Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Team Geronimo at Master the Mass Enduro

Its been a wicked busy month of racing and traveling (locally thank goodness). The tracks have been tough and physical, week in week out, so naturally the body is starting to tire a little, but I must push on and find as much recovery time as possible because this train isn't slowing down anytime soon!

Master The Mass is a really great event, and due to its low key nature the racing vibe is very relaxed and fun. Snowmass is literally just down the road from where I live, about 30 minutes, so it was really nice to make a day trip each day and sleep in my own bed each night. The temperatures have been nuclear, so trail rides throughout the week leading up to the race were took in the early AM, and the rest of the day I was able to rest and recovery from the previous weekends racing in Keystone. I missed out on this race last year as I was chasing the East Coast World Cup scene, but I wasn't going to miss out on this very unique event that utilizes both an interesting race/scoring format. There were 4 stages of racing(Uber D, Cross Country, Chainless, Downhill) that was comprised over 3 days and the scoring was based upon your percentage behind the leader after each run, then combined for the overall. In my opinion it was one of the most challenging and fun events I've ever been apart of and the point system worked out great rewarding riders for their strengths and creating an even playing field. Here's how it all went down.

Stage 1 - Uber D

I arrived Friday and met with Dylan and Tyler to get up on the hill and inspect the 9 mile long Uber D course that we would be racing later that afternoon. The Uber D utilizes many trails on the mountain and starts above 11,000ft at the top of Elk Camp Lift. Vapor Trail starts it off and is an interesting mix of machine build trail up top and natural down near mid mountain where it ends. A quick sprint past the Elk Camp Gondola and onto the flow trail, Valhalla for a few minutes. It turns onto Government Trail which is one of the most popular trails in the region as it traverses the Aspen mountains. There are a few mean pitchy uphills but we were rewarded with descending down the insanely fast Anaerobic Nightmare Trail through the aspen trees and onto Tom Blake Trail where the fun continues until you cross Owl Creek Rd and hope onto Highline Trail. A lung busting scrub brush hillside traverse awaits, until finally the trail ends on a tight descent and through the finish line on Cemetery Rd. With 3,500ft of vertical drop, we were looking forward to this after riding it in full once, but knew it might be the hardest race course we've encountered this year due to the shear length of it all. 

I felt great out of the gate as the DH style Vapor track greatly suites my style, but as soon as I made my way through Valhalla and onto Government I was starting to feel weak. Too much sprinting up top left me gasping for air on the ascents and it took me a while to regain form towards the bottom. A few tricky turns had me concerned and I ended up braking when I shouldn't have. I tried to make up for my mistakes towards the bottom on Highline, but I was ruined by that point. I mustered up enough strength to sprint hard across the line, but a 9th place left me searching for lost time along the way. Bike setup and strategy would be addressed before the Cross Country the next morning. Tyler unfortunately broke his chain mid way through the race, he ran and kicked his way never giving up all the way to the line in 20th position. Dylan had a great run and placed 1st in his category. Worn out we headed home knowing it wasn't going to get any easier the next morning in the Cross Country stage.

Stage 2 - Cross Country

Up and at em early, but a slight delay had us lined up for a mass start at 10am. I was situated next to a few lycra clad, leg shaven high posters and wasn't quite sure what to think of the whole situation. I knew that I wouldn't be close to the strongest rider in the bunch, so once the gun sounded I positioned myself right behind the fast boys and tried to hold on. The pace was manageable until we reached the first set of switchbacks above Elk Camp gondola and then the pace really picked up. Into the fresh cut single track forest we all went and I was left mid pack wondering when my 2nd wind would arrive. Low and behold I started making moves about 10 minutes into the race and spent the majority of the time trying desperately to keep a high cadence with my 38 tooth chainring setup. I had multiple riders in my sights throughout, but could not pull them in on any of the climbs and as we traversed the hillside towards Spider Sabich the overgrown vegetation made looking ahead and turns tough to gauge. I was able to hold off a rider behind me long enough to hook into an old DH track which brought riders back to the base and finish line. It was a quick 7 miles and still had plenty of descending, but some of the climbs were sustained and quite rugged. I found myself once again in 9th place, but the damage was done as I was 11 percent behind first place. It was respectable, but my goal is to become more multi dimensional and a threat at these events in years to come. Tyler Moved his way up into 11th with a strong effort and Dylan kept it together for a 3rd place finish. The promoters might as well of read my mind, the last two events were hard on the peddles, time to take the chain off for the next stage.

