saturday - XC</b>
Saturday, we all woke up early. None of us had pre-registered for the race. Bad idea. We got to the registration desk just after 7am and the line was already almost out the door. Jen M, Julie A, Tim, and I had an 8am start. I felt my usual pre-race jitters at the starting line. Having just returned from a hiking trip out west, I had barely been on a bike in the past two weeks. I settled down and told myself to just have fun with it. And fun I had. With a loud “GO!” we were off. The sprint out of the gate thinned out the pack for a bit, which thinned out a little more as we hit the first climb. The lead group formed out in front of me as we headed toward the first (slight) descent. By the time we reached the singletrack, the lead group started to pull away.
I was third in line in the second group going into the singletrack, which started as a set of switchbacks up the hill. The leader of our group burned all his matches sprinting out of the gates. He was fading fast and taking us with him. He eventually yielded and let a bunch of us pass. We reached the top of the switchbacks and cut across the hill. Ascent finally gave way to descent as the course entered an open field at the top of the hill. The descent began as a zig-zag over loose sand. Negotiating that took us into a technical singletrack section that included roots, ruts, and drop-offs. A few more short, technical sections and the course spit us out into some grassy double-track. The ground was soft, so there was no reprieve on the flats. The course arced around the based of the hill and then back up. Another set of switchbacks took us halfway back up the hill. A long, straight climb took us the rest of the way. Then it was back down to finish the lap. The laps were short (about 4 miles), but slow-going. For the entire race, I averaged about 9 miles an hour and climbed just over 1000 feet.
I crossed the finish line 1:13 after I started. A short race, but I was exhausted. I finished in time to watch Jason and Gerrerd start their race. I watched my teammates writhe in pain as I had done on the course a short time earlier. By now, the course was drying out, but the temperature was rising steadily. The humidity didn’t hold back and by the time the second sport wave was racing, conditions were hot and sweaty. HAC ladies rocked the Cat 2 races: Jen M took 4th in her age group; Julie A took 5th in hers. The men didn’t do too bad either. Jason and Gerrerd took 38th in their respective races. Tim DNFed due to the heat and complete lack of sleep. I came in 12th in my age group. Once our races were over for the day, it was time to celebrate. We regrouped and headed back to the cabin to clean up.
Cleaned up and well-fed, we headed back to Mt. Morris to watch the pros race. By then, Julie P, Ben, and Dan were there. We joined them and staked out a spot to watch the races. We got there in time to watch the second half of the pro women’s race. It was fun to see how fast the pro ladies took the course, climbing the hill as fast as I descended it. After the pro women’s race, the pro men began to line up. Watching the pros race was definitely a highlight of the weekend, but you can find coverage of their race elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the fans were out and loud, cheering the pros on as they rocked the course.
<B>Sunday - Cat 3 XC</b>
The next morning, several of us got up early to head down to the Cat 3 race, which Jeremiah and Jacob had entered. For Jeremiah, it was his first mountain bike race since separating his shoulder last year at Chequamegon. For Jacob, it was his first non-youth race. No more kiddie short track: Jacob raced against the big boys. HAC had a great showing in the Cat 3 race. Jeremiah took 7th in his age group and Jacob took 10th (and was the last rider to make it through the strict cutoff!).
<b>Sunday- Short track</b>
Next up was the short track, AKA the “hurricane of pain.” Julie A was our sole female entry, but crushed it to place third and take home a medal for her efforts. Al and I started in the same race, 12 minutes plus one lap. Never have 12 minutes felt longer than while on the short track. Al lined up on the front line. I lined up right behind that row. As the race started, riders flooded out of the gates. I was pedaling so fast I couldn’t clip in. As the wave of riders converged on the middle line of the course, my front wheel caught someone’s rear and I came unclipped from my other pedal. I was now straddling my top-tube and pushing myself along on the ground, trying to regain control of my bike, and watching everyone ride away. When I finally got control of my bike and fully clipped in, ¾ of the field was in front of me.
That’s when the pain started. I pedaled as fast as I could and quickly passed a bunch of riders. I continued to pass people through the first two laps. By the third lap, the group had settled in. Somewhere around the fourth lap, Jen shouted that I was in the top ten. WooHoo! All that pain was paying off, but there was still five minutes and at least three laps left. I caught up with Al with about two laps to go. He was holding on and managed to finish third in his age group (also taking home a medal for HAC). Later he told me he went of the line too hot. I rode out the remaining two laps battling for position with another rider. He eventually got passed me, but I did manage to take seventh in my age group. Not bad for my first shot at the “hurricane of pain.” Gerrerd raced the Cat 2 short track next, but got pulled from the course. Ben entered the Cat 1 short track and met the same fate.
<b>Sunday - Super D</b>
The final event of the weekend was the Super D: a modified, extended downhill course. Jacob, Jen M, and I represented HAC in the event. We took the lift up to the top and pre-rode the course down. It was tight and technical, but a stone-cold blast. I couldn’t wait to get up there and charge at it full speed. The organizers sent us down the hill in 12-person heats. As such, we stood at the top of the hill a good hour before launching. Jacob’s group went off first. After a couple more waves, Jen’s group went off. After a bunch more waves, my group lined up. I got a good position on the line. At the “GO!” I was off and sprinting toward the singletrack. I pulled ahead with about 10 yards to go. I realized at that point that I could be first in the singletrack and first down the hill. I charged ahead and entered the course first in line. I heard the clanging of chains hitting chainstays as my adrenaline kicked in.
I knew at this point that the wave lead was mine to lose, so I calmed myself down and focused on picking good lines and cleaning all the obstacles. Oh, and also having fun. I bunny-hopped a couple of logs, hit a couple of the jumps with some heat, and bounced through the rock gardens with a big smile on my face. All along the way down, I could hear my competition breathing down my neck. I cleared the singletrack and shot out to the bottom of the hill. I scrubbed a little too much speed coming around the base of the hill and had to pedal hard to get back up the short climb. Recovering, my heart raced as I continued to sprint and mash gears toward the finish. As I hit that first climb I could no longer hear anyone behind me. I was alone and I was sprinting toward the finish. I pumped my fist as I crossed the line first in my heat! Glory was not mine that day, however. Three riders a heat after me took first, second, and third in the Super D.
Jen M saved the day for HAC. She was the downhill hero on Sunday, taking third in her age group as well as a medal. Congrats to Jen M, Julie A, and Al for winning medals for HAC. Special thanks to Julie and Gerrerd A for being such awesome hosts and offering their cabin. And thanks to WORS and all the volunteers that showed up to make the event an overwhelming success.
!http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/4747568722_f6499f3d76.jpg! (photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19091172@N02/4747568722/"Amy Dykema</a>)