I drove up to St. Cloud on Friday night with Tara for yesterday's final Minnesota Mountain Biking Series race. I was competing in the 50-59 year old series this summer and needed to do 7 of their 11 races for the best possible points. Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to 6 events this year. I had too many conflicts on the weekends of the other 5 events. However, I really enjoy the participation, variety of courses and competition in Minnesota as well as the scenery. Since I had to miss the Dakota Five-O and Laddies (budget meetings that weekend that I had to attend), I wanted to drive up for the Single Track Escape as I had never raced there before.
It was an interesting course and not something I was really expecting. It was a pretty flat course and a real labyrinth of twisty turns. Power was more important as I felt like I was on the gas all the time. The course didn't really favor power/weight ratio due to the lack of climbing, but it did favor sheer power to keep moving and accelerating out of the twisty turns. It had me wishing for narrower bars and wishing I was under 6 feet tall!! A pre-ride would be my best advice, and I didn't get the chance.
It was a challenge for sure, but maybe not the type of trail network I would tend to choose to go for a ride on any sort of a frequent basis if I had plenty of choices of trails. I like speed, climbs and a nice mix of twist. If you take out one of those elements, I'll still ride it often and enjoy it. But if you take out 2 of those elements (in this case, climbs and speed), I guess I remain confused at the trail builders design and goals when the trails were laid out. And that's what this singletrack was. All twist with really no where on the course to open up and let it fly outside of the grassy ski trail/fire road connector sections and one bit of singletrack near the finish line.
Not that I didn't enjoy it - I did in terms of variety and the challenge, but I can't recall riding anything quite like it in the Midwest in the past 8 years - at least for a race. Compared to other similar courses, I like the mix at Elk River, Manawa, Scott County, Sylvan much better as there are also lots of twists, but also lots of areas for sheer speed featured in sections between the twists. In other words, a nice balance or mix. This course had some turns where you literally came to a crawl to squeeze between tight saplings and sharp corners. Fingers, shoulders, heads, knees - all were fair game for the trees to snack upon. It made for a difficult XC race course to say the least.
Regardless, I took it on and finished in 3rd place in my category feeling dazed and confused by the end with all the endless twists, turns, trees, slowing, accelerating. At one point, it all began to look the same and I had no idea where I was out on the course. A lot of "itching to go fast", but no where "to go fast" type of riding. My rebuilt hub was working fine, but my chain was skipping between the 5th and 6th cog. Not sure if it was simply cable stretch, or if I am due for a new cassette/chain and rings. I tried to adjust the cable out on the trail, but with all of the twists and turns, it was hard to dial it in as I had to keep both hands gripped to the bars at all times. I found the few guys who finished just in front of me slumped over their bikes after the finish line, so I think we were all dazed and confused in the labyrinth. It was a challenge and a workout to say the least.
After I crossed the line, I loaded up the Element and headed back to Albertville where I Had left Tara to do some damage at the Outlet Malls!!! She had a banner day! We drove back to Iowa and I got to rehearsal for Die Fledermaus 4 minutes early. Perfect timing.
Thanks to the Minnesota Mountain Biking Series. You guys know how to do it right up there with excellent variety, well run events and great participation throughout the series.
My season has wound down. 13 events which included 1 DNF (Sugarbottom rear hub blew), 4 podiums, and a lot of fun!! Now it's time for me to host The Mullet Fall Classic at Lake Ahquabi two weeks from today.