June 12, 2012

Race Report - 2012 Massanutten Hoo Ha / US Cup Triple Crown East Coast

Race: Massanutten Hoo Ha!  Super-D, Short Track and XC, Saturday and Sunday, June 9-10, 2102
Location: Massanutten Resort, VA
Conditions: Fast, dusty and hot
Riders: Aaron - 5th XC, 8th STXC; Mike - 7th XC; Dylan - 12th XC; Jeff - 5th Super-D, 4th STXC, 13th XC

A number of us headed to the 24th Annual Massanutten Hoo Ha! in the Shenandoah Valley just south of Harrisonburg, VA.  This event has been running since 1989 and I've been racing it (almost annually) since going to school in Lexington, VA starting in 2000.  The XC course is the epitomy of a "real" mtb race with large climbs, lots of rocks, tons of singletrack, fast descents, stream crossings, and a long race loop.

On Saturday, the Super-D was held at noon and Short Track was at 4:15, making for a long afternoon of racing.  I rode to the top of the roughly 3 mile long Super-D course (a 1,000 foot elevation gain) and met up with the 100 or so riders who also were out for a fun time.

I swapped the chip out on my 2012 Spark 29 RC to drop the bottom bracket and slacken the head tube angle.    This was the first time I'd ridden the bike in this mode and it turned out to be a good choice as the bike's travel felt bottomless and it handled the high-speed descent with ease.

The Spark's linkage in "Low" mode
I also rode low pressure (23psi) in my Conti X-King 29x2.2 tires.  They were a good balance of fast rolling, just enough traction in loose dirt and sand, and I didn't have to worry about sidewall issues.  I did have some drifting issues on the front tire while at 40 mph (I hit almost 42mph on the descent), but I could feel when I was reaching the limit of the front tire and could back off just a bit - the cornering was very predictable and stable.

After finishing my timed run, I thought I hadn't had a very good run as I caught my 30 second man almost immediately after he'd crashed in a rock garden right in the main line of the course and I'd needed to hop off my bike and run for a bit.  However, when results came out, I found I'd knocked 35 seconds off my time from last year, in nearly identical conditions, only this year I was riding the 29er Spark.  The bike was definitely faster!

I was plate #1
Here's the data from Strava:

Race #2 on Saturday was the Short Track (dirt criterium).  The temperature had climbed into the upper-80s by mid-afternoon and the course was dusty from all of the other riders, but fun with big berms and a little jump.  Between races was a good time to do a bit of maintenance work.

The awesome Feedback Sports Pro stand
At the start, Cannondale factory rider and 2012 Olympic hopeful, Jeremiah Bishop and Florida fast guy, Victor Alber, took off from the 20+ rider pro/open field.

Matthys Beukes (a South African  rider who just finished up the Trans-Sylvania Epic), Aaron, Brad Pearly (Champion Systems Cannondale), Dave Weaver (Alan North America) and I were just a few seconds behind Bishop/Alber in a big group, but inhaling a lot of dust.  Seven days of racing just a week earlier took its toll on Aaron and he started to slow after the group had been whittled down to just three of us (me, Aaron and Beukes).  Beuekes rode away and I headed off to chase.

For what seemed like eternity, I chased.  The pace was high (I felt like I was bleeding out of my eyes while getting sand forced down my throat - a lovely experience), but I couldn't get any closer.  Beuekes has a very smooth riding style and I kept thinking he was easing up, so I was motivated to go harder.  But, I couldn't close the 15 second gap, or the 30 second gap to Bishop.

In the closing laps, Bishop attacked Alber and rode away to the solo win.  I ended up 4th, just holding off Pearley.  Aaron hung on to finish 8th.

Here's the data from Strava:

Aaron, his girlfriend Jen, and I stayed at the Massanutten Resort Saturday night.  After a few years of camping at the race venue, this was a great change.  The rooms at the hotel were clean and inexpensive and there was a dinner and breakfast buffet for $10 each.  Perfect!

The next morning's 11am Cross Country race was going to be fast.  Bishop, Beukes and Alber returned for day two, as well as Nick Waite, Chris Michaels and a host of other fast guys, including our teammates Mike Joos and Dylan Johnson (both good riders in technical and climbing courses).

Mike, Dylan, Aaron and Jeff
There were approximately 25 guys on the start line and a good number were either current or former UCI World Cup riders. At the start, Bishop powered away from the field.

Mike and Dylan at the start
Bishop would eventually win by over three minutes over Nick Waite.

Bishop at the end of lap 1
Even with tired legs, Aaron rode a great race to finish 5th and Mike and Dylan also each had good days finishing 7th and 12th, respectively.

I had a not-so-good day and made the most of my much, much slower ride on the rocks of Massanutten Mountain, ending up 13th (but a long ways behind Dylan).

Aaron - Lap 1
Dylan - Lap 1
Dylan - Lap 1
Jeff - Lap 1
Dylan heading out for lap 2
Mike - heading for the finish
Podium - Aaron in 5th
If you want to see some great photos of the race, check out Ian McAlexander's ITMExposures.com site.  A number of the photos of me and Aaron made the cut as the best of the weekend:

Here's the data from Strava:

Results can also be found here.

Next up for a lot of us is the Stoopid 50 in State College, PA, next Sunday, June 17.

- Jeff

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