Wednesday, September 17, 2008

XC8 2008

Erik and I couldn't resist the opportunity to return to Moose Jaw again this year for the XC8 mountain bike enduro race. Eight deadgoats made it out this year - returning champs Pat and Trish, Craig, Gerry, Linda, Dustin, Erik and me. Joining the party were four deadgoat friends, Jeff Neilson and Alana Heise (Alana was one of my partners at last years BC Bike Race. Jeff is her friendly husband), Shawn Bunnin (former Canadian national cyclocross champion, out for his first enduro race), and Mical Dyck (alberta's homegrown world class female mountain biker).

It was a longer and slightly different circuit this year, lest I think that I'd ridden all of the single track to be found in Saskatchewan. Conditions were great - overcast, with a bit of light rain. Cooler than last year.

The new loop was more challenging, and included some fresh single track and more vertical. A wooden duck at the side of the trail foreshadowed the low clearance section  that was to come. On the first lap, I watched as the group of guys in front of me had to clip out so they could duck under a tree fallen. I smiled to myself as I maneuvered through without even dabbing. Sometimes being short rules! By the second lap, my ego had inflated to the point that my head no longer fit comfortably under that tree. SMACK. That instantly set me straight.

The new trail also took us through a nifty twisty arrangement of trees that required some creative body movements to worm through. I might have to bust out that move the next time I'm on the dance floor. 

I used to hate getting lapped, but I've come to enjoy it. I'm lucky enough to know a lot of good riders. So, while I can't ride fast enough to stay with them (yet), I'll take the next best alternative of riding with them for a brief moment as they pass me. I couldn't believe my eyes when Craig Stappler blasted past me on the second lap. I hadn't expected to get lapped until my third time around. This guy was on fire! It was probably close to 20 minutes before I saw his competition come through - Neilson, Bunnin, Bakke, Doyle. After some more time, the lead ladies started to lap me - Mical, then Trish, then Alana. I was so proud that I could say that five of the fastest guys and the three fastest women in the race. It's inspirational to get lapped by someone you know - like, hey, I could maybe ride like that one day. So, I'd push a little harder...for a while.

I think it was at about the half way point that I saw Erik at the feedzone. I knew right away that was not a good sign. I figured it must have pulled out due to a mechanical issue, but it turned out he'd had a run in with a tree. I was glad to see he was walking around alright, but knew that it must have been a tough crash for him to have pulled the plug.
I finished my sixth lap after 7:20:34, 34 seconds too late to continue on for another lap. I have to admit that I was relieved to be done. My early finish meant that I got to watch the lead men finish. As expected, Craig emerged from the trees first. To everyone's surprise, a moment later, Shawn Bunnin emerged. Seeing Craig approaching the finish line, Shawn burst forward in a sprint to try to catch him. I didn't know it was possible to have that much jam after 7.5 hours of racing! Talk about an exciting finish!

The ultimate gap between first and second was just four seconds (though Craig did earn a 2 minute bonus for being the fastest to ride up the first hill, which means that the record will show a gap of 2 minutes and four seconds). Third across the line was Jeff Neilson (Alana's husband). In the women's category, Mical took the title, followed by Trish and then Alana. Pretty cool to know everyone on both the men and women's podiums.

I liked the new course this year. it was definitely harder this year - the competition was more intense and the riding was way tougher. The longer circuit meant less repitition (fewer laps) and seemed to accommodate the larger field (50% increase over last year) such that I didn't feel crowded anywhere (the course was, for the most part, my own). The fresh single track was a great way to see more of Buffalo Pound Park and it added a technical dimension to the course. The Offroad Syndicate and Blocks Saw and Cycle extended their usual warm hospitality and excellent organization.

This race should be on the 'must do' list of anyone looking to do endurance racing in Western Canada.

1 Comments:

Blogger BikingBakke said...

Maybe we're becoming cycling groupies... I like riding with people faster than me too... as long as they tolerate it!

September 22, 2008 at 9:24:00 AM MDT  

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