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The Firecracker 50 - Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 7/9/2002
The Firecracker 50 - Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicles
 

I woke up early this past Thursday morning wondering how I was going to spend the 4th of July holiday.  Since just about all of Colorado is under a severe fire warning, almost all firework festivities had been cancelled and going to watch the laser light show at the University of Colorado did not spark any real appeal in me.  A few friends of mine were heading up into the mountains, to Breckenridge, CO, where the 4th of July Firecracker 50 mountain bike race was taking place and had invited me to come along.  They had extended the invitation to me more out of courtesy than actually thinking that I would go.  I thanked them but not to anyone's surprise I turned them down.

When I woke up on the 4th something came over me and I decided screw it, I’m going to race my mountain bike!  If my team director knew that I was even thinking about heading off road he would have ripped my head off.  I was even wondering what I was thinking; what if I crash, what if I break something…I put all of these thoughts aside, dusted off the mountain bike shoes, piled in my “hooptie” of a car and headed to Beck.

Back in the day (pre-roadie me), I was a very active mountain bike racer.  I was never the best climber so I worked hard at becoming a good descender, which worked out fine.  Although I will always have a warm spot in my heart for off-road riding, I have not been able to do it much at all lately.  Before this week I have not been mountain biking since October!  I knew my skills were there and that once I got on the bike it would all come back to me.

After finally getting there I made my way to registration and got to catch up with some of my old cronies who thought they had lost me to the world of the “road weenies.”  The race was to start with a neutral roll out down Main Street in Breckenridge with the town parade following us, what a great idea!  We were lead through town by the local fire station with firefighters throwing candy to the kids who had lined the street for the parade.  What they didn’t take into consideration was that nothing was going to stop a bunch of kids from running into the middle of the street to stake their claim on some free candy, not even 500 people on mountain bikes!  There was only one accident (that I saw) where a couple kids got plowed into, not a good way to start a race.  Luckily for the kids, we were going super slow.

The race consisted of 2 x 25-mile laps with over 6,000’ of climbing per lap!  That meant that I had to do over 12,000’ of climbing…that’s insane!  After the neutral “parade” roll out, the race started with a 5-mile dirt road climb and then went into a long section of single track with a bunch of technical descending.  About 4 miles up the first climb a group of 6 of us had established a nice gap on the field which was exploded all over the place.  I was feeling good, riding well within my limits and was excited to show these people that I could still be competitive on the dirt.

When we hit the first technical, steep, off camber, gnarly descent I completely froze up.  I was expecting to put time into the guys around me and really open the gap on the rest of the field, I could not have been more wrong.  I was shocked; I had completely lost the ability to go down a mountain quickly without killing myself.  In a few brief moments I went from planning my victory salute to just getting in everyone’s way.  I cannot tell you how many people came screaming past me on the first couple descents but it was very humbling.

On the climbs I was able to put the screws to anyone around me and catch many of the guys who passed me but I was like twinkle toes when the trail headed downhill.  On the second lap I managed to do much better but had already lost so much time on the leaders that the race for first was way up the road.  I spent much of the second lap swapping places with my good friend and pro mountain bike talent Chance Cooke (Rocky Mounts).  I would slowly reel him on the climbs and he would fly past me on the descents like he was floating a foot above the trail.  If we could combine our efforts we would make one dangerous rider.

I did manage to survive unscathed (ego aside) and still get a respectable placing but came out of the race a bit more humble then I went into it.  It will be good to get back into a large and seemingly much safer peloton this weekend.

Thanks For Reading!
Chuck
Team 7Up
 


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