Mountain Bike Race
I rode a mountain bike race April 22, 2007. I can’t remember the last time I rode in a race, probably the mid-Eighties. That too was a mountain bike race, and like this one I was unable to ride up the steeper hills. Unlike this one, I hadn’t ridden over the course before the race. Also, part of that race had been on the Rainbow Trail, but none had been single track. I was much younger, fitter, and stronger in those days and while my lowest gear was even lower than on the bike I rode today, I think my ego kept me from trying to spin up the hills in a very low ear. Not so this time.
Fifty of us lined up for a mass start at just after 10 am. The instructions said, “All racers must check in at least 1 hour prior to start time” so I got there about 8:40. I did a little warm-up but knew I wasn’t fit enough to really get sweating. After awhile my warm-up consisted in lying down and conversation. We entered ourselves into one of four categories, Beginner, Junior, Sport, and Expert. I chose beginner because I was interested in the least technically difficult course. It turned out that all classes rode the same course but the experts added a different loop so that they rode about twice as far.
The start was in the parking lot south of the river and east of the main road that runs below the dam at Pueblo Reservoir. We then went up the paved bike trail almost to the main entrance to the park off Highway 96 then straight across the road while Park Police blocked traffic and up onto a single track trail. The trails all have names and we were on Duke at that point. When the leaders made the turn off the parking lot road onto the trail I was far enough behind to see at least 35 ahead of me. I think I passed two on the bike path and then nobody else the rest of the race, except for a few people beside the trail fixing flats.
Duke became Rodeo and at the first real hill I got off and pushed. I got to a shaly section, which I had ridden in practice three or four times, but there was a guy ahead of me so I kept pushing. I think he suggested I pass but when we got back on our bikes, he rode away strongly. We’d just gotten on Rodeo Ridge then. I really never saw him riding ahead of me until we got to Quatro Sinko which winds back and forth and he and a couple of others were in sight but one or more switchbacks over.
I felt I was riding about as fast as I dared if my main goal was to not fall. One short steep hill surprised me and I didn’t shift down and didn’t make it. I pushed all the way up another hill which I had ridden part way up several times. I was glad no one was close behind me. From that point on I knew I could ride to the South Shore trail. When I could see the volunteers marking the point, I felt a small surge of confidence. I also heard a woman’s voice behind me so I powered on the relatively smooth and level trail. It was fun to ride through the little dips and since I didn’t hear anyone, I felt I was riding masterfully away. However on the steep hill which I have never successfully ridden up, I was caught again and offered to allow the woman to pass. She kindly let me stay ahead and except for one little bobble when I tried to shift up and was moving the wrong lever, I did as well as I’d ever done for the rest of South Shore.
There is a hill, unnamed on the map, that goes up to Conduit Trail. I’ve made it once in many attempts. This was an almost. I lost focus for a moment and got of the trail just long enough to hit a tiny bump which stopped me. I got back on the trail and started again and rode onto Conduit. From there I knew I was home free, going to Duke and then back onto the paved bike path, as long as I didn’t do anything crazy. I flew down the hill, may even have got close to twenty miles per hour. I crossed the line and was given stick number 11, which meant that I was about in he middle of the finishers who did the course I did. My time was 1:10:31. I knew that thanks to Don and Lois having brought out the running club’s big clock
I found out much later that I was second in the beginner class. Jan Dudley was third. Later when they separated out the women riders, she was first beginner woman. I’m pretty sure I was the oldest rider. I have to admit that a part of what I felt was relief – relief at not falling, not holding anyone up, not panicking and riding much worse than I’ve learned how to. On the other hand there is exhilaration connected with risk taking and in riding well. At one point on Quatro Sinko. I flew into a short hill and my momentum carried me over. I enjoyed that for a fraction of a second and then had to focus on the next part. Now I can go back and work on riding up those hills.