Campus Wheelworks Wednesday Night Race Series at Sprague Brook Park is in full swing, with only one week left. I signed up to race the seventh week in the series to get in one more awesome ride before vacation and a week off the bike.
The series features a 4 mile loop, with races of 4 (expert), 3 (single speed and sport), 2 (beginner), and 1 lap (juniors under 12 years of age). I have ridden SBP several times before, and I figured the beginner race would be a nice hour of work and fun. It really was a blast.
The course started out with a cyclocross style hole shot and 180 hairpin turn. This is where I always screw up. I started in the back, and I just simply didn’t get to the front fast enough. My casually trying hard strategy would come back to bite me in the ass later. The race then got onto some fun single track and a creek crossing where it did get a little jammed up. I heard some loud splashing behind me after crossing, and I am glad I kept the rubber side down.
I small climb led into some great trail riding. The trails at SBP are way more intense than those I encountered last week at the Raccoon Rally. I managed to work my way through with only a few times having blown up on the climbs or getting off track. I think that my 18/14 psi rear/front pressure on the 27.5+ MTB was a little high. The trails were a little damp, and I experienced some slippage. All in all, I was really happy with the ride as whole. It was hard to tell who was ahead of me, but I knew there couldn’t be many.
One thing that really was apparent was that having some fitness really helps in the woods. When you can manage your heart rate and pedal, you are much more likely to be able to make good decisions and take better lines on the trail. There were several switchbacks and quick turns uphill that I was able to handle because I was able to think clearly.
About 2/3 of the way through lap 1, I had my chance to catch “white jersey guy” who had passed me when I had some tire slippage on a climb. As he pulled away from me, I made a fatal error in assuming that he was only one of two racers ahead of me at this point, and I think I gave up pushing my pace in favor of settling in and keeping others away. I did have to fight off a few people in the woods, but never really chasing “white jersey guy” cost me big.
After two laps of riding hard and managing to stay upright, I crossed the line to find out that I had come in 4th! Ugh! I had been right in it, and that one decision not to chase had cost me a chance of getting a nice first podium.
Overall, I really enjoyed the technical sections of SBP. It is funny how different it seemed at race pace compared to my normal stroll through it. The Five Ten shoes and Race Face Chester flat pedals worked out great for me, better than at the Raccoon Rally which was more pedaling and less technical. (Both the shoes and pedals are available through Campus Wheelworks).
It is clear to me that I am slightly better at the climbing than at the descending, as I caught a friend on the climb who was in the Sport race just to watch him bomb down the zigzag trail never to be seen again! People really can pick up time with good descending and bike handling, but I think I can learn that in time. The climbing will always be what it is, so maybe my mountain bike racing will get better soon. I think the fitness is there.
This race series is fantastic, and you should definitely check it out. I didn’t feel the two laps was in any way me “sandbagging,” but eventually I will move up to the three lap sport race. There really is a race for everyone here. I will be racing this again for sure. Someday.
Unfortunately, that will have to wait til next year, as I head to VA on Saturday for a nice week at the beach with the family. I am sure there will be more than one or two times that I will be thinking about playing in the woods.