This Gnar Weasels post is going to be likely a hot mess of Full Auto Velocb ADD. I settled on the title Pre-ride or Die as I wanted the post to be PRO. Other working titles were Whiskey Foxtrot Tango and With a Little Help From my Friends. Gnar Caddie also had a good ring to it. At no point was it going to be called "Dino vs Tick" Gnar Christmas had huge potential as well. But onto the work at hand. Gnar Weasels unless you are hiding under a rock is the summer time jam of Weasels Inc. Weasels LLC or Incorporated is the most amazing group of promoters I have ever met in my life. Thom and Colin get the most face time if you will but their better halves Christin and as Thom calls her H-Ball bring so much to the event organization and general radness. Weasels Inc really is in true #NECX fashion a collective. Lots of moving parts and people helping out on so many levels. I guess if I was going to compliment Thom and Colin on one thing it would be that they set the stage for the party and then they let the people bring the funk. Gnar Weasels like the name implies is Gnarly. It is not a dirt crit. Thom and Colin are legit mountain bikers. And they both are wizards at creating an amazing course.
I had heard about Diamond Hill from some of my more rad friends. The way they talked about it put fear in my heart I am not going to lie. So pre-riding became mission #1. Its funny that we obsess about pre-riding a CX course to dial in the "lines" The worst that is going to happen to you on a CX course is you may have to brake in a corner. On a mountain bike course running at warp speed blind could kill you. Ok that is dramatic. Even for my usual hyperbole ridden writing style. Not kill you perhaps but destroy your bike or face. I met my good friends Sharon and Cindy the Thursday before the race and we had a great recon session. Again how this is where Colin and Thom are on top of their game. They had the course marked the week before the race. They welcomed people to go ride it. If you didn't take them up on that invite and the work they did you only have yourself to blame. Having a sick mountain bike course 45 minutes from Boston is amazing. Diamond Hill may be my favorite place to ride mountain bikes.
Diamond Hill is just this amazing mix of flowy loam and gnar. Legit gnar that could easily smash your bike and body but its curated if you will. All the tech has been built up and has good sight lines. It is well ridden and isn't some claptrap riding area where you are going to drop off some rock and die on downed trees etc. During the pre-ride I rode about 80% of it. Again it was huge. I felt so much more comfortable with the course after. The bonus ice cream at Ice Cream Machine didn't hurt either. I am assuming most of my 4 readers and loyal fans know who Thom and Colin are. Thom is the mult-media madman/genius behind Dirtwire TV. His love of producing rad video is unparalleled. During the week before the race he would post segments showing his better half H-Ball riding certain enduro bits. It really helped me during the race. For real. She is so smooth on the bike and watching her lines became this zen practice the day or two before the race. I would just picture the tech and go full Lizard Brain. It sounds weird but it helped.
Fast forward to the race itself. It was so awesome having a race on July 4th weekend. This may seem counterintuitive but as much as I love the 4th it is a shit show. Almost as amateur hourish as St Paddy's Day and Cinco de Mayo. Almost. Its nice to have a fun athletic event close to home to wash off two days of 'Murica. I got to the venue and see so many of my friends. My CX alarm clock has been ringing and frankly after this weekend I am hitting the snooze button. Mtn biking in New England is how I remember it when I first started racing back in the NORBA days. It really is as fun as CX. How can you not like a race 45 minutes from home, that has an Ice Cream shop at the staging area, a taco truck, a secret MOATS Mountain beer/heckle/enduro zone and a totally rad course? Gnar Weasels is the kick off of what they are calling "MTB Holy Week" It is a huge testament to the hard work of so many people that mountain biking in New England is seeing this type of resurgence.
We do our usual rituals. Stan's in the parking lot. Grabbing mechanics out of cars to check our bikes. Hugs. Number plates. All that jazz. Have I said lately how incredibly awesome all my friends are? For real. We line up and are ready to go straight up a nasty gravel climb. The 40-49 Sport men go off with my partner in crime and co-DS on HUP NECX Michele Smith in with 25 jacked up dudes. My plan was to catch up and shred together. With the 40-49 bumping elbows up the climb us wicked old semi-fast dudes lined up. No shocker there aren't a whole ton of 50+ dudes racing mtn bikes. We had 6 pre-registered and 10 on the line that morning. So I got on the front row. Having pre-ridden and hearing a weeks worth of freaking out about the gnar I knew the real brutal part was going to be the climbing. And especially the start climb. There really was only one line. The rest was just nasty loose gravel.
So when Colin hit his megaphone siren I took off. Holeshots are not my thing. Nor is climbing. But I went as hahd as I could. Perhaps Pats Peak had a residual effect as I took off up the climb and held it all the way to the hole shot. I started catching the 40-49 at the top of the climb. I am sure that field got pretty argy bargy and people had to get off and run. The first lap felt great. I just kept moving up and trying my best to not do anything stupid. I caught up to Michele at some point mid-way through the lap.
I was able to ride 100% of the gnar. Most all of the A lines. I skipped two as I hadn't pre-ridden them and wasn't comfortable risking a crash. As I came through the start/finish I see Shoogs. He starts running with me up the climb. I literally love that man. He pulls out a flask and offers it to me. I shake my head no as I am already smashed to pieces from the heat and know anything but Skratch labs will kill me. He says in his nicest Shoogs voice "its only whiskey"
I slog back up that climb and hit the flow. Another good lap I start seeing some familiar faces. Then as we come into the big drop I see the MOATS heckle pit in full effect and get beyond stoked. Shoogs is again there tempting me with a beer hand up. Its lap 2 and on the top of a gnarly drop in chute so I miss that one two. Who am I not taking these hand ups?
Lap three Michele reels me in. She is in full on race mode. I am soooo stoked to see her. We get to ride almost a half lap together. She slingshots me through some dark moments. Lap three things started to unravel a bit. My race plate kept falling off my bike. Life lesson. Never use twist ties on a gnarly course when there are zip ties. She gets a bit of a gap on me right before the drop off into the MOATS heckle pit. I drop in and here screams and cheers and see Michele and another woman hung up on a big rock. I yell "track, track" I barely clear it and then Shoogs traps me at the log hop over. I finally take his beer handup. God it tastes so good. I just want to hang out. Michele is on me in a flash. She yells "BAKER GET YOURSHIT TOGETHER" Hahaha I snap out of party mode and kick it back into gear. We come through the nasty muddy rock garden together and I get a slight gap over the wood bridge.
Gnar Weasels unlocked. 3 laps. Almost two hours of pure radness. Michele and I grab a quick Ice Cream at the Ice Cream Machine with Russ and Uri. It was a good day indeed. So many rad friends. HUGE thanks to Colin, Thom, Christin, H-Ball and everyone who made it happen.
And also thank you to JD, Russ and Meg for the photos in this post!