Tuesday, June 25, 2013

West Virginia

I've spent the past two weekends racing in West Virginia.  Two weekends ago I did the Big Bear 2x12 team relay MTB race and I did the Hilly Billy Roubaix American Ultra Cross Series Race this past weekend.  It sure has been a blast doing these races in the State where I used to spend so much time racing, but now days cannot get there as much as I'd like.

For the Big Bear 2x12, I entered the singlespeed category with my Team CF Teammate, Rob Spreng.  Rob usually races with gears, but he owns a singlespeed also and does ride it from time to time.  Regardless of the bike he uses, Rob is fast in technical singletrack and I knew having him on my team would make us hard to beat if all went well.  As it turned out, things did go very well for us and we won both the singlespeed category and the race overall.  This is the fourth year in a row I've been able to win the singlespeed race at the Big Bear 2x12 Duo Race, each time with a different teammate.  I've had a great time each year I've done this race, but winning it with my Team CF Teammate and taking the overall win made this victory a little more special than my other wins there.

I was hoping my winning form from the Mohican 100 and the Big Bear 2x12 would carry into the Hilly Billy Roubaix.  After winning the very first Hilly Billy Roubaix overall on my singlespeed in 2010, I switched over to doing the race on a geared bike and never raced quite as well there as I did in 2010.  I don't think anyone, including myself, can understand how I am a faster rider on a singlespeed than I am on a geared bike, but a singlespeed does seem to be the fastest bike choice for me.  For this reason, I decided to switch back to a singlespeed for the 2013 edition of the Hilly Billy and for the 2013 American Ultra Cross Series.

Riding some of the early mess with my buddy, Jake.
Every year I've done the Hilly Billy it seems to start in the same way, with the most important breakaway happening on the initial gravel road climb a few miles into the race.  The lead group then gets cut down a bit more after traveling down the always muddy Indian Creek Extension section of the course a few miles after the initial climb.  Things were no different this year and I was fortunate enough to make into the early lead group again this year with seven or so other riders.

As in previous years, it was HOT at the Hilly Billy again this year.  This heat combined with a ton of  climbing over the short, steep climbs on this course does seem to take a toll on the riders.  The hills and the heat were a determining factor again this year and eventually split the lead group to only Adam Driscoll and me.  This final split of the lead group occurred when we were climbing out of check point #2, around 38 miles into the 75 mile race.  At this time, Mike Simonson was actually ahead of Adam and me, but we caught up to him after he had to stop and repair his second flat of the day at checkpoint #3.

After check point #3, Adam and I knew that more than likely one of us would win the race.  We still worked together for the most part, but we also took turns at testing each others legs for weakness.  Knowing the course pretty well from my previous attempts at doing it, I knew it would be hard to drop Adam on my singlespeed mtb when he was using a faster geared cross bike, especially because the last few miles of the course are relatively flat and much better to ride on a bike with multiple gears.  Taking this into account, I put in a hard effort on the last rough and muddy section on the course to see if I could separate myself from Adam.

My attack on this section of the course seemed to give me the gap I needed over Adam.  With only about 4-5 miles remaining in the race, I put every last ounce of energy into staying in the lead and not being caught.  When I'm riding in circumstances like this, the pain and discomfort my body should be feeling at this point in a long, hard, hot race seem to disappear.  The ending miles went by quickly and it was a great feeling for me to look over my shoulder and see nobody near when I turned into the finishing venue at Mylan Park.

After winning the Mohican 100 and the Big Bear 2x12 overall, I never expected to be the overall winner of the Hilly Billy Roubaix this weekend.  Winning a race always feels good, but being the overall winner of three consecutive big races in a row and doing it on a bike with only one gear is a bit overwhelming to me.  I'm not quite sure why I'm riding so well right now, but I'm going to do my best to not change anything.

Thanks to Mark Schooley, the promoter of the Big Bear 2x12 Duo Race, and JR Pesko, the promoter of the Hilly Billy Roubaix for putting on the great races they did.  I've said this before, but anyone that races should be doing these excellent events if having a good time at a well run race is important to you.  I also need to say thank you to all the volunteers that help make these two events run so smoothly.  Without the help from all these volunteers, these two races would not be what they are...great!

Happy Trails.........   Gerry

Thanks to Mike Briggs for the first two photos and Greg Flood for the finishing shot!


  1. Great summary of what it looked like from the front - a perspective I never had for even a moment. I can't believe you did this on a single. You have my admiration!
    In fact, the heat drove me into submission about mile 50.
    Congrats on your successes.

  2. Hi Gerry! Love your blog. Any advice on ss gearing selection for the Hill Billy Roubaix? This year will be my first attempt.