Date: June 17, 2012
Conditions: Dry, sunny, and seasonally cool temperatures
Riders: Cam 1st (Pro/Open), Dylan 3rd (Pro/Open), Jeff 4th (Pro/Open), Jay 5th (Masters)
After a few days of business travel, I headed to the State College area to take on the Stoopid 50. This 50 mile race is full of very rocky but 100% rideable singletrack linked by long fireroad climbs.
On Saturday, I stayed with the Juggernaut ESF team at the awesome Ingleby Lodge, a place I'd highly recommend if you'd like to spend some time in the State College area fishing, biking, hunting, hiking or just relaxing. We also headed to the Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim for an excellent dinner.
After a bright and early wakeup on Sunday (thanks to Thori's alarm clock which went off at it's normal time of 4:15am), we all headed to the race venue.
The start at 9:00 was unusually calm, possibly because nobody seemed to want to take the lead and line out the 200+ rider field up the opening 3 mile road climb. Unfortunately, the bunched field meant chaos heading into the first singletrack section on Tussey Mountain.
|On the starting line|
|Jeff and Dylan at the start|
|Dylan, Cam and Jeff|
After getting around a few people, I found a good rhythm and rode up to the top 10. In the distance, I could see Cam and Rob Lichtenwalner leading the race, with a small gap to Dylan who was leading a larger group of 6-7 riders. I latched onto the back of Dylan's group and passed a few guys who had to stop to fix flat tires.
The group whittled down to just four of us (me, Dylan, Chris Edmonds (from the Wooden Wheels team) and Montana Miller, a singlespeed rider) chasing Cam and Rob when we hit the fast downhill off the mountain, trying to make up a 30 second gap.
We came to a Y intersection with no arrow signs. We stopped and tried to figure out which way to go. We couldn't see which way Cam had gone, and looking at the trail to the right and to the left and the trail to the left had orange flagging hanging from the trees. We took this as a sign that was the correct direction and continued down the trail to the left.
After a downhill, we dropped out on a road and headed downhill. However, we didn't see any more orange flagging or arrows and we stopped, guessing we were going the wrong way on the road. So, we pacelined uphill in the other direction, thinking that was where we would start the climb up Thickhead Mountain. Eventually, we came to a road intersection where we saw direction arrows off to the left.
We all stopped and realized that somehow we'd gotten ahead of Cam and Rob. 20-30 seconds later, the lead moto came roaring up the road to us with Cam and Rob right behind. I let the moto rider know that we four had taken a wrong turn and that we were going to spot Cam and Rob 40 seconds (about the gap they had on us when we'd taken a wrong turn - from Strava, we weren't the only ones to have gotten mixed up on this section of trail). We let them head up the road and resumed our chase.
We caught them after a bit and all rode up Thickhead Mountain together at a moderate tempo. Soon we were joined by Matt Ferrari and Pat Blair to make up a group of eight. Cam was on the front (he rode at the front for 75% of the time and led through all the singletrack) and we headed down Thickhead Mountain to the first aid station.
I'd finished my first water bottle of nuun by then and didn't need to stop for a refill. Ferrari stopped and we didn't see him again for the rest of the day. (I think the other singlespeed rider who'd taken the wrong turn with us also stopped - I didn't see him again either.)
The six of us went flying into the rocky singletrack and had a great paceline going. We were jumping over bridges, weaving through rocks and generally having fun. I think Pat flatted after catching a wrong line on a bridge and we didn't see him again for the rest of the day.
After one or two sections of singletrack, Rob started to fall off the group's pace and it was just me, Cam, Dylan and Chris. The four of us rode well together, with Cam leading the singletrack and driving the pace up the short climbs and through the rocks, and the three of us matching his pace.
I was so happy to be on my Spark RC 29. This was my first race on the bike and I'd kept the rear suspension setting in the "Low" position. The suspension travel felt bottomless and I had none of the lower back tightness that I'd felt in the past few races. Plus, the slack headtube gave me confidence on the technical sections and I rode through sections with confidence that I'd have had difficulty with in the past.
I also put on a new Continental Race King 29x2.2 ProTection RTR tire on the rear. I wanted a tire with some grip, but would also roll fast. It hooked up on all sections and performed perfectly. I was especially glad of this after my experience last year at the Stoopid 50 when I rode some super light weight tires and double flatting within 5 miles of the start - the extra 100grams of weight was worth it in sidewall protection.
|Conti Race King 29x2.2 ProTection|
Coming into the second aid station, I knew I was in trouble as I'd run out of water 5 miles earlier. I could feel the precursor to some calf cramps and knowing that we'd have three large climbs (about 8 miles of uphill) before the finish, I wasn't sure I would make it in the group.
At the base of the first large climb after the aid station to the top of Thickhead Mountain, Dylan got to the front in an effort to try and shake Chris from our group. But the, pace was too high for me and I had to back off and ride up the 3 mile climb at my own pace. I could see the group of Dylan, Chris and Cam just in the distance when I reached the top. I flew down the 3 mile downhill and caught them just as they were headed up Gettis Ridge. I watched as Dylan attacked the group and started to ride away. Chris was following, but a little behind.
The feared leg cramps caught up with me as I started to climb again, starting with a left side hamstring cramp, which progressed to a right side quad cramp, then left side calf cramp and hip flexor cramp. I was pretty much incapacitated, but didn't stop pedaling (I've tried that before [getting off the bike] and usually end up laying on the ground, unable to move).
Eventually, I worked my way up to Cam, who had run out of energy after driving the pace for the past 3.5 hours. I paced him up the climb and up to the last climb (in between the two climbs, a bee landed on my upper lip and stung me - I'm glad I'm not allergic to them!).
Cam took the lead on the final descent and came across the line third and I was fourth. Chris had taken the lead from Dylan on the final descent, winning by about 50 seconds. Cam was 6 minutes behind Dylan and I was just a few seconds back from Cam. Pat Blair came in 5th about 5 minutes behind me and Mike Tabasko was 6th about 2 minutes further back.
|Finish line (a fallen tree!)|
Immediately after finishing, I talked with Chris Scott, the promoter, to be completely open about the situation. I let him know of what happened, why we thought we were going the right way due to the orange flagging and how we'd tried to sort it out on the course once we figured out what had happened. Eventually, following some more talks with the other riders (I was taking a nap at that point) Chris decided that because Cam had done the full course, but we tried on the course to rectify the situation, Cam would be the winner, Chris Edmonds would be second and Dylan third.
While we were waiting for the final decision, I took a "swim" in the ice cold river near the finish line. It was painfully cold, but felt great once I'd gotten out of the water.
Jay finished 5th. He had also taken a wrong turn that cost him some time. The area where we were racing had a lot of side trails and unless you either knew where you were riding and/or didn't keep careful attention it could be easy to get off in the wrong direction in one or two spots (like the spot the four of us got lost on).
|Pro/Open Podium - Cam 1st, Dylan 3rd, Jeff 4th|
Results are available here.