Colin and Leah stoked to ride bikes
The famous basketball coach Phil Jackson is known for a lot of things. Being a Zen "master" is one of them. One of the things he tried to instill in his teams was what to do when the "Thunder Struck" The Thunder being the unexpected. The thing you couldn't prepare for in practice. Colin had warned me that the start of the DH40 may get a bit sketchy. SSpalooza was very gentlemanly paced. But I could tell while lining up that the riders were more nervous. Dark Horse 40 is a special race. A really special race and clearly people were amped for it. I had a plan to ride it with my friend Bob Morgan of Team Awesome. We lined up together and when the police siren went off we went off. We moved up a bit. But we both refused to go full hamster wheel 150 rpm up a 2 mile stretch of gravel road on single speeds. Then we saw Will pining it at the front and started pedaling harder. This was were once again supposedly "smart" Chip gets way to excited about racing bikes and reverts to stupid Chip. I told myself over and over again the day before the race I was not going to make the same mistake I did at Pats Peak and go out XC race pace for an endurance mtn bike race. But yeah. Bike racing. You go fast. So we are going really fast chasing Will and Doug Jenne.
Jon, Leah and Christin all smiles cause the trails are so rad
We were in a group of 20 riders going about 25 mph down a gravel road. Colin had mentioned over breakfast that mtn bikers really don't know how to ride in a group. And they do weird things. Shit I really should have been listening to him instead of spacing out. So one second Bob is right next to me and then a guy cuts in front of his front wheel and Bob goes down hard. Like Mike Wissell hard. Bob's body goes left and his bike shoots right across me. I had not time to freak out. All I had time to do was lift my front wheel and jump. I guess all those sketchy ramps Sensei Aumiller has been leaving as little gifts to me on the west side of Cutler have paid off. And I learned another valuable lesson about 29ers. They roll over everything. Literally. So I hopped Bob's bike.
Bob Morgan is awesome. And took the Mike Wissell hardman award for the DH40. Crashed so hard at mile 2. Then rode the whole 40 with a smile on his face with huge chunks of flesh missing from his body. Respect
The rest of lap one goes great. Back in with the single speeders I get right back into the flow of it. Its so much more fun riding these great trails as they were intended to be ridden on a 29er. I rode sspalooza on my 26er converted over to ss. It was nice but nothing like the Zank. I knew the Zank would be better but not this much better. The DH40 course was very similar to sspalooza just in reverse. Colin, Christin, Leah and Jon and I had done a quick recon ride the night before so I started to get a real good feel of the course. I finished the first lap and stopped to get two more ice cold bottles and some food.
In my now pretty much fried brain I kept reminding myself to not miss that turn again. When I popped out at mile 27 the marker was back. Maybe it fell down. Who knows. So I rode that one section of single track I missed the first time around. What is crazy is that it was only a mile. Maybe slightly less but it was enough to put me from 20 to 1...yikes. Course cutting clearly is an advantage..who knew?
I pop back out and head up the gravel fire road. Have I mentioned how much I hate riding fire roads on a single speed? The fire roads were actually good breaks to drink water and take a gu. Aumiller sent me a great report the night before and told me to eat and drink on every fire road. It was the only thing keeping me from cracking. Speaking of cracking. As I am climbing the fire road I see a bike on the side of the road. And a mom and her kid with horrified looks. I can see the mom saying "don't look johnny" I ask her if there is a body in the gully? Low and behold like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz I see feet. Then a dude prone in a ditch. I get off and ask if he is ok. He groans and just says he has cramps. I don't think he has ever had a cramp before. He looks like death. I dig through my jersey and pull out my endurolytes. I give him two and take one. Cause I do NOT want to end up like him. Then my teammate Jon shows up.
He hands the poor guy a gatorade. We make sure the guy is doing better and we take off. Now I am 100% more stoked to race bikes. I get in behind Jon and we just go to warp speed. Just flying through the single track. It was one of the highlights of the whole race. But when we punch back out on the next fire road I take of his shackles and tell him to go fast cause he can. I can only soft pedal and drink and eat...At the next single track section I get caught and dropped by 3 Darkhorse guys on single speeds. That crew and the MTB NJ crew are the nicest riders on the planet. I mean they worked me over but they were so cool. Any time I would bump into a DH rider or MTBNJ rider the radness would increase ten fold. I had made a vow to ride this for Aumiller. He loves these trails. I also vowed to do beer hands up. Because you can not race DH40 and not take beer hand ups. Its not right. Sure doing them on the first lap is a bit crazy but second lap. You have to. So I pull in to the secret beer stop and grab and ice cold beer. The crew goes nuts. Their enthusiasm was one of the best parts of the race. They were so awesome. They put a lei over my head and send me on my way. I come through after the pond and have another. Cause its DH40.
The second one made me a little burpy but I am a professional. Then I have a single speeders worst nightmare. I start cramping and get stuck behind geared sport riders. Can we all agree spinning a granny gear is stupid. I think we can. Its good for nothing. Riding trails is about attacking them not spinning up them. I try to be nice but its getting sketchy. I can feel full on rigamortus style cramps creeping into my legs. So I start riding a touch aggressive. We come up on one of my favorite sectors. It has a sick shale ramp up then an off camber shale drop off. Of course a sport rider gets totally hung up on the top of it. I fly up it and then dive bomb to the outside. It becomes a dance of oh my god my legs are seizing to just pedal. I somehow ward of the leg breaking cramps until the last little uphill before the end. As I am powering up it a sport rider stops mid climb and puts his foot down. And I ram right into his ass fall off my bike and seize up. I hobble up the hill like a zombie and get back on and pray the pedaling will fix everything. Stewart State Forest single track does indeed fix everything. I ride the next 2 miles in just so stoked on bike racing. I finish in sub-4 hours. Still haven't checked my time. I think it was 3:50. Will won it with a 3:15...
What a great weekend. So much fun. Huge thank you to the Darkhorse crew for putting on the most kick ass mtn bike race on the planet. Riding circles on the grass is seeming really really silly right now. But yeah bikes. I love them. Oh a special shout out to the secret beer hand up crew and of course to George from Dark Horse that man is a god to single speeding...for real