Not gonna lie. This one may be a hot mess of a blog post. Where to begin? Hmm we could do the Five stages of denial of bike racing. That could work. Or we could talk about our feelings. Or Taylor Swift and how much "I love her." Ok let's start from the beginning. So Barn Burner may be my new favorite mtn bike race of all time. Literally. Not metaphorically. Or figuratively. But actually like my favorite race. Ever. But how is that possible? I guess its sort of like a Field of Dreams. Build it and they will come. Build it 6 miles from my house and yeah I am gonna get excited. Build it near one of the coolest ice cream shops in the metro Boston area and yeah I am going to freak out. Set the ACTUAL course up two weeks in advance and invite all of us in the surrounding area to come ride it and guess what? If the course is fun word of mouth is going to spread fast. Like a Zombie Virus. This course has to be the most pre-ridden race course in the history of racing.
But to recap. Blue Hills Cycling. My new BFFs. Worked their asses off to clean up the course. They dialed it in. And actually there was a true mad genius to getting it set up so far in advance. Have you ever raced Pats Peak? Hmmm. How do you feel about the words Fresh and Cut? Not so good am I right? Fresh cut sucks. Totally. You should never, ever race fresh cut. But as I said Pete at BHC is a mad genius. They arrowed the course, taped it off and had it set. Sure the first time I rode it I got sort of wicked lost down some powerline trail but frankly that was sort of fun. And I saw some ten point buck. That is winning. I had heard about these trails in whispers but never had ridden them. They were a mix of Cutler and Stewart State Forest. Really nice flowy single track.
The night before the race I took my wonderful daughters to their first concert. It was at the Razor. AKA Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the home of The New England Patriots and the Gnar Weasels. Gnar Weasels is about a 1/4 mile from the visitors end zone. I have an 8 and a 12 year old. My wife bought these tickets back in November as a surprise. The tickets sold out in 11 minutes. My only fear was that I knew we would be at the show late. And we would likely be standing on our feet for hours. Concert legs and all. The show was amazing. And Talks with Taylor were the highlight. What were Talks with Taylor? Talks with Taylor were these amazing pauses in the show. Taylor Swift would stop mid song and just talk to the audience. I have never seen a performer with such poise and command over 60,000 fans. I certainly don't know much about her music etc but it was impressive I have never witnessed anything like it. There was something so mesmerizing about it. Almost Wiccan. Or ritualistic. Its hard to explain. You had to be there.
But I will tell you something. I loved the concert. Taylor Swift is an amazing performer. My girls had a magical time. That is all that matters to me. Fresh legs are for suckers. We got home so late. And then I started to freak out about racing. Luckily Abel showed up and was my wingman. That settled me down. It took us a total of 15 minutes to get to Adams Farm. Once there it felt like an #NECX reunion party. I had a ton of thoughts swirling in my head before the race. Concerns about teamates etc. My own racing was secondary. At best. But I was psyched for it. So many people were there. It was incredible. They went from 50 prereg to 300. I don't even know what the day of was. The great thing about mtn biking is while everyone is nervous its way more casual than say Gloucester. You can actually talk to people. Gerry came up to me and said "Chip, the bridge is a bit sketchy as its wet." It was his nice way of saying "Dude you cannot cash that check today" I hear you. Loud. And. Clear. Tom Ritchey and all them Euro crossers are who I cut my teeth learning the mtn bike racing. Fastest from Point A to B. Style doesn't add up to jack. Don't crash. Don't destroy your bike. Win the War of Attrition. So we get it all together and line up. Somehow I am right next to the Nuge. Or Ted Nugent for those who missed the 80s. Brosephs arms are bigger than my thighs. He has a cutoff Tomac jersey. And a head band. If this was a cross race I would move as far away from him as possible. But this is mtn biking. Come on!
Some of my friends are getting twitchy. The Nuge thinks he is gonna win this. He's not. My friends are fearing death. Or losing massive amounts of flesh when Broseph assplodes in front of us. I go all The Dude on them. Chillx. The Nuge is NOT even gonna make it a lap. Trust me. They don't. Whistle goes off. I sort of maintain and stay in the top half. With an eye on the Nuge. The Nuge is freaking out. The first 1/4 of the course was sketchy at race pace surrounded by 45 of your closest friends. Bad things were going to happen. I waited for them. Bombs went off. Nothing major. We get through all the nasty. I tell myself its a cross race. Dismount. Run. Remount. Shred. Pedal. Hard. Harder. Make them suffer on the climbs. Then I hear what sounds like a bear attack. Or an Org. FUCK. I PAID NINETHOUSANDDOLLARSFORTHISBIKEAND ITSUCKS. FUCK. And smashing. Lots of Hulk smashing. The course has so many turns. So like a cross race. So you can hear what is going on on the other side of the "tape". We come up to The Nuge. He is beating his bike with a rock. Oh wait I forgot the best heckle of the race. At least early on. We came through the first dismount. And Matt Sousa ( I think) is screaming in my ear hole "CHIP, a DUDE in a SLEEVELESS jersey is beating you!!!! GETHIM" I am like dude, I got this. He isn't surviving a lap. So we come across Broseph in his Tomac kit with the arms cut off (was there an actual USAC official on hand?) And I literally almost fall off my bike laughing. The train behind me is nervous. I understand. This dude looks "scary" So I poke the bear. I say in my loudest voice. "YO,DOMORESTEROIDS!!!" "THEYAREWORKING!!" He flips out and throws his wheel in the woods. We can hear him yelling expletives for what seems like miles. We never see The Nuge again.