Stage 2 Results:  http://www.aspensnowmass.com/-/media/Events/MASTER/2013_MoM_Stage2_Results.pdf

I'm extremely fond of chainless racing and the thought of creating a Chainless World Series has even crossed my mind. In my opinion there is no better way to judge a riders skill than to take off the chain, and let gravity do all the work. I've raced chainless on Valhalla before and let me tell you it is tough. The turns by this point were blown, the course very dry and the jumps take a certain skill set to stay low over, so its a real challenge and one mistake can be really detrimental. I pride myself on turning technique and exit speed, and work everyday to continue to improve. My background with gated racing goes great with a jump track as well. After a few laps to help fill the voids of some important pieces of track it was time again to race. It was comical to watch bicyclists run alongside and sidesaddle their steeds, many of the bunch are not runners. A good running start is pretty important as speed going into the first straight were slow going, but once in the trees it was non-stop all the way to the bottom. The amount of focus left me with a sore neck and a bit of a headache, but after 9 minutes of turning and burning and almost catching my 30 second man I crossed to line in 1st place. Tyler showcased his skills in the Amateur Men category and made the podium with 3rd place. Dylan once again kept it consistent upon his Banshee Rune and into 2nd for another podium. A long day came to an end with a great social gathering at the Base with bar food and friends. I had put myself in the position that if I did well the fallowing day in the DH I could possibly score a podium overall position.

Stage 3 Results:  

Stage 4 - Downhill

I put the big Maxxis High Roller 2 meats back on in anticipation of the next stage, and probably the one I was most excited about, the National Downhill track. I've been racing in Snowmass for 9 years and actually took my first downhill victory here in 2004. I've had many other podiums and victories on this track, so I was looking forward to giving it a go on the smaller trail bike. The high speed top half of the track was taken out, so we were in reality only racing about 70 percent of the original course, but after the start line, it was full on right into the dark forest. We were graced with overnight rain however and the track that is usually known for, and potentially even famed for being one of the most blown out loose tracks out there, it was actually tacky and held great traction. The lack of trail maintenance left racers crossing their fingers while plowing down the rough track through thick mountain cabbage, but after a few practice runs in the morning a few lines started to burn in. I felt absolutely terrible the first lap down as perhaps I was used to a faster speed while navigating the trail, but 2 more practice laps left me feeling prime and ready to give it a good go. Its always fun to get loose on the trail bike and I got a little out of my comfort zone while on my race run, but all in all had a very clean run and bested much of the competition by a large margin and enough for another race win. Tyler went on a flyer and won his race by over 7 seconds! Dylan raced a tight one but settled for a well earned 2nd place, but was definitely looking to end the weekend with a victory.

Stage 4 Results: http://www.aspensnowmass.com/-/media/Events/MASTER/2013_MoM__Stage4%20RESULTS.pdf

Stage 3-4 photos:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151718747692042.1073741839.106030702041&type=1

In the end I worked my way from 9th to 4th overall, just a few points outside of 3rd. With his misfortunes, Tyler still put in a 10th place result. Dylan took the top overall honors in the Junior category with some seriously consistent and strong riding.

Overall impressions of the race weekend were good, the trails were rad, the competition stiff and the body sore. However, because it was there, and I need to continue to work on my fitness, I managed a Rim Trail ride in fallowing the event. Thank you all very much for your continued support of myself and Team Geronimo.

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