On Sunday, September 14th, 2014 the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC) will hold race #9 at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park near Canal Winchester, Ohio, approximately 18 miles southeast of downtown Columbus. It’s been dubbed the “Race on the Ridge”.
First Time at the Ridge
Chestnut Ridge is a relatively new trail and is built and maintained by Combo, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization. This is the first time that the OMBC has held a race here. It was originally slated to be held at Alum Creek State Park, but course conditions at Alum’s P1 trail have been poor lately due to the wet weather and some damage the trail received this winter.
I’m personally a little bummed that the race was moved because Alum Creek is my home course. I usually ride straight from my house over the dam at the reservoir to the trail, so I’m losing my home court advantage. I have ridden at Chestnut a few times, but I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I am with Alum.
Also, I think the rides across the dam at Alum Creek to the singletrack and back to the finish are almost a rite of passage in the OMBC series. How many races have been won or lost in the headwinds on this long, exposed, paranoia-inducing section of the trail? I literally tingle with fear when I think about looking over my shoulder and seeing Chris Knapp closing in on me as I crossed the dam to the finish.
Maybe next year they can do a race at both Chestnut and at Alum!?!
All that being said, Chestnut Ridge is probably a better trail for holding a cross country mountain bike race. The trail was built from the ground up to be a mountain bike trail. It has great flow and a variety of features that will appeal to a broad class of riders.
The course is billed as 8.5 miles long with about 900 feet of climbing. My GPS came up with 8.53 miles and 912 feet of climbing, so I’d say those numbers are right on. Novice racers will do one lap, sport two and experts three.
This course sheds water very well, and in the case of rain before the race, the track might be shortened to 6.5 miles in length. There is a low-lying 2 mile section that doesn’t dry out as well and Combo closes this off when things get damp. In my preride, most of the course was dusty, but the “wet section” still had a few minor mud pits.
I rode the course two weeks prior to the race and I thought the conditions were great. There is a little bit of rain in the forecast as I’m writing this, but it doesn’t look like enough to even come close to making the course muddy on race day. …I’m sure people who raced at Camp Manatoc last weekend will appreciate this. 🙂
How can you describe the trail? To me, it reminds me of a shorter version of Lake Hope crossed with Mohican State Park. The terrain has a little bit of everything – a few rocks and roots, but not too many – a few man-made features like bridges and banked turns, but not too many – a few challenging climbs, but not too many. I think you get my drift. This is the “Even Steven” of mountain bike trails. It’s a fun, twisty, fast, well-balanced mountain bike adventure.
This course is not nearly as technical as the last two OMBC races, Dillon and West Branch. There is rocky switchback about half way through that is about as tough as it gets. I tried to think of what skill would take a racer to the next level at Chestnut and I think it’s cornering. The trail can get curvy at times and some of the turns happen quickly at high speeds. Riders who can hold their momentum through the bends can knock some valuable seconds off of their race times.
The Ups and Downs
If you look at the elevation chart for the trail, you can see that the first half of the lap is spent climbing and the second half of the lap is spent descending. The most famous climb happens about three miles into the loop. It’s a 150 foot ascent to the apple barn. I raced here before when the 331 Racing series was here last year and this climb was key for passing. Riders who are good at climbing should be prepared to attack when they notice that the are going uphill and the trail is getting rocky. I was able to pass three or four riders here at my last race. There is a short section of open field at the top of the climb and this is a great place to eat, drink, pass riders or recover from the climb. If you look to your right you will see a nice open vista, but don’t plan on stopping to appreciate the view.
After the apple barn, the course starts heading downhill and there are several sections that are noticeably faster. You will have fun recovering on some of these downhills, but don’t plan on relaxing too much, some of the descents are a little rocky and will have you feathering your brakes with fear on the cobbled terrain.
The majority of this trail is sweet Ohio singletrack, but the downside of that is that it may be hard to pass. The trail does not open up very often for “natural” passing. Riders will have to be aggressive on the sides of the trail or have to ask for passes. Besides the apple barn climb, the start/finish area is also a great place for the sport and expert riders to try and jostle for position, eat or hydrate.
Talkin’ ‘Bout the Start at the Finish
The start of the race will be near the parking lot. Riders will sprint for about a quarter of a mile to the singletrack. This is through a wide-open grassy trail with plenty of room for passing. Be prepared to hammer hard at the start to get yourself a good position on the singletrack. If you stumble here, it may take you a while to work your way back up.
The Big Picture
Overall, the Race on the Ridge has the potential to become a favorite on the OMBC circuit. It’s located centrally in the state, so it’s convenient for a lot of riders from Ohio. The loop is the perfect length for separating the course into novice, sport & expert classes. It has a wet weather option in the event of poor conditions. But most importantly, it’s a fun place to ride. It’s not overly technical, so it’s accessible to a lot of riders. This is a great place for novice racers to come out and see what XC mountain bike racing is all about. But, don’t by any means think it’s easy. As the riders get faster, the chance of them tumbling into the woods increases. I expect my heart will be pounding and legs will be burning all the way to the top of the apple barn. This will be a battle to the finish at all levels!
See you there!