• Ouachita Challenge: Race Report

    The OC is a great early season test of fitness and skill. I can say that my fitness is where I want it to be...but the tech skills are another story. The OC is all about tech skills. Lots of rocks....some the size of small TV sets. You either get lucky and roll over 90% of them, or you hit the first one....come to a dead stop....then run with your bike for 50-100 yards before you can get back on and pedal. Blah, blah, blah. Anywho, the rest of the race goes a little something like this....

    We rolled out of the Oden School parking lot at 8 AM to freezing temps. In anticipation of the 80+ degree forecasted temps everyone was in full-on summer cycling attire. The teeth chattering was just as loud as the "Hmmmmm" of the 200 pairs of mnt bike tires rolling down the pavement to the start of the fireroad. Once we got to the fireroad Sager, Eppen, Todd, and myself led the field down the road at 25ish mph. We were cruising down that road at a good tempo pace. After 6 miles of fireroad, the real racing started. The entire field came to the last rise in the road before the entrance to the single track. It was a full on sprint to the top.

    As for me, I was about the 15 person into the singletrack. Yeah, it wasn't where I wanted to be, but the combination of a bad line, and some loose gravel had me do'n a bit of Tokyo Drift up the hill. Not cool!

    So, I headed off into the singletrack on a mission. The pace was good and comfortable...about 12 mph cruising speed. Things were ticking along nicely till we cam to the first section that required some form of technical bike handling skills.

    Doink! Bike hits a rock and I go off my line. I have to get started back up again.
    Doink! It happens again. Now riders are catching me.

    This would go on for some time and would force me to drop a few spots as guys on there 29ers rolled through that stuff like nut'n was even there. Finally, after a few miles I was able to get things back on track.

    After about 20 miles of singletrack, the course ventures onto forest service road, ie: gravel roads. Here is where I made up a lot of time. Once onto this road, I stuffed my face with a Power Bar and a shot of Hammer Gel. I then grabbed the big-ring and went to town. All by myself, I cruised down the road at 22-25 mph. Then the course dips down and we cross a river. Here I see the one and only "Squirrel" taking pictures and he yells....."You're in 21st place!"

    Damn! Not were I wanted to be. So I pushed on. The gravel road then emptied out onto a paved road were I ended up catching and dropping 3 riders. After the end of the pavement it was back to the singletrack. This part of the course was not as rocky, so the speed were much higher. As the course went on I caught more guys....and a few were dropping our because of the heat and bike related mechanical issues.

    With about 18 miles to go, I found myself riding alone again. It would be this way to the end. I had no idea what place I was in. I just kept pushing it forward as hard as I could. I am not sure of my final time, but I would finish 13th out of approx. 200 riders.

    Overall, I was happy with the outcome of the event. I felt powerful on the pedals, and the bike setup with new sponsor products was spot on. Only thing I need to do now is hone my tech skills at race pace.

    Oh, one last note. This was my first race on a hardtail mnt bike in like 5+ years. Can you say "Holy ass pain Batman!" WOW!!!! Talk about feeling all the trail. It's going to take some getting used to...that is until the FS bikes are ready.

    Curious about the course? Bonnie has one picture that sums it up. Oh look, more course pics!

    Next up is another lower priority event on my race schedule....Sea Otter Classic XC on April 15. This should be good dosage of intensity and severe pain. All this is building leading up to the Cohutta 100 event and the rest of this years events.