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Sorry, The Lift is Out of Service

Sorry, The Lift is Out of Service

Ski hills - I must have a love hate relationship with them.

In 2015, Mt. Morris I did great, WORS CUP Cascade Mt. not so good, Treadfest Grand Geneva great again. This year was no different. I think it has to do with the layout of each course; Mt Morris and Grand Geneva have a good mix of single track and leg burning climbs. Cascade is almost one-dimensional in that you’re either climbing or descending. They are all equally tough, but something about throwing tricky technical aspects into the mix just get my batteries charged. So it was no surprise I was going to have a good race this past Sunday at the WORS #9 Treadfest. How I going to place? Well that was the only mystery.

We have a ringer, Jamie, in our midst this year, though he is not entered in the series; meaning he doesn’t accumulate points for the year-end win. Jamie has been taking top step for much of the year. I did beat him at CamRock by zipping through some technical loose rock section and dropping the hammer to stay ahead. Other than that he has finished with a pretty good margin above myself and the other two top competitors in my age group, Todd and Brian. Sunday was no different.

The key to this race is the start - Get up the side of that ski hill as fast as you can. Once you’re up then its right back down again. Recovery is short because the course goes up a second hill - not quite as steep as the first. Once your legs have burned off and you’ve maxed out everything your body can handle you descend into some sweet single track accented by short punchy climbs. Momentum is crucial in punchy climbs. If you don’t carry enough speed to the top you”ll stall and either fall or waste a lot of energy trying to get over the hump.

Jamie and Todd broke into the lead. Brian and I trailed behind. The course is set up so that it crisscrosses back and forth. I could see Jamie was creating a gap so my goal was to stay with Brian and see if we can rope in Todd. New to the course this year is an uphill section of 7 switchbacks. A switchback is a trail feature that gets you either up or down a steep slope and aids in preventing trails erosion. Picture 180 degree turns on a CX course, then imagine having about a 2 foot width of track going either uphill or down at a pretty steep angle. Add in some loose dirt and reduced speed it becomes a test of balance and power. Sometimes going downhill on a switchback can be even more intimidating than going up.

As the race progressed I lost Brian when he stalled on a climb and fell to the side. Checking to see if he was injured, I got the ok to leave. Knowing Brian, he would be on my tail soon. Aside from the climbs and switchbacks there is one more obstacle to tackle; a short steep “rock-pile” climb with a nasty trait of loose gravel. Mountain biking is a game of seconds. It is so important to stay on the bike; falls or a foot down can cost those valuable seconds. Both my attempts at this feature were successful. I was lucky not to have traffic commonly found at these obstacles. I was able to gather steam on the firmer lower section, then scoot way up on my saddle and will my way over the top.

Now were getting into the last lap. As I come around the corner I find Jamie walking the course with a flat tire, big break for us all. Todd is the only one left to catch and motivation is high with Jamie out of the game. I was feeling great throughout the race, feeding off some tasty black cherry CarboRocket fuel. I pass my best supporter and private paparazzi Yvonne. She yelled out “25”! But all I caught was “5”. Four more single-track sections and I was able to make up the seconds I was behind. Todd was in view. Being aware of my presence, he tried putting slower traffic between him and I.

As we exited the last single-track section we rolled side by side up the double-track. After some friendly banter I took to the front thinking, “A short descent and then it’s an uphill battle to the finish”. I gather as much momentum before the steep climb and just went all or nothing up that final hill. Topping the steep section there is a false flat followed by a short up-grade. Todd made his move there. I saw him off my shoulder and resisted the temptation to get up out of the saddle. At this point the key is to get all the power possible. As I peaked the top I start downshifting, getting ready for the sprint to the finish. The Niner RKT is an amazing bike. As soon as you stomp on the pedals you are moving. It did not fail me this time. I hit the bottom of the hill and charged to the finish. I crossed the finish with a 2 second lead for the win.

Brian, Todd and I are neck and neck in the series standings. So having a first place finish is big for me. And doing it at Treadfest is big too. Treadfest is one tough course, a trademark of the Treadhead Cycling team’s trail builders. Grand Geneva trails were once exclusive to only Treadhead members, but are now open to the public. The cost is $10 dollars to ride there, but I can guarantee you will not find anything like it in Illinois. A big thanks goes out to my supporters Half Acre, Johnny Sprockets, CarboRocket and Mad Alchemy. They were all part of my day. My biggest thanks to Yvonne, the support she provides before and during the race have been a big key to my success. Introduce yourself and you’ll most likely end up in her camera lens out on the course.

