Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bones Intact after Bonebender 3 hour

My 2013 mountain bike race season has officially begun. I say this because I'm still sore and tired after racing United Federation in Dirt's Bone Bender 3/6 Odyssey this last weekend. I say this because I have wounds to tend to and stinky laundry to yet unpack. I say this because my car's windshield is still covered in bug splatters and I have water bottles to defunk.

Yep, it's racing season, full frontal. Mother Nature be damned.

Bone Bender 3/6 is one of our favorite events. If ya wanna learn how to ride rocky terrain, go to Clinton Lake Park near Lawrence, KS. There's more rock than dirt but since the trail ebbs and flows near the lake, the climbing in minimal (and sadly, so is the descending). So, needless to say, there's lots of pedaling. And steering. And standing. And standing, pedaling and steering. Lifting, hucking and turning. Lots and lots of turning. But that's what makes it A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Racers are forced to handle their bikes or die. Unlike last year, the course was in the best shape for racing. Rain earlier in the week set up the dirt and rolled it out like a red velcro carpet. Mmmmmm-mmmm!

That's Ryan leading the train. I'm down by the tree on the right.
The race started out, as many endurance events do, as a mad scramble. I lined up probably the 2nd or thirdish row behind Ryan and other fast dudes. The trail is not known for passing lanes so the farther up I could get myself, the better odds I'd have not getting stuck in line at the hole shot. After a neutral roll out on a paved road, the steam train headed up a grassy field (with 20 mph winds at our backs). Everyone was jockying for position as we moved closer to the tree line like a herd of angry steers. But that came to a grinding, buzz kill halt as the herd tried to squeeze itself as fast as possible into an opening in the trees made only for two. Lots of tiptoeing and wise cracks about track standing races made for a light mood. All this joking around while the front of the pack was putting on the distance eventually irritated enough of us to get us around those that were choosing to walk. The end of the parade lap put us right back on the paved road where again positioning was key as we went one by one into the trees for a short sampling of the miles to come. I pre-rode this section the day before and knew it was short so I put forth a big effort knowing I'd have a chance to recover before diving back in. Wixon was up ahead when Eyberg went by me as the trail spat us out in a field. For most of the first lap, they were in my sights. A goober in their group kept coming out of his pedals and would get hung up on technical climbs, causing some to have to clip out. This worked to my advantage until said goober, made his way back to me. Then I realized what was up. The guy was on a hard tail and had no idea how to control the thing as it ping-ponged around the trail. He had good speed and power but it looked like he was trying to tame a bunking bronco that was not having it. At one time I had to tell the guy to be calm and get clipped in. He was becoming a hazard to himself and me so as soon as the coast was clear, I got by him on his next bobble. This cost me some time on the Todds so I tried to hook up with them but then I just told myself to race my own race, not theirs.

The sky threatened rain all day. The wind was incredible, noting the white caps on the lake when the trail took us close enough. Those conditions were ideal in a dense forest such as this. We didn't have to deal with shadows hiding the already very technical trail and the wind kept us nice a cool. I was just hoping the branches would stay attached.
After the first half of the race, the course started to open up and had a bit more flow and less rock. Gears went up a few clicks and my pacing increased. Soon I came up on Wixon who seemed to be having a fine ride. We rode together for a few minutes until he nicely let me go ahead. I rode on. And on. And on. This lap sure seems long, I thoughjt. Sure enough by the time I got back up to the start/finish, 1.5 hours had past. Last year, in the wet, I put in 1:25 lap times on average so I figured they must be using the whole course this time.

I pulled into the feed zone and swapped bottles and grabbed some chow. On the road that lead to the hole shot, Mr. Goober apologized for "slowing me down". I'm not one to hold grudges, of course, and gave him the go ahead into the trees. I was hoping he'd have pulled it together after 90 minutes of getting jack hammered but the Pinball Wizard was just not having a good day. I finally said good-bye to him once and for all.

The rest of the race was pretty smooth. That is to say, crash-less, as in without a crash. I did manage to hug a large tree in an attempt to not crash after my bar end grazed it. I was called out by a trailing racer, but he swore he wouldn't tell anyone. Now I have a peculiar bruise on my right wrist that either says drug addict or abuse victim. Either way, I'll take that over an endo any day.

At about 2.5 hours, I thought I'd make it back in time to go out for another lap. I came in just over 3 hours and was given the cutt throat sign. But that was ok. I had a good race. My body was intact and so was my bike. It had been so long since I rode technical terrain, I had forgotten how fun the Top Fuel can be. It's too bad Trek doesn't make them any more. That thing ate up the trail. I think last year I ran my Stans wheels here. But after noticing a monumental difference last season between them and carbon, the Bontragers were the wheel of choice for this race. I murdered those things and they were right at home among the baby heads and knotty roots. Never once did I feel like I couldn't just point them whereever I wanted and when you're racing on trails that are this technical, having that level of confidence goes a long way.

photo courtesy of Gnarly
I came across the line in first place overall for the ladies. Eyeberg finished just a few seconds ahead of me. I never saw another woman the whole time but after seeing the results, second place wasn't that far back. A bad crash or technical could have brought her within site of me on lap one but by lap two I had doubled the gap so I'm pretty satisfied with the result.

Bart Cox Photography: 2013 BoneBender MTB Race &emdash; 20130414-IMG_4427

After the race, we all hung out and supported our friends who were doing the 6-hour. I about vomited when I watched Rafal drink pickle juice straight from the jar. He along with Ryan, Brad and Trevor Rockwell from Iowa were all still in the game and riding very strong. Unfortunately, Ryan had a technical and he came back on foot, from the other end of the course, and went straight for a beer and cried in it. Seemed he broke a couple teeth off a jockey wheel and almost a couple in his skull after face planting. A-Stoll and Gnarly called it a day after numerous technical issues forced them to wave the white flag. Chris Price finished on the Fatty and Big Mike put in a solid, albeit, bloody lap. Dale braved the six hour on his fixie and wins for having the guts to ride a course like this. We spent the rest of the race yelling for those who remained until Brad finally emerged from the trees first to secure the six-hour race win. It was a good showing from the Nebraska crew!

To top off the day, the MTBWagon Crew headed for Topeka for some BBQ and waffle fries. Yep, it's definitely racing season.