MNSCS #9 - Laddies Loppet Race Report

Tara, Alexa and I loaded up the car Saturday morning and headed north at 10 am to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where we spent Labor Day weekend at The Lodge on Lake Detroit. It was a nice way to combine a late summer getaway weekend with a mountain bike race. Zack was being the support team on Saturday and Sunday for his friend Jake Leigh who was racing solo at the Boone 24 Hour race. By 6 p.m. it felt like we had been driving for a long, long time when finally the sign said Detroit Lakes 7 miles and we shouted for joy!!!

We checked into the Lodge and unpacked our stuff in the room. We headed out to watch the sunset which was stunningly beautiful as it set over the lake. Afer a nice walleye dinner up the street at a local restaurant, we hit the sack. Sunday morning, we had a nice breakfast at the Lodge and then headed up the road for 25 minutes to the Maplelag Resort for the day's XC race. I got registered and headed out for a 30 - 40 minute warm up. The air pressure in my tires felt perfect. In spite of that, I checked it with my gauge and decided to add about 2 psi in each tire for "safety's sake". That was a decision that didn't hurt me in the race, but I would have been better off not adding that air. With no chance for a pre-ride, I was riding blind not knowing what to expect. All the pictures I had seen and the description I read made it sound like most of the race would be on XC ski trails. And it had been suggested to me by the race director that a hard tail mountain bike would be more beneficial on this course than my full suspension. At least that's what he told me he would race if he were out there racing on the course. I should have stuck to my plan as I had the full suspension all packed up in the car back in Iowa before I changed my mind!!!

I saw Julie Vardaman who told me the course was full of roots and had lots of challenging singletrack. Julie said it reminded her of Seven Oaks at Boone. Wow! That wasn't what I was expecting. I was thinking XC ski trails with smooth conditions and lots of big ring grinding. No problem. I did a quick mental adjust and went to get my fluids and a gel pack. Instead of the usual starting wave of CAT 2 40-44 and 45-49 year olds getting their own wave like most of the other MNSCS races, the announcer said my wave would be all those who were 49 and younger. This meant a larger group on the line than usual. Being that the weekend was a stage race, there were call ups for the top placers in Saturday's stage races as well as the series leaders. I ended up standing near the back again as everything was sorted out for the starting line. Here I was hanging around waiting for our wave to finish getting assembled...



We had our 11 a.m. start with everyone hammering in their big rings as we took off full throttle on the XC ski doubletrack. I started moving ahead through the doubletrack section knocking my head and my shoulder into low lying branches. And, as usual, once we got to the first singletrack section it was like road construction on the interstate. We actually stopped and had to wait what seemed like 20 seconds before we could get into the singletrack. It was not a tough section of track, but the slinky effect really amazes me as we all lined up tire to tire and crept through that opening section of singletrack. Lots of shouts of "guys, come on - let's go" which always makes me smile because if they looked ahead and thought about it, they would see that there were 30 riders tire to tire in front of them with no where to go.

Each doubletrack section after that, I stomped on the pedals to pass several other riders to work my way out of the traffic jam. Then we came down the hill to a section lined with spectators called the lakeside drops. Short and steep drops down to the lake's edge with short and steep climbs right back up the slope. It was a fun section for sure...


The singletrack was filled with roots and rocks - and of course lined with potential handlebar and shoulder eating trees. There was not a moment that you could relax as you were always focusing on your line and negotiating something. Much of it required muscling the front end and wheel over and around obstacles. The legs were working hard with all of the climbing. I think I found one flatter and buff singletrack section where you could actually hammer and go full bore for about 100 yards before it turned up and into the roots and switchbacks again. The rest of the singletrack was fun, but quite a chore. 3 guys had been on my tail for the latter 1/2 of lap one. Nearing the end of the final singletrack section, I caught my handlebar on a small tree and failed to keep it on the trail. The 3 zoomed around me and after I got going again, I just couldn't catch back up with them.

Lap 2 found me out there nearly all alone with a couple of guys not far behind me. I would occasionally pass somebody who was pulled over to the side with a mechanical. I settled into my own pace and ground out all of the climbing making sure to pick good lines through the roots and rocks. I attacked one of the long doubletrack climbs and the course marshal cheered me on telling me I had just opened up a nice gap on 2 guys behind me. I headed into the next singletrack section and a few minutes later dropped my chain to the inside in a poorly timed shift. I hopped off the bike and, of course, was all thumbs trying to get the chain back on. It took an eternity and here came the 2 guys behind me who went by. After my thumbs got the chain on, I started flailing trying to catch up. My front wheel was bouncing all over the place and seemed to have no sense of direction. Finally I told myself to relax and just find a rhythm and balance that I could sustain. I simply could not close the gap on the 2 that had just passed me. One was even in my age category and it hurt to have lost that position. I hammered it home as best I could with what I had left and crossed the line with tongue hanging out and feeling - as well as looking - SPENT. My neck hurt from all the pounding, bumps and most likely tension.



In spite of the chain drop and handlebar/tree union, I managed to have my best placing yet in a MNSCS race. My 4 previous finishes included two 8th place finishes, a 9th and a 10th place. I crossed the line in 6th at Maplelag with 4 of the 5 top finishers in my category being the usual suspects (all are leading the state series). I didn't recognize the guy in 5th who passed me when my chain dropped. Regardless, I was happy with the result and headed out for a cool down ride on the gravel road. I got changed, loaded up the bike and ate a little bit before the Elite/Pro field took off. I snapped a few shots of Cam in the heat of battle before heading back to Detroit Lakes. Congrats to both Cam and Julie for their results in the 2 day stage race.

Here's a shot of Cam mastering the lakeside drop section...


My daughter and I headed into the cold lake for a swim. Man, it was chilly in that water!! Then I stretched out on one of the sun bathing chairs on the beach and pretty much slept for an hour while Tara went on a bike ride all the way around the lake. We got cleaned up and went to Zorba's for pizza and then came back to the Lodge where we started a fire in the fire pit, watched the sunset and made s'mores. Alexa was more interested in starting her marshmallows on fire, but we had fun. We went to bed and got up very early on Labor Day to hit the road by 6:30. The girls wanted to stop at the outlet malls near St. Cloud for a couple of hours. They shopped, I hung out at Dunn Brothers Coffee reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching ESPN. They came back to the car when their 2 hours were up with quite a few goodies they snagged during the big Labor Day sales. I think their palms were sweaty in anticipation of the shopping as we pulled into the parking lot and they were just as giddy as we were leaving. '-]

Another long drive home (both Alexa and Tara drove for a while) to pick up the dogs from the kennel, get Alexa to Cross Country practice at 7 p.m., make dinner, unpack and unwind from the final summer weekend. It was a nice weekend trip and now it is back to work....

1 comment:

Jay Richards said...

Thanks for making the trip up north and supporting our event Bruce Brown. Was nice having you. Best wishes on the rest of the season.