So now that the Brosephs have left the building we can actually race the bikes. So many turns. Lap one and two are uneventful other than I keep telling myself to pedal harder and to stop slamming my XX1 chainring into logs that I hop. That shit can not be cheap to replace. By lap 3 I am able to clear it without smashing it. Lap 3 is probably one of the most magical laps on a mtn bike in my life. I have this friend Gerry. He is beyond rad. Badass technical rider. And has the tenacity of a pit bull. He raced singlespeed. And started a minute behind me. The course really was perfect for singlespeeding. Flat except for some power ups. So many turns. Super flowy. I wondered at what point I would be caught by them. I was in sort of hunter/hunted mode at this point. To me mtn bike racing is training. Its like a long CX race. I actually am happy if we have to run up a hill or dismount and remount. You can't get enough of that. But I didn't want to get beat by my friends or teammates. I have known Gerry for a long time. He is the owner of the Washington Square Tavern and Beaver Brook Bottles. He supports so many of the rides we do. The Ronde de Rosey starts and finishes at the Tavern. He is an incredible host and friend. But I have really never ridden with him. The first time was at Gnar Weasels. But that was very brief. He was gone in a blink of an eye. But at lap two I heard a very familiar voice moving up behind me. As Gerry got closer I heard him say "Hup, Hup" then he passed me. Like I was standing still. I have mentioned he was on a single speed right? Sure he had a 17 pound singlespeed which is not unlike cheating but still.
So Gerry passes me. He says "Chipper, I am beating you on a single speed, you owe me HUP kit!" You really can't argue with that logic. And frankly, it would be an honor to have Gerry in HUP kit. I told him it would delivered to him this week at the WST. Then he dropped his chain! Some expletives may have flown out. And I may have heckled him in his distress. After I asked him if he was ok to take care of it. I think I said "You should have a proper singlespeed not some janked out carbon franken bike!!!" Hahaha. Good times. But the guy in third in SS passed him with a geared "teammate" so now that Gerry was on HUP and I was his teammate I did what a good teammate does and regulated that shit. I chased those dudes down. And I know what its like racing ss against geared. Its not always fun. especially as you are cramping at the end of the race. Did I block him so Gerry could catch back on? Maybe. I like to call it lulling him to sleep. I caught on and just started talking to the dudes. Hey how you doing? How do you like the course? Blah, blah. blah. Get them out of the ZONE. Gerry came charging up and I let him through. And it was like a clinic. Watching him shred was sick. I swear I learned more riding behind him for 1/2 a lap than my entire mtn bike career. The he dropped me. On a fire road. I know. That is wicked embarrassing. But seriously, Gerry is a XC killing machine. So now I am in survival mode. DO NOT get beat by the 3rd place SS guy. Ok got that. We start lapping a lot of traffic. I see my good friend Ben taking photos. I try and keep it together and not crash at his feet. Then I pop out right before the finish and see Nick. And he is on a road bike. And he starts rappping Killer Mike in my ear cause I am sooo cracked I can't even pedal. It might be the highlight of my racing career. I love that kid. And I some how roll in. In one piece. What an amazing day on the bike.
I can't even say enough how rad it was seeing everyone. It was an #NECX reunion. CXisComing. Fast. And I have so much respect for all my teammates. Especially Carrie. Damn. She strives. And battles. Leah same deal. Meg. Oh damn. She is full, straight up OG HUP. I wasn't expecting to see her. When I did I got so stoked. Litka. Not a teammate but she is such a part of the whole SSCX series. Great seeing her and her husband Andy. My good friend Art. Did his first ever XC race on a 40 pound DH bike. And crushed it. And had a blast. Gerry and I need to get him a proper XC bike and he will smash. So skilled and such a great attitude. Ok I am going on and on. Love my team. Love the #NECX. Love that so many people rode their bikes out and shot photos or watched the race. This is what mtn biking can be. Oh Ben Stephens. Yeah. Rock star. Russ Campbell. I don't even know what to say. He is beyond rad. He is one of those people who you just want to spend more time with. Deitch. Joel. Abel. Eli. Michele and Ed. The raddest couple in the world. Thank you Barn Burner for making this happen. Going to surf this MTB mojo a bit. Hope y'all are ok with it. See you in Sept. My head says Quad but my heart says Wompy. Those two promoters need to work it out cause a Wompy/Quad weekend would be sick.