Battle the Bear Race Report

Battle at the Bear – Race Recap

So for the last 5 weekends here in Colorado the weather has well been slightly less than amazing. The weathermen rarely get their forecasts correct here in the Mile High city (why is that Phil?), but they have been knockin’ it out of the park with their weekend editions. So all week leading up to Saturday the call was low 50s and rain. Sweet way to kick off the mountain bike race season right? Nope, not really stellar conditions, but would definitely make the day east coast-esque and I have been actually enjoying the chilly rainy days.

So enough about the weather, let’s talk about bikes: riding them, racing them, and of course fixing them. In true fashion I decided to get my bike race ready the night before. I’m not sure if I just crave added stress or I just want to make things complicated before a race, but I always seem to be working on my bike only hours before the start gun fires. My stubbornness in true form is what this boils down to. I have only ridden my new GT Marathon a handful of times and it has been awesome, but the one upgrade I have wanted to perform has been to convert the wheels to tubeless. Sure I have thought about doing this for awhile and even bought a tubeless conversion kit a week before the first race, but I still decided to perform the operation the night before. I probably wouldn’t have begun this adventure in tubeless technology the night before, but the race course is notorious for race ending thorns and even cactus lining the course. Standard tubes are not an option.

Anyways, I spent a good 2 ½ hours “attempting” to convert my bike to tubeless and even after a few mayday calls to friends, my wheels are still not holding air for more than an hour. So after going through 12 Co2 cartridges (yes, 12) and drizzling tire sealant around my kitchen I threw in the towel and enjoyed a great dinner of pesto pasta with Erica and we veged out to the sounds of the flying V and triple deaks in a little Mighty Ducks action. Yes, you read that right Gordon Bombay was in full affect.

So fast forward to Saturday morning and I checked out the tires one last time and both were nearly flat after sitting all night. Not sure really how I kept my cool at this point, but I made a last ditch call for help to Green Mountain Sports which happens to be a mile from the race site. At 8:30 on Saturday morning they were actually open for business and willing to help me get my bike prepped for racing. A quick breakfast and we headed over to Green Mountain Sports and they fixed the GT up and I’m ready for action.

So you’re probably wondering about the weather at this point since that was my first worry ahead of the tire debacle. Well the weathermen were dead wrong (Phil, why is that?) on their forecast and I was greeted to blue skies and 60+ degree temps…PERFECT! With a little over an hour to spare before race time I felt quite a bit more confident in my equipment and ready to see how the legs are going to perform. The race start was at 11:30 and about 12 guys were staged for the Expert 19-29 category. Not bad for such an early season race.

Unlike most cross country mountain bike races the Battle at the Bear was a mass start of all Pro and Expert categories. My age group started directly behind the pros and the promoters decided to start us up on a short, but mean, hill in hopes of splitting the field apart. My start felt strong and I was able to get into a paceline with a few pros and some from my category. Paceline you ask…yes, there were some road racing tactics taking place. So the first lap was more or less a recon lap for me since I did not know the entire course. I must say that this was the fastest mountain bike course I have ever ridden and only 4 somewhat significant hills and plenty of fast downhills. At this point of the year I am definitely stronger on the downhills than the uphills if you know what I mean, so this could be the best way to kick off a year of mountain bike racing. The course covered 10 miles and most was on hard pack singletrack that twists and turns around Bear Lake. The expert and pro categories covered 3 laps of hot, nasty, badass speed.

This course definitely favors power riders and sad to say I am not a power rider nor do I try to be one. My first lap was exceptionally strong though my weakness was definitely on the 4 somewhat significant climbs and this was my weakness throughout the race. Earlier in the week I did an 80 mile ride in the mountains and I am pretty sure this hurt my race day performance, though it was an amazing ride.

Coming through on my second lap the only sign of fatigue I felt was in my lower right part of my back which I think is due to positioning on the bike. Luckily it was not enough to really distract me from powering the pedals and hitting the downhills and flats as hard as possible. Speaking of the downhills; this course had some awesome twisty singletrack downhills that felt a lot like riding in Fruita. I think I am an official fan of Bear Creek State Park and it is only about 20 minutes from my apartment…score!

The Finish:
So after 30 miles of racing (read: suffering) I came across the finish line with enough energy to throw in a sprint. My time was 2:01 which made for a 5th place finish in the Expert 19-29 category. Overall I am extremely happy with my performance and know that I need to work on my climbing for the races later in the summer. Special thanks to my cheering crew of Erica and Lindsey!  Digi Dave apparently slept through his alarm…lame.

The next race on the schedule is next weekend in Boulder. I’ll be taking on the Sunshine Hill Climb. I guess that will help me in my quest to become a hill climber again!

Here is the output of the race:


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