The Iowa Mountain Biking Championship Series kicked off its 12th season yesterday at Seven Oaks Ski Area in Boone, Iowa. 74 racers showed up to test their mettle on the always challenging trails at Seven Oaks. These trails feature plenty of twists and turns, ups and downs, all while requiring intense focus to keep the rubber side down. In terms of mountain biking, it is about as tough a trail as it gets here in Iowa.
IMO, we were welcomed with perfect trail conditions (tacky from the recent rain) and 48 degree temperatures at the noon start for the CAT 1/COMP/CAT 2 start. Brrrr...! Ron DeGeest and Kyle Sedore were hosting their final event at Boone after all of the years they have put into working on the trail and hosting events at Seven Oaks. It was a bittersweet event because of that, but as usual - they nailed it and had the course set up in an exceptional manner with a nice finish line climb to the very top of the ski hill which aided chief scorers Steve Fuller and Nick Wooley by giving them ample opportunity to read number plates and get the results marked down with no problems.
Newcomer to my age group was the just turned 50 racing age Joe Short. Landon Beachy, Paul Varnum, Sterling Heise, Andre Rethman, etc...were also there and we had 21 start in our wave for CAT 2. I was in the 2nd row of the starting line at the top of the ski hill where we had a nice gravel road opening segment to jockey for position going into the singletrack. I went into the singletrack in about 8th or 9th position feeling pretty good with the race start as Andre, Landon, Paul, Sterling were all behind me. I wasn't sure how my legs would do coming off the hard training week and how I would hold up on the climbs after the weight loss. It didn't take long for me to feel the positive benefit of being 20 pounds lighter on the climbs. We immediately caught up to the CAT 1 Women's Field and worked our way through the field trying to execute passes on a course that is technically a nice challenge and requires waiting to get around another rider until a safe place presents itself. I was able to ride a couple of climbs that others were walking, and went around several riders here and there to keep my pace high and stay in contention. Ron Cooney was behind me encouraging me to pass a couple of riders we were stuck behind at one point, and I got around them and took off to build a gap between myself and Ron that eventually turned into a 5 minute gap.
The shakeout continued for a good portion of lap 1 as we worked our way through all of the switchbacks, climbs, and backside of the ski mountain. I was feeling strong and used every opportunity I could that played to my strengths to open up a gap and move forward from whoever was behind me.
Photo Courtesy of Eric Roccasecca
I was passing riders from earlier waves and knew I was still in the top 1/3 of our start wave. I finished the first lap feeling strong and took off in the 2nd lap egging myself on to not let up and slip into an easier effort pace.
Photo Courtesy of Eric Roccasecca
I wasn't sure if I was in 1st or 2nd or what for the 50+ group, but didn't worry about that as I was more interested in just pushing myself. The conditioning and new lower weight proved beneficial in the 2nd lap as I caught and passed riders from the COMP wave that had started ahead of us.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:32:23. That was 7th out of our start wave of 21, and 2nd in the 50+ age class. The climbing work on the legs and lungs at Seven Oaks had me tuckered out at the end, but in a good way. The cooler temperatures contributed to keeping me fresh. Joe Short won my age class and had me by 4 minutes and 28 seconds. Landon, who has been tough for me to beat in past races, came in 10 minutes and change after me. In talking with him, he didn't do his usual off-season training during the cold winter and had not ridden at Boone in many years. Knowing Landon, he'll be in much better form at the next race or two!!!
Much visiting, celebrating, and recapping of races took place in the parking lot for a couple of hours before the awards presentation and everyone headed home. I met Tony Branch who leads the NCJC Youth Off Road Riders's group. He is a youth leader from Iowa City who had come to the race with 7 youth riders in a van pulling a tricked out trailer to haul all of their bikes.
The trailer (pretty sweet trailer, huh?) was funded through a donation/fund raising campaign.
Here are some of the youth off road riders group on the start line at Boone yesterday...
They will be attending all 7 IMBCS events this year and have a great story to tell. It's quite possible that IMBCS is poised to promote youth involvement in mountain biking and this might spark some future endeavors for IMBCS. Kyle provided free entry for them to his race which I thought was a wonderful choice. I would like to see IMBCS come up with a plan and sponsorship/fund raising to help cover entry fees for youth riders. Paul Varnum suggested equipment donations as well for the riders. More on all of that later. It was very exciting to see this group at the race and to hear they will be attending all IMBCS races this year. They have 31 total in their group.
Kudos to Kyle and Ron for your excellent work - not only in yesterday's race - but for all the years of hard work at Seven Oaks in trail maintenance, trail building, and hosting spectacular events. Talk about Hall of Fame contributions from both!!!!