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Raccoon Rally: My First MTB Race Ever

June 19, 2018


Last week, I was so stoked after doing that crit that I decided that I wanted to race again this weekend. So, I decided that a mountain bike race would fit the bill just fine, even though I have never done one, and I am pretty much a complete hack on the mountain bike. 


The thing I like most about mountain biking is the beauty of being out in the woods. There is just no place I would rather be. I really enjoyed getting out a few times on the MTB last year, and I must say that it helped me immensely with bike handling and confidence. It's just a fun experience all around. 


My mountain bike is a Cannondale Cujo 1, a rather forgiving 27.5+ bike. I am currently running a 3" WTB Ranger tire up front and the 2.8" version in the rear. The bike is plush, fun, and easy to maneuver and/or roll over stuff.


Mountain bike racing is pretty much the complete opposite of mountain biking that I have done thus far; it's intense heart pounding action. The whole point of it is not just to get over stuff, but to do it faster than anyone else. I have a lot to learn.


The Raccoon Rally has been going on 29 years right in the heart of one of my favorite places on Earth, Allegany State Park.  I signed up to do the middle distance, Sport, race which was 16 miles. The race features some pretty big climbs at the start with some intense downhill action. Then it goes off into single track and finishes with a pretty nice grinding climb.


My plan going in was to work my way up from the middle and hope that by the time I hit the climb, my road fitness would be enough to get me past some folks. I would be lying if I said that finishing was going to be my one and only real goal. I also wanted to not totally embarrass myself. 


When the race started, it was a mad dash. My heart rate was through the roof. It felt like a cyclocross race. Hard effort, rest, and hard effort again and again and again. This is why I enjoy different types of racing, as it gets me out of my comfort zone and gives me experiences that I do not engage in normally on road only rides. The power surges and high heart rate spikes are good training. I will admit that this race put the hurt on me several times throughout the course.