Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sylvan Island Stampede MTB Race

Sylvan Island Stampede - April 10th 2011l

So this weekend was pretty busy, after taking my NREMT practical yesterday,today I headed to Moline, Ill. for ironically enough the first race in the Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series. The race was on Sylvan Island which is in the middle of the Mississippi river. It is about 100 miles to Moline from my house so Jessie and myself took off at about 0630 for the 0900 start. He slept most of the way and when we got to the island, we grabbed my gear and walked across the pedestrian bridge to the check in. After check in we chilled out and he took some pictures of the river etc.. It was a gorgeous morning about 70 degrees and sunny.

About 15 minutes before race time, the loudspeaker from the registration tent advised us to move to the east end of the island to get ready for the start. Once again this year I am competing in the Novice (Cat3) division. With as much riding as I do I will probably remain a novice forever. There was probably about 50 racers and like I do for must running races I went to the back because I figure it is easier to pass someone than to try to stay ahead of them. More on that strategy later. The starter gave a countdown from 5 then pulled the trigger on the starting pistol. As a group we took off down a gravel walking path for about 300 meters then took a right into the woods. The entire course was to be 8 miles long and would consist of 2 1/2 laps around the island. We would start with the half lap. 

Since we were on an island,elevation change wasn't very significant but where the challenge came was the tight turns, roots, and rocks that littered the course. The island had formally housed a steel mill and you could see the remnents of loading docks and building foundations much of which we had to navigate as obstacles. This pretty much summed up the first half lap. I also discovered that I had made an error by starting in the back, I spent the majority of my time on that first part stuck behind a couple of slower riders with nowhere to pass. I eventually passed them however and was passed in turn by a different faster rider. For the first lap and a half this would be the pattern I would pass 2 or 3 riders and I would be passed by 1. So after the initial section the course dumped us back out on the same walking trail, I put it in high gear as this was a spot where you could make up some ground. I crossed the finish line and officially started lap number 1. These full laps started us towards the western end of the island which was more open but also flooded and hillier. I had fun trying to navigate the inclines directly after riding through a big mudhole or muddy section. I saw a couple big wipeouts in this section. I had a small advantage as I wear regular running shoes when I ride rather than clip in shoes. So the advantage was if I couldn't make it up the incline I could hop off and run up the hill, disadvantage was once my feet hit the mud the pedals became very slippery.

The last part of the full lap retraced the original section on the eastern half of the island, as I approached the start of the second lap I was happy to see I was still on the lead lap. Lapped riders didn't get to continue due to time constraints. I also saw my time was 1:39 for this first 1.5 laps. This second lap was more of the same, however I only passed one rider and was not passed by anyone else. Everyone had spread out quite a bit and pretty much settled into their pace. Being my second time through I was more efficient this second lap and was able to make it up and over some of the inclines that had given me issues on the first time around. I did get pretty muddy though as the course now was a quagmire in some sections. I saw a rider fly head over handle bars as he was racing downhill and his front wheel caught a particularly muddy spot.He was ok though and hopped back on his machine. I could smell the finish line once I hit the east half of the island and picked up my cadence. Once I hit that last 300 meters of flat trail I put it in the biggest chain ring and did my best to hammer it to the finish. I felt pretty good about the race, much better than my first race last year

I finished in 1:08:04 official placing will be posted later.

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