Opening weekend of the IMBCS for 2016 was what has become our traditional joint race with the Illinois series at one of the FORC trails in the Quad Cities area. Tara and I drove down to pre-ride on the day before and spend the weekend. We saw the campground had a lot of RV's and tents with mountain bike racers who were camping along the Mississippi and in town to do the race.
The trails were in tip-top, super fast shape. Baked goodness is what I would call it.
Going fast is fun and there is nothing like a cross country mountain bike race to remind you of the fun factor of higher speed riding and bike handling!
The sun was setting, but we got enough time in to settle into the course.
The mental aspect for Tara was to clear her fears of berms, switchbacks and bridges. I made her go back and try sections a few times until she could clear them...
We ended up pre-riding a lap and a 1/2 before deciding to go back to the motel to get showered and head to a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant of ours - Thunder Bay Grille.
We probably like the comfortable chairs and low tables in the bar area the best - more so than the food. But the food is fine as well. Tuna steak for me, fresh trout for Tara. Yum. We discussed if Tara should do the CAT III or the CAT II race and she felt more comfortable with the CAT III since this would only be her third mountain bike race. We went to bed early knowing that Tara would be racing the CAT III race at 9 am, and I wanted to get there before 8:30 to set up the sponsorship banners. I knew I would wake up early based on my pattern the past few months, but I set the alarm for a last ditch bail out time slot just in case.
Well, wouldn't you know it! The bail out 7:35 am alarm was needed as we both slept long and hard. Quick showers, packing, and breakfast at the motel before we were on the road to make it back over to the Illiniwek Forest Preserve to check in for Tara's race at 8:27 am. Cutting it close, I know, but c'est la vie.
Tara got registered, I got her bike ready, and she went out for a bit of a warm-up while I talked with Race Director Mike Corbin and got the okay to set up the sponsorship banners in ideal locations. The weather was perfect. Sunny, warm, no wind and the turnout was looking good. Final numbers were 178 XC racers, and 19 kids did the Kids Race. Not bad for our opening weekend. We had good representation from some parts of the state, and there was a nice dozen or so from Des Moines who did turn up to race the Abermination.
I hooked up with Andy Peterson and Cheryl Dralle to get our World of Wheels sponsor's cash prize awards ($500) stuffed in their respective envelopes, and sponsor Zoom Performance's $100 bike fit award with Liz Van Houweling meeting to discuss how we were going to award that.
Tara did really well in her race. She was in the top three on both laps and as she passed me I yelled at her to stomp on it.
The course is filled with dirt and wooden berms - hence the name Abermination!
Smiling as I yelled at her to step it up as she was in third place...
She ended up 1st in her age category (50+), and was 2nd overall for the CAT III Women which earned her a nice trophy and a $30 cash prize!!!!
After her race and all the congratulations were celebrated, I went to snap a picture of the CAT II Sport start.
After that, I suited up and went out for my usual 35-45 minute warm-up. The Dos Niner was shifting great, the brakes were perfect - as it was the day before in the pre-ride. I felt good and after 35 minutes headed back to the car to get my nutrition and hydration final preparation done. I realized I needed to head down to the registration tent to take care of one item of business with regard to the awards and rode my bike from the car down a grass embankment off-camber to the registration tent. I back pedaled a bit to get my feet in descent position and the chain jumped over the largest sprocket into the spokes and a loud grinding/crunching noise was heard by many in the area with lots of "ooohhh's and ahhhhh's and un-oh's....". I braked as fast as I could to prevent the most damage as possible.
Broken spoke and bent derailleur hanger - just like that. I figured my race was over. I hauled the bike back up the hill to the car and Nickolas Eckermann offered tools, help - whatever I needed. I asked for the aid of Tara. I took the wheel off, cut the broken spoke off, somehow got the chain in about 3-4 different curly Q's, and with plenty of curse words managed to get it all straightened out and the wheel back in place. The broken spoke knocked it enough out of true that the tire was rubbing against the chainstay. I said to hell with it and rode down to the start line where consensus was that due to the carbon rim, I would be fine - more or less. Not a great way to start a race with a missing spoke, out of true wheel, bent derailleur hanger and the thought of gingering it all through the race.
So began my first mountain bike race of the 2016 season.
Tara captured me coming through the finish area after lap 1. The wheel and bike were holding together and I kept riding not knowing what would unfold with the rear wheel and the tire rub...
I am not going to put any blame on any tire rub as I was able to push myself all 4 laps with twinges of cramping not entering the equation until lap 4...
In addition, my seat post bolt to hold the saddle in place was obviously not tight enough to hold my saddle level. It kept tilting backwards on bumps requiring me to stop 3 - 4 times per lap to bang on the saddle with my fist to get it level again.
Oy! Not an ideal race for me from the bike's mechanical side.
The wider - for me - bars and short stem had zero issues racing through this course. I really liked how the Dos Niner was handling in spite of the rear wheel being out of true, the tire rub, and the not so smooth shifting due to the hanger being bent...
During lap 4, the top three CAT I Men racers caught up and passed me. First up, was somebody I didn't recognize. It turned out to be "thee" WORS star Elite racer Nathan Guerra. This guy was fast and smooth. After he passed me, I tried to latch on just to get an idea of what it was like to ride that fast. My heart rate jumped up to 177 and I managed to hang with him for about 1 minute, 32 seconds at that speed and heart rate before my legs, lungs, body, and mind said "NO!". It was nice to see one of our events draw a WORS Elite to venture down and toe the line with our Iowa best.
A minute later came Iowa star Kevin McConnell out of Iowa City who was also flying. Once again, I latched on for the ride for a about a minute or two. Then came the big tall drink of water out of Iowa City, Nate Kullbom, who was about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes behind leader Guerra. Again I latched on to Nate and was able to hang for nearly 2 minutes before my legs, lungs, body, and mind said "ENOUGH!!!!"
No other CAT I racers passed me as the gap was too wide between Nate and the next rider before I crossed the line. How did I do? Meh. 14th out of 19 overall, and 5th in my age group of 40+. I was pleased that I pushed the heart rate as high as I did and only had about 4 minutes of the race spent in Tempo or Zone 3 heart rate. The rest was in Zone 4 and various levels of Zone 5.
We hung out for all of the awards, words of thanks, and to tear down and pack up. I was pretty happy to have finished the race with a bike that was for all practical purposes in a bit of a bind. I'm not in the best of shape to push at that much effort for nearly 2 hours, but as the weeks progress - I should get stronger and stronger. Both of my legs seized up on the way home - not due to nutrition/hydration - but due to the amount of watts pushed throughout the 4 laps.
After kudos and thanks to the entire FORC crew, race director Mike Corbin, and USAC Officials - we packed up and were off to meet our daughter at Atlas in Iowa City for dinner. Mike and FORC did a great job with our season opener. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This was really one of our premiere events for the season on a trail system with some of the best and most fun flow available in our region. Temperatures topped out at 81 degrees with perfect super fast trail conditions. It does not get better than this in the IMBCS!! Glad for the 178 who showed up and got to experience it. I know we have more out there!!!! I just wish we would have had another 15-20+ or so to bust through some goal numbers. Everyone seemed to be pretty excited about the World of Wheels Cash Sponsorship for the COMP, CAT II and CAT III overall podiums as well as the JUNIOR entry fees being free. Hopefully we can build on the momentum of both of those for the rest of our season.
Next up - May 1st is the Beverly Park Fat Tire Frenzy in Cedar Rapids!