Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The Shootout at Anglers Ridge
I took another trip down south this past weekend to Danville, VA to do the 6 Hours of Anglers Ridge. I didn’t know about this early season mtb endurance race until I received a call from my friend Sologoat on the Monday before the race. Ernesto called to find out some information about whether I was doing the Pierre’s Hole 100 NUE Race in August or not because registration was opening that night. I told him that I definitely was doing PH100 along with all the other NUE races in 2011 except for the Park City, UT race. After discussing the details about PH100, I inquired about what race was next on his schedule and I soon found out all the good details about this SVMBA promoted race.
I really wasn’t expecting my endurance mtb racing season to start so early this year. Heck, I just stopped skiing a few weeks before and basically just started doing some consistent riding, but the thought of riding some nice single track in warm weather was just too much for me to resist. Since I was considering this race more of a good training opportunity rather than a true shot at an overall win, I decided to ride my single speed Salsa Selma instead of my geared Mamasita 29er. To add a little more difficulty to the race, I also had to use a ridge fork on my ride because my suspension fork seals were leaking oil and I did not trust them to hold up during the 6 hour race. I must admit, though, that I was almost tempted to change this plan on Friday when Todd from Pro Bikes called to tell me that my Salsa Spearfish had arrived at the shop. I had Todd rush around to find a tapered suspension fork and headset that would work with the frame. I also figured that I could then strip the old parts off my Mamasita to build-up the Spearfish to give it a nice test ride at Anglers Ridge. Unfortunately, my plan was foiled when I arrived at the shop and found that the frame required a press-fit BB30 bottom bracket. I did not have one and the shop did not have one in stock either. I quickly gave up the idea of riding the smoothness of the Spearfish and went back to my original plan of using the Selma.
During my pre-ride of the 9 mile loop at Anglers Ridge on Saturday, the Selma rode very nice. Additionally, the tight, twisty single track with a bunch of short climbs and descents seemed to be a perfect course for a rigid single speed bike. For the most part, the course is not too technical as far as there being anything real tricky, but there are a lot of tree roots crossing all over the trails that did cause my bike to bounce around quite a bit. A rigid bike would be fine for a cross country length race on this course, but it definitely started to wear on me as the 6 hour race laps started adding up. I did the pre-ride and race with my Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Wheels with the tire pressure set at about 25. Without the use of the Stan’s Wheels, I am sure my body would not have been able to handle riding on this course for 6 hours with a rigid bike.
The race started on a fast straight away which then took a hard left up a wide, short climb before entering the single track. Once entering the single track, it was difficult to make passes, so I worked hard to get the hole shot and take the lead into the trail head. After taking the initial lead, I stayed at the front and set a high pace for the first two laps. This seemed to break apart the field pretty good, so I started riding at a more conservative pace during lap three and four. Towards the beginning of lap four, I saw that Sologoat was chasing me hard and was getting a little too close for comfort. After seeing my hard-charging friend coming up behind me, I knew that I had to start riding fast again if I wanted to stay at the front of the race. During this time, I also decided to skip my stop at the pit during my fifth lap, so that I could gain a little extra time. It was a bit of a gamble because my water supply was getting low and I could have also used some nutrients, but my gamble seemed to pay off.
After skipping a pit stop, I looked back once I was in the single track and saw that there was nobody near me again. I continued riding at a pretty good clip, however, because I knew that I would absolutely need to stop at the beginning of lap number 6 to fuel-up. I made it through that last stop quickly and without having any issues. The last couple of laps during the race were pretty lonely. Occasionally I would see a rider here and there, but I was basically all alone for the most part. It didn’t matter, though, because being alone gave me chance to just ride and enjoy the trails. With about half a lap to go, I took a look over my shoulder at the top of a climb and caught a glance of a rider coming up fast behind me. I immediately knew that this rider was a competitor in my race and also knew that I now needed to pick up the pace again so that I would not be caught before the finish.
I rode hard during this time, but at the same time, I also rode smart. The last thing I wanted to do was crash or cause another problem by being too aggressive on this twisty course. I was pretty fried at this point in the race, which made riding fast again even harder. My arms and hands were on fire from riding without a suspension fork and I started to wonder if I might get caught because of my choice to use a rigid single speed. I did my best during the last part of the race to ignore my pain and just focus on riding my bike. My concentration paid off by race end and I was able to take the win by a very narrow margin of about two minutes over second place.
It was certainly an awesome day of racing on sweet trails and in perfect weather. I am very happy that I made the decision to take another road trip south for some fine early season endurance racing on some great single track and also couldn't be happier with how my rigid Salsa single speed proved once again to be a flawless machine.
Happy Trails, Gerry