The West Coast and the East Coast are different. Duh. But they really are. I was an ok mtn biker out West. But I hated riding my mtn bike back east. I won't lie it scared me. Well still scares me. And yeah its taken me seven years ( I am slow learner) but I am finally starting to feel it. I owe a lot of people for helping with this transformation. Riding with people who can actually explain how to ride something has been HUGE. Thom Parsons, Colin, David Dietch and a whole legion of the NECX or NEMTB have really helped me be a functional mtn biker at this point. I still have my moments but can now fake it a bit. So when I saw Hop Brook on April 1st will stalking bikereg I thought why not. I put a big red star on April Fools day. But saying you are going to race and actually racing are very different animals. My enthusiasm started waining a bit the wednesday before the race. Colin came by to pick up a spare wheel I had and we both complained about it being too early blah, blah, blah. But then Colin said something. He said if you want to make sure you race just get a good crew and pack them in the van. Brilliant! And that day on twitter #GETINTHEVAN went into full effect.
When I "bought" my minivan seven years ago I literally had night sweats for the two days leading up to picking up my new vehicle at the dealer. I put bought in quotations as I didn't buy it. My very pregnant wife bought it on her way to work one day. She deemed my SUV as unsafe for our new child that was coming. She was in fact right. SUVs are friggin death traps. I of course thought as a new minivan driver my life was ovah. I was no longer a dude in an SUV but was now some soccer mom or worse. So I sort of resisted at first. But then the sheer brilliance of the van and how much you can pack into it began to hit me. There is NO better race vehicle than a minivan. So by Friday we had a veritable who's who of Hup and the NECX lined up to get in the van. I was a bit nervous as I have never packed the van with 5 bikers and their bikes. I went to Landry's and picked up a 3rd tray for the roof rack. Plan was 3 bikes up top and two in the back. And of course the tallest Hupster got stuck in the back buried under bikes. Sorry Jon. He was a real trooper about it and will get some kind of kiddy seat bonus for the next trip.
We got to Jon's house with 10 k left in the RVV. It was pretty hilarious. We are shoving everything in the back of the van while running back into Jon's house to look at the big screen watching Boonen, Pippo and Ballan duking it out. We had our own race to get to so we rolled out with the finish still in question. Thank god for superphones! Nick fired up his Android and live streamed the final 5k. Amazing race and sooo stoked to see Tomeke back. Sad to hear Fabs is out with a broken collarbone but that is bike racing. Abel showed off some sweet Wolverine chops just for the occasion! Leah and I were pretty much in complete freak out mode. The other three were really, chill which helped us keep our act together. We got to Hop Brook just in time for the finish of the PRO and Cat 1 race. And again back to the peer pressure factor. There was definitely a big squad from the NECX. And most everyone you spoke with had been somehow "tricked" into racing this early in the Spring. But it was so great to see so many familiar faces. Mike Wissell sort of freaked us out as he just came off the course and had that "look." You know the one. His report of the race did not help our freak out. Like at all. But then he ate something and was back to his usual hilarious self. And we kept reminding ourselves that Mike is in this to win it. We are here for fun.
Colin gave me a little advice right before we lined up. Take off the layers. Thank god I listened to him. It was about 40 degrees but man you heat up in the woods. I would have melted if I had left my leg warmers and jacket on. His last bit was hilarious. And I quote: " Chip, don't do anything douchey ok?' Oh man masters cross racers have a bad reputation don't we? I get it Colin I really do. Mtn biking is sooo different. So chill. I mean the call to staging was downright pleasant. I didn't see one sharp elbow or lazer death stare at all. Frankly people were being wayyy too nice. It was making me really uncomfortable. Did I mention I was sort of scared? Why lie. Yeah sure I have been riding with a bunch of really talented mtn bikers. And they are being really cool about giving me tips and not openly mocking me for how bad I suck. But racing is so different. You have to go fast. And take chances right? I kept thinking about something Frances Morrison aka the cxninja said to me right before we lined up. Go your own tempo on the climbs. And its ok to get off and run if its faster. That was my mantra the whole race. You don't need to tell a cross racer twice to get off and run. Trust me.
So I line up back row in a large group of sport men. We had our own special AARP race plate which was slightly odd but I get it. We are wicked old and all the young people should know we are coming so they don't hurt us. The start was way more mellow than a cross race that is for sure. We hit the first "climb" and I hear Colin yelling "Chip, that is NOT how you get the hole shot!!" Hilarious. No that was in no way how to get the hole shot. I was behind a dude in baggy jeans, flat pedals and vans with his underwear hanging out. I crashed all over the place the first lap. I hit trees, bounced off rocks. Got ejected off my bike in some gully at one point but then when we came through to the big "run" up I started to settle in. It helped that Colin and Christin were at the run up dishing out more heckles. I ran up it as fast as I could did a cx remount and started channeling France's advice. I just spun up those nasty climbs and tried to find a rhythm. I started to catch some people. I am pretty sure I was about dead last in my field at the first technical section. So I had a lot of work to do. But what is funny about mtn bike racing is its fun. Like literally fun. We all say how fun cross is. Cross is NOT fun. At all. If you are doing it right it should feel horrible. But mtn biking, at least for me cause I suck at it, is fun. All the technical stuff takes a lot of thought. After that first lap I new what I was dealing with so could really flow through some stuff I crashed on in the first lap. I must have crashed 10 times the first lap. Second lap I didn't crash once
Towards the end I got caught by a singlespeeder. Again I can't say enough about how cool people were in this race. I assumed people would be yelling at me etc. Elbows out and going crazy. The opposite was the case. I mean people were really nice. In cross if someone catches you they aren't going to say a word to you they are just gonna bury you. But the singlespeed guy was really cool. We rode the whole half of the second lap together and it was a clinic. Singlespeeders are really talented. Obviously. They are smooth and pick great lines. I am neither of those things so I tried to follow him and see how he did it. It was awesome. I got away from him on the final climb to the finish and did my best to not crash myself into a tree right before the finish line.
After the race we all just hung out ate homemade cookies and bagels and talked about when we get to do this again. Oh Ultraendurodydude interviewed me right after getting back to the van. I look like I just did like 5 lines of coke. I am all jittery and talking crazy. But I think mtn biking does that to you. I am hooked. I joked that this was way more fun than cx. A big part of that was obviously about 50 of us from the NECX showed up, got rad and hung out. I really hope this trend continues and cx can OccupyMountainbiking all summer long! April 22nd is the next one who is #GETTINGINTHEVAN?