Sunday was the third race in our Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series for 2014. The venue was Sunderbruch Park in Davenport and the event name of Side Thrill Ride Race was more than aptly named and hosted by FORC with Michael Vittetoe serving as race director. Kudos to Michael and the entire FORC crew for once again knocking it out of the park just like they did in the IMBCS #2 race a few weeks ago. We are very fortunate to be racing on such nice trails in the series this year. Racers were presented with plenty of technical challenges on the Sunderbruch course to keep them focused and battling the entire race loop. Just as it should be!!!
The amount of rain hitting on Friday, and Saturday evening threatened not only the IMBCS weekend venue, but also the WORS and MMBS venues in their respective states. Watching the chatter on Facebook one would believe that all racers in the upper Midwest were spending plenty of time eyeing the radar and wondering if racing would even happen. The good news is racing did indeed take place in all 3 states at their respective venues. Michael made the call on Saturday evening to delay the start of the race on Sunday by 2 hours to allow for enough drying time to improve the dirt for racing. This allowed everyone to sleep in a little bit more and worked out well. Turnout was down a little bit from IMBCS #2, but maybe that had to do with weather, the delayed starting times, the more challenging singletrack at Sunderbruch, the World Cup Final, family vacations, etc... - who knows?
I drove over on Sunday morning and arrived at Sunderbruch Park around 11:45 in time to check in at registration, and head out for my warm-up. The sun was blazing and temperatures had climbed up into the low 80's making for a bit of a muggy day, but it wasn't stifling humidity. Tires and bikes on the CAT 3 racers didn't look too muddy, so I was optimistic things would be just fine for all the races. Michael gathered the CAT 2 racers for a pre-race meeting to go over the number of laps, conditions, the start, the finish, and had us line up for our mass start. I got up in about the third row in the grass right next to Andy Peterson. By the time we finally got started, it was about 1:07.
The opening sprint was on a mixture of pavement and grass before we entered the singletrack. I jumped off pretty well at the line, but Tony Branch went flying by me like I was standing still!! It didn't take long for me to feel like my legs had cooled way down after my warm up and I couldn't "get it going". As soon as we turned into the wet grass, my legs felt even more zapped. Quite a few passed me before we got up to the singletrack entrance where things bunched up and we had to wait in line to enter the dirt. I saw Landon Beachy in front of me and tucked in behind him. To make a long story short, Landon and I went wire to wire the full race with me on his tail. There was another guy that was in the mix who started behind me, then moved in front of both of us, then dropped back behind us. Regardless, the 3 of us pretty much raced as a small pack for the full two laps.
I should just point out how fun, challenging, and sweet the singletrack is at Sunderbruch Park. Creek crossings, roots, wooden berms, log overs, bridges, off camber, twisty turns, switchbacks, and enough to keep everyone on their toes - especially at race speed and with some greasy spots!!! However, the key take away word for Sunderbruch trails is this: FUN!
Here's some nice video courtesy of Rob Cook....
Landon was on a hardtail and I noticed that some of the technical challenges were having him bounce around a bit, and slow up for things I wanted to blast over with my full suspension. A couple of times, he slipped and an opportunity presented itself for me to pass, but I was being cautious in the tacky conditions, and wet roots. So I was content to ride his tail and not risk an unsafe pass. I was feeling pretty good in the 2nd lap and moved a little closer to Landon's rear wheel hoping an opening would present itself. He bobbled and actually leaned over and fell to the left on a sidehill in some roots and I used the chance to pass and open up a gap.
At this point, we were in the final 1/2 of the last lap. I passed another rider and saw one up ahead that I set out to catch. I had just about reeled him in when I lost a little focus and leaned the wrong way going through some roots and tight trees. I slowed way down and did one of those embarrassing Keystone Cops/Arte Johnson routines where I slowly fell over sideways. My bike stayed on the trail, but I fell off the bike and rolled down the hill doing a couple of somersaults landing in a bunch of wild thorn bushes. I scrambled back up the muddy hill, uprighted my bike and was passed by the one rider I had passed after Landon. I followed him to the finish and was able to hold off Landon by about 18 seconds as I crossed the line in 2nd Place for my age class.
FORC had some nice unique trophies for this event. Here's the one I received....
I swapped race stories with Landon, Tony Branch, Andy, and a few other riders. I chatted with Katherine Roccasecca who had to pull the plug before her race even began due to a stomach ailment she was experiencing on Sunday morning. Sorry about that Katherine!!! I told Michael the course was great and how much fun we had getting beat up out there. After that, I headed back to the car to get cleaned up. There was a nice BBQ vendor in the parking lot, so after I cleaned up and changed clothes - I partook of a nice pulled pork sandwich before the awards ceremony.
I drove back through a bit of rain around Iowa City and got home before 7 to have homemade pizza with the family. Next up - getting everything ready this week for RAGBRAI!!!!