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
Thanks For Reading!