I needed a change of pace from my ultra distance riding and the Hobbs MTB Race just happened to be the right thing to do at the right time for a number of reasons. It fell the weekend before National 24 Hour Challenge so I'm tapering and I won't feel guilty about only getting in 4 hours of riding this weekend instead of 16. I hadn't seen all my MTB Racing friends since last November and need the comraderie and it was also a great race for my son, Allen, to ride in because the course is sweeeet.
Since I hadn't been on my MTB since the fall, I added a couple of MTB sessions to my training schedule so I could try to get back some of the handing skills that you lose if you don't use. Allen and I put on about 40 miles of short track laps in the week leading up to the race and I was able to hit Burns Park for one lap. This would prove to be enough training for a Junior 12 and under racer, but not enough for Cat 1 40-49.
Trish, Allen and I loaded up Saturday morning and headed north to race. I just got a new Van with a built in GPS so I let it guide me up to Hobbs. This proved both to be good and bad at the same time. The route it took us on brought us up from the south through War Eagle so we got to see the old mill and bridge. Pretty cool. The problem was that when we got to Hwy 12 it had me turn east instead of west. So we added a few extra miles to the route.
Once we were up at Hobbs, I took Allen for a preride of the Junior course and we worked on some of his biking skills. Then I took off and did a warmup lap around my course. The people putting on the race had done an excellent job of trail maintenance - the course was fast. Maybe even a little too fast. After the preride we drove back into Bentonville to the hotel for a shower and then on to Phat tire to register. Phat tire is a cool little bike shop in downtown Bentonville and you should stop by if you get the chance.
Once we left the bike shop we used the GPS to take us to the Outback for my standard pre race meal. The only problem is the GPS couldn't find the Outback. The Outback in Rogers is hidden behind some hotels with an address that the GPS wouldn't even let you enter. So we went to O'Charleys instead. Good dinner, but not my normal meal. We saw the Outback sign as we were headed back to the hotel.
Race morning started out well with us back out to Hobbs at about 7:45. This gave us a decent parking spot and plenty of time to get setup for Allen's race which started out at 8:30. During the preride we had determined that Allen's brake levers were tipped too far down for him to reach them easily, so we adjusted them and we bled a little air of his tires to give him a little better traction.
Allen took off on his 2 lap race at about 8:40 and did a kick butt job finishing up about an hour later with his first MTB win. He has been doing races on and off for about 3 years and this was his first win so he was happy. The race timing worked out well because it gave me time to watch him start and finish and still get to my race on time.
Cat 1 - 40-49 went off at about 10:05 in the moring with the temp already up to 90. It was going to be a hot one. The race started out with a 500 yard sprint to the trail entrace on a gravel road. I took off down the road and led the sprint to the trail head, but Richard decided that he was in such a hurry that he cut me off going into the trail head. Good move on his part because he is so much faster on the trail. I was on the trail 2nd and being pushed really hard by the group. The trail starts out pretty twisty and windy and I was riding faster than I could corner so less than 1 minute into the trail I had my first crash as my front tire slid out from in front of me. The bike slid left and I jumped right and everyone sort of rode between me and the bike.
I get back to the bike and have to get the chain back on and get back on the trail. I've gone from 2nd back to 9th and a minute behind the lead group with my confidence already shaken. Back on the bike I go. Next we hit the quick downhill and across the bridge to the 1st climb. I can see 3 riders - Scott Dollar, Bob Ocken, and Scott Shoals, ahead me on the climb so I keep working to catch them. After making the climb, you get into a set of rollers along the west side of the course that is very fun and very fast and I rip through this section working my way back up to 6th place. I can see Eli just ahead of me so I try to catch him and get very close while we are on the top, but then we hit the downhill on the back side of the course and he disappeared again.
The downhills on the course are very sketchy in the turns. I love this course and if I lived near Rogers I'm pretty sure that I would have the lines thru them to make the downhill as fast as the rest of the course, but it was my weakest point of the race. After the downhill you cross a bridge and hit the hard climb of the race. Eli was on a single speed so I was able to catch him at the top of climb and he followed me into the fast and flowing last section of the trail and passed me back just at I was getting my hand off from Trish at the feed zone.
The 2nd lap wasn't a great lap either. I caught Eli again on the 1st climb this time, but he caught me back on the downhills on the back side. Then I crashed again on the downhills. This crash was alot harder that my first crash so I resolved that I was now riding to not crash with my 24 hour race coming up next week. The 2nd time up the big climb I got off and pushed the hard section and was working on keeping my head up and looking ahead and was getting faster on the sweeping parts of the course. I was creeping on the downhills though and the climbs were eating me alive. To give you an idea, my garmin was turning off and back on. (3mph threshold).
I worked my way around the 3rd lap with no incidents and feeling pretty good. I finished the race in 6th place and had a great workout - probably much more effort than I would have put into a century ride.
After the race we hung with the ACF crew - (Dan is actually building a good race team) and the Bell and Company Crew, (thanks for the food!), for about an hour then head back south to recover. I will probably do an easy century ride on Tuesday, then start driving up to MI for an 8:00am Saturday morning start for a little 24 hour ride.
Congrats to Allen on his first win and to the whole ACF team - I'm pretty sure we scored the team win yesterday.
What I've learned from the race. 1 - Follow your prerace feed schedule do not vary it - ask Scott Penrod about bad food choices. 2 - If you're going to do a MTB Race you need to train on a mountain bike.