S&S Trails is a unique race on the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship (OMBC) series schedule. While most races are held in state parks across Ohio, this one is held on the private farm of Chris and Colleen Skinner. As such, the race has a different feel than many of the other races.
For starters, at 4.2 miles, the race loop is shorter than any other in the OMBC. This means that experts were doing 5 laps, which makes it is one of the best races for spectators trying to follow the action. The course has evolved over the years. This year, each lap started with an open 1.2 mile section that traced the edges of two farm fields and had a long straightaway along the main gravel road. Riders spent 3 miles per lap on double-track in the woods, most of which could be comfortably navigated on a 4-wheeled ATV.
Conditions were mostly dry and fast with a few muddy spots. Considering how much rain the state of Ohio had received in the previous month, the course was in amazing shape. One poorly timed rain could have made things much worse.
S&S was probably the least technical trail on the OMBC schedule, which made it a good one for beginners and road riders who wanted to dip their toes in the waters of XC mountain bike racing. However, that doesn’t mean it was an easy day. The 2014 edition brought us hot and humid conditions that forced 10 percent of the field to DNF (Did Not Finish). Those that weren’t crushed by the heat had to struggle up several long climbs on each lap. The double track allowed for lots of quick passing. Riders weren’t held back by traffic on the trail and couldn’t rely on a strong start to get ahead of the faster riders.
I lost my cycling computer after the race (Arrgh!), so I don’t have all the stats and graphs that I usually have. Did anyone get a chance to measure the climbing? If so, let us know how many feet we climbed per lap in the comment section.
Steve Twining of Team Lake Effect, beat teammate Joe Lautzenheiser by about one minute to win top honors for the day. Drew Purcell of Ride on Wooster, finished in third.
In the sport divisions, Willy Browning (Veteran – 30-39), Bob Sowga (Singlespeed) & Tom Pollock (Veteran – 30-39) had the 3 fastest times.
The fastest novice time was logged by Cameron Reagan in the Senior division (20-29). Sport riders should keep an eye on this guy for next year. He’s going to be fast.
The top women were Lauren Kraft of Lady Gnar Shredders (expert), Vicki Munnings of Jinx/Eddy’s (sport) and Heather Tarlton (novice).
Congratulations to the all the finishers!
The other unique aspect that makes S&S a “must-do” event in the Ohio series is the post-race party. There was a delicious buffet awaiting the weary finishers with lots of home cooked food that you would find at your typical 4th of July party. The festive spirit was lubed with a keg of Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, which hit the spot perfectly after this taxing competition. Musicians played through the evening and there were even a few fireworks. It was a great time to hang out with your mountain bike buddies and swap war stories.
I was nervous. In my previous race, I had been soundly beaten in the Sport Masters division by Kunihiko Tanuma. When I got out of my car, he was the first face that I saw. There was going to be rematch, but this was a much different course and I had no idea how it would play out. Our last race at Mohican State Park favored endurance, but today was going to be a much shorter hammer-fest.
When I was warming up, I pulled up along side of him and jokingly asked, “So, are you going to beat me again today?”
With a friendly Japanese accent he replied with a laugh, “That was my plan.”
Doh! Was I in trouble? He seemed fairly confident. I wondered how much he had been training in the six weeks since we last raced.
The race started with a big loop around a farm field and my big goal was to stick to Kunihiko’s back wheel like glue. I didn’t want to start too strong and fall short at the end like I did at Mohican.
Jack rabbit Chris Knapp, jumped from the start and led the pack with Kunihiko and Rick Parr, #284, on his tail. The pace strained my quads and my heart rate quickly jumped a few zones as I struggled to keep up. The long straightaways allowed these guys to mash their pedals as hard as they could and they weren’t holding back. How long could we keep this up? I knew I had to survive for 1.2 miles before the sharp turns in the woods would allow us some recovery.
Rick Parr surged forward and Kunihiko followed. I was in third place heading into the woods and focused on holding my ground. I did not want to let Tanuma get away from me. My main goal was trying to conserve energy and recover from the effort in the field while I waited to see how things would play out.
Halfway through the lap, Parr seemed to be slipping further ahead of Kunihiko, so I decided I had to make a move and pass him. Even though their was plenty of double-track for passing, I was finding it challenging to get by my rival with all the turns. Finally, we came to a short climb which slowed down the pace and allowed me to sneak by.
I surged forward to catch Parr and followed him for another mile or so. Parr was riding a strong first lap and I had no idea how long he could endure. At times it felt like he was opening a gap and I had to work hard to keep up. I followed him up one of the final hills of the lap and I could tell that he needed a chance to recover from the climb. This was my moment. I surged forward on his left and attacked.
I had taken first place and would hold it for the rest of the race. Afterwards, I spoke with Kunihiko over a post-race recovery beer. He had been locked in a battle with Cory Knight for a good portion of the race and Cory had won out. Tanuma looked spent. I thought he might even get sick, even though he reassured me he wouldn’t. The heat had taken it’s toll on this strong racer and worn him down.
So, Kunihiko won last time, but today was my day. I’m looking forward to meeting up again at Lake Hope on August 3rd for another epic battle in the OMBC series.
What About You?
How did your race go? Let us know in the comment section. We would love to hear about it. What was your favorite part of the race at S&S? What was the hardest part of the course? Did you stick around for the post-race celebration? Enquiring minds want to know.
The bad news is that I lost my cycling computer. The good news is that I bought a new one off Amazon. I bought the Garmin 800, you can check out reviews and prices for it here. I bought the same one as I had before because it seemed to meet all my needs and it was much less expensive than newer models. But, my question for you is this:
If you lost your cycling computer, which one would you buy to replace it? Would you upgrade, switch brands or buy the same one that you already have?
I promise to have more graphs, stats and photos next time. (I also misplaced my camera before the race and had to shoot all my photos with an iPhone which ran out of battery life before I could shoot the podium shots.)