Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Shootout on Angler's Ridge: Feeling Blue

The 10 deep podium for the Pro race (11 if you count young Conner Bishop)

Round 2 of the Southern Classic MTB Series was at Angler's Ridge in Danville, VA.  The race also doubles as the Virginia Cross Country MTB State Championships.  Over 300 racers turned out for a shot at a medal and a share of the generous payout.

I had never been to the trails at Angler's Ridge before, so I opted to do my Saturday four hour training block on the race course.  It would be a good chance to shake down the new Blue FS Carbon and learn the trails at the same time.  It didn;t take long to figure out that the 26" FS was the way to go for the race.  With super tight twisty sections and lots of short, steep climbs the Blue was in it's element.  It accelerates and changes direction very well.  I had some pretty light weight, fast rolling Kenda tires on that I was a bit concerned about, but they held up well, rolled fast and stuck pretty well to the sandy/hard pack trails.

On race day I was pretty used up from the hard ride on Saturday so I took my usual starting spot at the rear of the 20 racer field.  The race started with (surprise) a gravel road climb leading to the single track.  It amazes me that no matter how wide the trail (or road) leading to the singletrack is that racers still find away to completely block it from side to side.  This race was no exception and there was nearly 2 crashes while jockeying for position.  I mostly just rolled to the singletrack and still had to stop until everybody got single file for the Enchanted Forest Section.  We only did this part the first lap, and it was the only soft, loamy dirt section of the trails.  The trees were small, but very close together making it difficult to carry any speed.

The trails were marked every 1/2 mile with the number of miles to the finish.  A nice touch.  It made it easy for those of us less familiar with the trails to remember what was ahead.  Most notable was the climb to the mile 4 marker where volunteers were faithfully handing out cups of cool water to all takers.  As an aside:  Don't pour it on your head while wearing sunglasses.  They get wet and the dirt and dust stick to the lenses making it difficult to see.

Also of note was a sign appearing at about the 2 1/2 mile marker indicating a Strava section of the trail.  Of course this was a mostly climbing section.  I did take the time afterward to download my data to Strava

The climbs at Angler's aren't exactly technical, but you have the choice of either a rooty line or a sandy/gravelly/loose line.  I always opted for the smoother line, but it meant being very mindful of front/rear weighting to maintain traction and keep the front on the ground.  If the rear ever did spin it was tough to keep it going up the hill.  Several racers ended up running some of these climbs.

The last half mile of the trail was super flowy and hardpack which means really, really fast.  This section dumps you out into the parking lot for either a pass by the feed zone or the the finish line for the final lap.  CAT 1's did three 8.5 mile laps.  I think the pro winning time was 1:50.  My time was a lot less pro at 2:07ish - but good enough for 8th in my class (CAT 1 40+).

It's easy to look at the results and wish to have done better.  I guess it's human nature to always want to do better, go faster, etc.  But when I look back just a very few years I can remember getting passed by Cat 2 (Sport) racers and thinking I could never hope to be that fast.  So, now as I embark on my first year as a CAT 1 racer I can honestly say that I am truly amazed and thankful to be racing as well as I am.  And although I work hard, it's with God-given gifts, opportunity, friends, family and His blessing that allow me to do what I do. 

See you on the trails!
I'll be doing my best to race and ride for His glory!   

1 comment:

  1. That last section before the parking lot was really fun...and fast! Good job out there!