Monday, August 12, 2013

I heart ABRA

First off, I want to clarify the title of my blog post and tell everyone that what I like is the Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association (ABRA) and not the 1970's Swedish Pop band ABBA, best known for their song Dancing Queen.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you're much younger than me. I just had to throw some of my own personal silliness and humor into this blog post, sorry.

Anyway, the man behind ABRA is JR Petsko.  Without him and his racing association, there would be a lot less local racing in the Morgantown - Pittsburgh Region.  I've thanked him before for all the work he does to put on so many fun, competitive and well organized races, but I don't think he can be thanked enough by me or any of the many other local racers that get to race his events often.  If you haven't tried one of his races, then you need to do one soon!

I had to work this weekend, but I was still able to do a race on Saturday because there was an ABRA mtb event near work/home.  The White Park Throwdown XC race was held in a small park in Morgantown, WV on a super fun and semi-technical 4 mile loop.  I say it was semi-technical because there was nothing real difficult to ride there, but it was tight, twisty and tricky enough to keep a rider's attention completely focused on the single track trails during the entire race.  Additionally, with three days of heavy rain falling before race day, the trails were muddy and slick, which made the course even more difficult (but fun) to ride.

I like doing local races when I can find the time in my busy racing schedule to do them.  Regrettably, I was not able to do any other ABRA mtb races this year, so I didn't qualify for the overall ABRA Series standings.  I guess a lot of other riders had other commitments this year also because JR was talking about possibly not continuing the ABRA Mtb Series next year. If this is true, I (and I'm sure many others) hope JR can still find the time to promote a few local mtb races next year.

A steep downhill leading to a narrow and muddy bridge.  Talk about tricky...
I have found that doing local XC races is a great way for me to practice my riding skills and to keep my fitness at a high level, especially with all the fast competition I have in my area.  I know my national level racing would not go as well for me if I didn't get to compete against all the fast guys living in my neck of the woods.  There is just no way to replicate the hard effort produced during a race and being able to do hard local races is a big help in preparing my body to do well at other races.

The White Park Race started on a quarter mile stretch of paved roadway leading to the single track trailhead.  This stretch of road was a bit too fast for the gear I had on my SS, so I didn't get into the woods as close to the front of the pack as I would have liked.  As a result, I spent some time riding behind other riders going at a slower pace than I wanted to ride.  Meanwhile, the lead group of riders and one singlespeeder, Nate Annon, were able to put a good amount of time on me.

I chased hard to make up my lost time, but the slick course was not very friendly to speed and not knowing the course well also didn't make my chase any easier.  But, eventually, I did start to catch riders and saw Nate riding about 30 seconds in front of me.  The time gap between us did not change much for the next three laps, but I never gave up my pursuit of him.  With about an half lap to go, I finally caught Nate and moved into second place overall with my long time friend and competitor, Gunnar Shogren, leading the race a head of me.  I was motivated to catch Gunnar and make an attempt to get by him for the overall win, so I pushed myself hard to close the distance between us with less than two miles remaining in the race.

At least the top of the ridges were dry!
My effort paid off and with about a mile to the finish I rode up to Gunnar's wheel. But, at the same time I caught him, I also caught my handlebar end on a small tree and was thrown to the ground hard.  I heard a loud cracking noise coming from my body when I hit the mud with my side and shoulder.  When I heard this noise, I immediately thought my collarbone had snapped, but jumped back on my bike without hesitation  because I was in full-on competition mode.

I must admit that I was a little tentative for the next few hundred yards of riding, while I tried putting different pressures on my arm to take inventory of my body parts and diagnosis if anything was broken.  To my delight, nothing hurt when I applied pressure to my arms and I was soon able to get my speed up to full throttle again.  However, it was too late in the race to catch Gunnar by the finish, so I finished second overall and took the singlespeed win.

I doubt my words can explain how much fun this short, tricky little race was.  I also can't explain how happy I was to learn that nothing on my body was busted-up from the crash.  It was also fun to learn, while cleaning-up the mud on my bike and body after the race, that the cracking noise heard during my crash was made by a lens popping out of the sunglasses I placed in my jersey pocket part way through the race.  I just had to laugh when I figured this all out.  What fun is life if you can't laugh at yourself, or an old song by ABBA for that matter.

Thanks again to JR for his tireless work at promoting bike races and to Fred Jordan for always capturing the perfect photos at a race.

Happy Trails....  Gerry

No comments:

Post a Comment