Roots and Rocks
July 23, 2008 · Print This Article
By Connie Misket
Salt Lake City, Utah
Allie pretty much told the tale of missing Super D practice on Thursday – oops. I’d like to say we should have gotten up earlier but good grief. I got 2.5 hours of sleep after getting in to Allie’s house and then getting up at 5am to build my bike…
Anyway – Shannon was a fun driving buddy and we cheered each other up on the longer than expected, somewhat circuitous drive to Mt. Snow. I figured I would just walk the course Thursday and then practice the next two days. I had planned to just race Super D – that’s the only bike I brought. I was looking at an extra $250 each way to bring the DH bike – which just wasn’t happening. So I figured I’ve been doing better in Super D, so I’d just go with that. And Kimber is injured and supposed to be “taking it easy” so she was just going to do the SD too on Allie’s Nomad. Went to register and looked at the practice schedule…. no Super D practice until the race on Sunday. WHAT??? We asked, we complained, we kept complaining until we got to the race director… no luck. Too bad, no practice for you. AND – you can’t buy a lift ticket and ride elsewhere – the mountain is closed except for formal race practice. Well that’s sweet…
So we registered for the DH. We figured at least that way we can ride something, and we’d check it out and if we couldn’t race it, so be it, but at least we’d be out riding, having fun, and getting a feel for the terrain and staying fresh on our bikes. Practice Friday went really well. I was cleaning the DH course no problem on my 6″ trail bike. Not very fast at the top – there are all these weird holes, but I felt good on the rest. The top just flew down the ski run and if you had any speed you’d get air – right into an off camber hole with rocks here and there.. I’m not sure what to compare it to, other than it looked innocent enough to ride slowly, but at speed looked terrifying. And then Friday night it rained… And then I started wrecking my guts out. The ski run stuff was slippery as hell on the wet grass, and then you got into the woods and got to ride all over the wet roots. Most of it was fine but there were 2 sections that had really off camber roots that just wanted to throw you off the side of the trail. And Saturday night it rained more…
Anyway – back to the Super D – that course was looking FUN!!! 3 climbs, which I wasn’t psyched about, but they looked okay except for the last climb which had a steep part at the very end. Bleh, but I’ve held my own on SD courses with 3 climbs before (in Angel Fire). And the rest was rocky, rooty fun and fire road descents with water bar jumps. Anyway – traditional SD – they don’t tell you what the deal is with the start until 10 min before the race. And this one sucked. Like 100 yards of running with your bike straight up the ski run. The other major event ones I’ve done were literally like 20 steps of running, then jump on your bike. This was LONG and steep, through tall weeds and loose rocks. I got smoked at the start. I don’t think I’ve run a step other than for Super D’s in like 5 years with all my knee surgeries. So starting from about last, I start picking people off through the woods. So far, so good. 2nd climb I got passed by 1 person but passed another. Then I got stuck behind 4 girls all trying to pass each other in the woods. No go, and I had to ride that whole section at a crawl, stuck behind the traffic jam – ugh. Passed someone else when it opened up, but got passed once again by 2 people on the 3rd nasty climb. I passed one more person in the woods, and another on the top speed/off camber descent down the ski run to the fire road, which was fun. I got to do that last pass in the air as we hit a water bar and blew by an XC girl just flying, and then nailed the flat gravel road corners as well as I’ve ever imagined I could… and pedaled like hell, but just missed catching Jen Tilley – who totally destroyed me on the climbs 😀 . (We totally need to do a Bella clinic where we can trade some climbing skills for some descending skills, huh? :D)
So anyway – I ended up 11th of 16. With the long running start it wasn’t a DH friendly course by any means, but I had a lot of fun on the course and had a blast racing it (well… not so much as I was running up the hill wanting to puke, but the rest of it was sweet!)
So then it was time to move on to the DH. The thunderstorms were lurking in the distance, but it held off for the race, which was great. I was really nervous about the top of the course, as on Saturday when it was wet I was wrecking left and right and ended up just walking a whole slippery off camber section up top that I just couldn’t stay upright on when it was wet. Luckily qualifying was at 11am and that’s when our practice had ended the day before so I had my fingers crossed that it dried out a bit. And it did – at least somewhat. I went slow, but made it down the top totally clean…. and then I slid out on the corner before you get into the woods. Got up and wrecked again. And got into the woods, which had been totally fun the previous two days, but I think I was trying to go too fast and just kept on wrecking. I think there were a total of 6 wrecks in my qualifying run. Good God. Luckily my bike suffered no damage (bent derailleur hanger that our mechanic fixed – OMG do I love having a team mechanic!!!) and I just wound up with a good bruise on my calf and a jammed index finger. No big deal. I qualified 13th (of 15).
Went back up for the race run and tried to tell myself to go slower and ride clean. Which totally worked…. for 3/4 of the course. And then I hit those dang off camber roots and flipped over my bike. That one hurt. Jammed my saddle into my inner thigh. Got up as fast as I could and kept going. Slid off a second time and I could hear the whistle of a rider coming behind me as I got on my bike so I pulled off to one side of the course to let her go. But just as I was expecting her to pass, she wrecked along side me, so I took off and rode as fast as I could to get out of the trees to give her space in the open in case she needed to pass again. The bottom of the course was clean – I was flying through the rocky section (wow do I love rocks compared to wet roots) and stayed loose and smooth through the mud bog (not a straight line in sight – all the ruts dead ended into roots and rocks criscrossing this field of mud). Actually – I was really pleased with that section – it’s so counter-intuitive to let off the brakes, totally relax and quit trying to steer and just let the bike find it’s own line through that kind of stuff. I know that’s what I need to do in my head and I didn’t let fear get the best of me and just did it – and what do you know, it worked every time. Anyway – I got through that and then pedalled my butt off to the finish line for a 14th place finish.
Well, it was a moral victory, if nothing else. It’s not like I expected to do well on a 6″ trail bike. I was only 3 seconds away from 13th place. And I had a blast riding and racing, and walked away with my bike and body intact (well minus some spectacular bruises on my legs). And then we got to watch Allie completely kill it on the DH course and it was so great to be there and celebrate her amazing finish.
Anyway – we all had a really great time – and not just with the riding – with the awesome host housing, swimming in the river, unbelievably good food… I’d love to do more riding on the East Coast. And I’m gradually getting the hang of this riding wet slimy stuff…
1. I just love to ride. Period. Right bike, wrong bike, wet roots, slimy off camber grass… I love it. And while I was nervous about how poor my results would be on the smaller bike – I made the decision to just go for it and have fun and it all worked out fine. But having the right bike would have been a LOT better! And speaking of having the right bike, I think I’ll be looking at getting more of a FS XC race bike for Super D’s for next year… That would probably help too when it comes to improving the climbing.
2. I really need to be even more careful about picking lines and not braking through those wet, off angle roots. I wish we had more of those to practice on around here, but wow do those suckers get you fast…
3. I need to work on longer running starts and sprinting up climbs. You get so stuck on mass start Super D courses when you can’t get out front first. So Kimber and I are going to try some cyclocross this winter to see if it helps with all of that.
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