OMBC East Fork State Park – XC MTB Race Preview

James Knott races his mountain bike at East Fork State Park

In 2012, I finished 6th of 13 racers in the sport veterans division, ages 30-39, with a time of 1:42:19. At this point in the race, the frumpier version of me has just seen a ghost. Photo by Cindy Gay.

On Sunday, September 28th, 2014, the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC) will hold a XC MTB race at East Fork State Park near Cincinnati, Ohio.  This is the last regular season race before the championships at Mohican State Park on October 4th.

Normally I like to go out and pre-ride the courses for these race previews.  Unfortunately, due to injuries I sustained in the previous OMBC race at Chestnut Ridge, I was unable to ride at East Fork last weekend.  Whether I race on Sunday will have to be a game day decision because my shoulder is still sore and I’m not sure if I can tough it out for 20 miles.  I want to make sure that I am in good shape for the final race at Mohican.

That being said, I have done the OMBC race at East Fork State Park at least 5 times and I thought I could still throw together a quick analysis for my fellow racers.  I’ve heard that they added some new sections of singletrack, so some of this information might be outdated.  Take it with a grain of salt and enjoy the new adventures they are providing.

East Fork is one of the fastest race courses in the OMBC series.  In 2013, I averaged 13.4 mph and had a top speed of 27 mph.  This is definitely above my average for this race series.  Each lap is about 9.5 miles long and has about 600 feet of climbing.  Before I lost weight, this was one of my favorite courses because I knew that I didn’t have to drag my blubber up any epic climbs.  Expert racers do three laps, sport does two and novice does one.

The course is not overly technical.  It’s fast and flowy with a large amount of flat switchbacks.  Racers can make up a lot of time by focusing on holding as much speed as possible in these tight turns.

For those that have never raced at East Fork and are worried about competing without seeing the course in advance, I would say that this is the course that I would feel the most comfortable doing without a pre-ride.  It’s a fun trail and there are not a lot of big surprises that will be thrown at you.

Map of the OMBC race at East Fork State Park

Map of the OMBC race course at East Fork State Park. There are some nice views of the lake. I would like to encourage my rivals to slow down and appreciate them. 🙂 I’ve heard that there are some new sections of singletrack, so it will be interesting see how that changes things up.

James Knott and Mark Shearing race at East Fork State Park

In 2012, I was trailing behind #1588, Mark Shearing of the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance (CORA) for a good amount of the race. I ended up passing him at the finish, which is amazing because there is not a lot of room to sprint between the trail and the finish line.
Photo by Cindy Gay.

The race begins at the end of a dead end road.  Racers have to sprint uphill on asphalt for about a quarter mile (this distance is from memory) before the road flattens out.  There is a little over a mile of rolling hills on paved road.  This is one of the few moments in the OMBC series where drafting is an important strategic choice.  A peloton will form and knowing when to make a break for the woods is key.  The trail narrows quickly and this could determine your position on the trail for most of the lap.

I found East Fork to be a difficult place to pass in 2013, in the sense that there are not a lot of places where the trail opens up.  In most cases, you need the person in front of you to give you a pass.  It was not a problem getting around slower riders from other divisions, but I had a very tough time trying to make aggressive moves past the riders that I was in a heated battle with.  If you are a sport or expert racer, you can use the 1 mile road section at the beginning of each lap to help get by your competitors.  Or, if no one is close to you, this is a great place to eat or drink.

One of the key features of the course is a creek crossing somewhere in the middle.  There are slick flat rocks with water flowing over them.  It’s very rideable, but I’ve definitely seen it take out a few talented riders.  Slow down and use caution.  Falling at this point will hurt and could take out your rear derailluer.

Most of the course is fairly flat, but the last mile to the finish ends with about 100 feet of climbing.  So just when you you’ve pushed yourself to your limits, you will have to dig deeper to keep up with that rider in front of you.  There is not a lot of room to sprint between the trail and the finish line, so the earlier you can make your move the better!

Graph of the elevation for the OMBC race at East Fork State Park

The race starts at mile 8 on this graph.  The initial downward slope is due to a GPS error.  Reading from mile 16 – 26 will give you a good idea of what the lap elevation looks like.  Notice the 100 feet of climbing in the last mile of the lap.

Hopefully, my body will continue to heal and I will be able to race on Sunday.  Will you be there?  Let me know in the comment section.  If I don’t see you there, then I will definitely be at Mohican State Park trying to get my championship points.  Ride fast, ride safe!

4 thoughts on “OMBC East Fork State Park – XC MTB Race Preview

  1. James, my girlfriend and I pre rode the course a couple weeks ago. The trail is very much the same. As to new sections added, they have the same ‘character’ as most of the rest of the trail. There is a bunch of flow, and some amazing views of the lake which I would guess are even more stunning as we delve into fall. Just a couple of tricky dips and switchbacks, but nothing I would be uncomfortable going into without pre-riding.

  2. Nice report. The new additions to the trail replace the final climb and are reasonably technical, pre-riding just this short section would be well worth it if someone hasn’t rode it before.

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