Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Race Report: Gravity East Series #3 at Blue Mountain, Palmerton, PA

Race Report: Gravity East Series #3 at Blue Mountain, Palmerton, PA

We had a beautiful weekend for racing. Sunny, but not unbearably hot and a bit of rain a couple of days prior made course conditions pretty much perfect. The course was about as pure a DH course as they could make at Blue using existing trails. Most I had ridden a number of times before and were also used in the enduro race a few months prior. The difference being some sections had become much rougher after additional months of riding. Alumni Chairman may remember the built-up log drops in one of the enduro stages — well now the landings were totally rutted out and rooted with braking bumps. The trick now to doing them was to hit them with enough speed to jump over the roots.

My race report if that was me:
I won!
I phucking won!
I beat all those mofrackies! - Alumni Chairman

Saturday practice went well. I arrived at about 9:30AM and after picking up my pre-registration pack, got onto the mountain by about 10. The top section of the course I hadn't ridden too many times, but wasn't too much of an issue. Like much of Blue, it was rocky, loose and fast with many line choices. I tried a number of different lines, but none seemed to be any faster, so in the end I chose the smoothest one. The rock drop was also on the course and everything finished with the big double, road-jump and step-down. The road jump and the step-down were never a problem, but I continued to have trouble carrying speed into the double. Only on my race run did I just about clear it. This annoyed me as the jump is smaller and has even less of a lip than the finish jump at Windham.

I did 6 or 7 practice runs on Sat and when my last run was sloppy as hell (went off course twice), I decided to call it a day. I'm glad I did because when I woke up Sunday morning, I could definitely feel it in my arms and back. I was sore, but not badly so, but I probably would have been had I done another run or two. So I went home, made dinner and got a decent night's sleep. Sunday I managed to get there early and was able to get a few good practice runs in. One concern... I forgot gloves... I have something like 6 pairs of gloves at home, so I'll be damned if I was buying another pair... and I'd had thoughts about not wearing gloves... pretty much whenever I just ride the bike around it feels so much better sans gloves... so I said "what the hell..." and rode without. My gloves have little in the way of padding, so my callouses are fairly thick right now. Hard to say if it really made much of a difference, but I think it did help with braking feel.

Congrats on the win! My favorite part of the story was saying the callouses on your palms were from wearing thin gloves. - Social Chairman

Unlike Windham, the starting order was more like what we were used to back in the Plattekill days: Pros, then Cat 1, and Cat 2 & 3 at the end. One nice thing they did was to spread out the starts of the Cat 2/3 (assuming a greater disparity in skill and experience levels within the class) with 45 sec start intervals vs. 30 sec for Pros and Cat 1. This seemed to work out well as passes on course were few. This being the case, I didn't head up to the top until the Cat 1 classes were done, which was nice as it limited the amount of time waiting around at the top. Oddly enough, the Cat 2/3 40+ class was one of the largest with 15 racers starting. 

My race run went well. I managed to hit the lines I wanted to and didn't make any bad mistakes. I hit the double with enough speed to get the front wheel over it and still had enough energy left to get some pedaling into the road jump, step-down and finish line. The course is so rough in a number of places that it was hard to really just let go of the brakes and let the bike work. And work it did. The 951 (Intense Cycles) still amazes me with how it will just soak up stuff when I let it. The bike wants to go fast. And it really needs to go fast to really work. I'm also glad I bought the bright orange as it really made it stand out against the sea of black bikes out there. I number of guys asked me about it. Unlike at Windham where there were a number of Intense bikes being raced, here there were fewer. 

This was definitely a "tubeless" course as I saw quite a few guys come down with flats and I felt/heard my rims against the numerous square edge rocks, but the Ringle wheels (Sun Ringle) and my Schwalbe Magic Mary tires (Schwalbe Tires) held. I did at a few psi this morning, which I think helped a bit: 35 rear, 30 front. The course also did a number on my rear tire, so I don't know how many more days of riding it has left. Fortunately, my winning prize was a new Maxxis DHF 650b tire (Yes! A prize I might actually use!). Also presented to the top 3 were a Blue Mtn coffee mug and the all-important medal. Never before have I been so happy to get a piece of cheap pot metal made in China — bearing in mind, this is the first race I've ever won in nearly 25 years of racing mountain bikes.

Awesome! It always feels good to uncork one every now and again! - President

So now I'm left with a dilemma.... With the win, a lot of the guys in my class were asking if I was going to the next two races — apparently I've upset the "overall" standings in the class. The next GES race is at Timberline Resort in WV on Sept 6 with the final race at Wisp on Sept. 20. With the ESC race at Blue Mtn sandwiched between them on the 13....

Three straight weekends of DH racing... Hmm....
Kicking Ass Historian! - Honey Badger

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