~Rich Baumgarten

Dust, Descents, and Downed Riders at Treadfest

Julie, Erica, Adrian, Chris, Tim, and I represented HAC at Treadfest last Sunday. The weather was on the warm side, but otherwise beautiful: clear, sunny, and dry. Too dry, as we’d all soon find out.

I met up with Jason on Saturday afternoon to pre-ride the course. He had already done a lap by the time I got there and was losing air out of the stem on his front tire. He swapped out the tire and we were on our way. We got out to the start line and Jason turned to me, “I don’t think you’re going to like this course,” referring to the climbing, especially at the beginning. (I seem to be getting a reputation as an anti-climber. I assure you, dear reader, that I do not dislike climbing as much as I simply prefer descending). I took the lap slow, so I could make mental notes of where I needed to conserve energy, where I could pass, good places to take a drink, etc. My bike started acting funny half way through my test run—ghost shifting in the rear and chain rubbing on the front derailleur. I ignored it for a while. That is, until my chain broke on the last climb before the finish line. With Jason’s help, we took a couple of links out of it and I was back in business. By that time, Jason went home and I took another lap. My bike was still acting funny, but I made it through my second practice lap ok. I stopped off at REI on the way home to get a new chain and then spent the better part of the evening working on my bike. I replaced the chain and futzed around with the derailleurs until they were close enough.

By the time I got to Lake Geneva on Sunday, Erica was on the course riding in the beginner race. Julie was warming up by running up and down the hill, because Erica had the Spot and hadn’t crossed the finish line yet. The rest of us were admiring Chris’s shiny new Specialized Stumpjumper 29er, so white and glistening in the sun. Chris and I took a short warm up spin around the tarmac of the Lake Geneva airport. It was fun to see all the cyclists taking over the runway of this tiny airport.

Warm up over, we lined up and waited for our start. Maintained by the Treadhead crew, the course was a great balance of climbing and technical singletrack. A successful racer would have to have good legs and lungs as well as good handling skills. The course was mapped out on a downhill ski hill at Grand Geneva Resort. Off the starting line, racers wind around the front of the hill and began the first climb. I started out in the middle of the pack, but toward the back. As we all hit the first hill, racers thinned out, but I got stuck in the slower pack. The first climb levelled out before rising again and turning down and to the right. As I came around the front of the hill again, I hit the first descent—a narrow, reasonably steep piece of trail cutting across the face of the hill. Here’s where being toward the back of the pack hurt. As racers hit the first descent, there was a traffic jam as people tried to get into single file. After flowing down that hill, we raced around the bottom of the ski lift and around the back of the hill. We hit another climb, this one longer and more torturous than the first. At the top of that hill, another traffic jam. The trail made a sharp right down a loose, steep chute. The more timid racers got hung up at the top of the chute while the more aggressive among us cut across the inside. The result was a little scarier than the promoters probably intended. The singletrack began at the bottom of the chute. And what singletrack it was: fun, twisty, and technical. There were off-camber turns, logs, even a small ladder bridge. The singletrack was broken up by periodical doubletrack, which allowed for fast passing, taking a quick sip of your water bottle, or trying to clear some of the dust from your mouth. The topsoil of the trail was light, loosely packed dirt. It didn’t take much for the fine grains to become airborne. With each passing tire, more and more of it was in the air. We all breathed it in. It blocked our vision (I think it made me faster, as I couldn’t see obstacles in the trail and thus rode right over them).

The technical spots in the trail meant lots of riders down. I passed Adrian after a downhill with a series of drops took him off his bike. After that, I worked hard to pass as many riders as I could. The fewer people in front of me, the fewer to fall—not to mention the less dust I’d be eating. A bee took Chris out of the race. It flew right into his jersey and stung him. Fortunately, he wasn’t allergic, just a little annoyed.

After three laps of inhaling much dust, my legs were burning and my lungs were aching, but there was a big smile on my dirty face. Julie crossed the finish line not too long after. It was one of the most fun courses I’ve ridden this year—by far the most fun of the WORS courses I’ve done. And when the dust settled, I took 12th place in my age group, my best showing in a WORS race so far.

 -Paul-Brian McInerney