The days do not get much more perfect than this. I was one of the first ones to arrive and temperatures were in the 50s with the promise of pleasant weather throughout the day. Central Ohio had been hit with a heavy rain storm two days prior, but the dry trails soaked up the moisture and were in prime shape for racing.
The Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC) was hosting race #7 of 9 at Chestnut Ridge Metropark, southeast of Columbus. This trail was a welcome relief for some, who saw the rocks at Dillon as too perilous. The course was in great shape, there were a few minor wet spots from the rain, but overall the precipitation was probably a good thing. Chestnut Ridge is a fast, twisty course with a little bit of everything – rocks, man-made features, some climbing – but not so much of any one thing to become overwhelming. It’s a well-built, well-balanced trail and is quickly becoming a favorite destination for many mountain bikers in the area.
Each lap was about 8 miles in length and had 900+ feet of climbing. Novice racers did one lap, sport two and expert three. There were 75 novice racers, 64 sport racers and 25 experts – 164 total including 20 women.
I was excited to race on my home course. It’s nice to not have a long drive on race day. With all of my Quickdirt adventures this summer, I’ve only actually ridden here once this year. That’s unfortunate because it’s a great place to ride. They have added a cyclocross course and a pump track, so now there are even more great reasons to come out.
Speaking of which, this was also the day when Combo unveiled it’s new pump track to the public. It had just been built the week before the race. But, because of the rain, it was too soft for riders to test out. They let a few kids ride on it and then closed it to allow the new soil to dry out and settle. I recommend you check back in a few weeks to test it out.
Overall, there was a festive atmosphere. The day started with a kid’s mountain biking clinic and they had a huge turnout. I didn’t count, but it looked like there were about 20-25 kids learning new bike skills. Between the skills clinic and the race there were over 40 kids in attendance. My boys, Wendel (age 6) and Oliver (age 4), came out and had a blast.
At 11am it was then time for the kid’s race. There were two kids courses, a shorter, easier one for the younger kids and a longer one with more singletrack for the older kids. Wendel and Oliver were excited to race. When it was time to go, they had a rough start getting their bikes going on the grass. Then I wasn’t sure if the singletrack was too scary for my 4-year-old. But we came out of the woods and got some good momentum going. I told Oliver I was going to catch him and he started riding faster with a competitive spirit. He ended up passing someone at the finish.
When we were done, he looked up at me and said, “That was awesome Dad! I want to do it again!”
My heart melted.
Then I asked Wendel how it went, “I think I’m more of a road racer. Let’s do a road race next time.”
He must get that from his mother.
The Big, Big, Kid’s Race
At high noon, it was time for the main event. In the expert field, Ben Ortt had already locked up the OMBC title with five victories. He also won the West Virginia championship as well. Congrats Ben! You crushed it this year!
Soooo…. Ben took the day off. That left the rest of the field fighting for second place. Drew Purcell, winner of the Mohican 100k, had the top time and came in almost 3 minutes faster than Jeff Rupnow, who came in three minutes faster than Ross Clark.
On the women’s side, Emily Ponti picked up her first OMBC win of the season with a time of 2:21:31.
Here are some of the top times.
- Drew Purcell 1:54:30 Expert Open, Ride On Wooster
- Jeff Rupnow 1:57:20 Expert Open, Paradise Garage, Evolution Training
- Ross Clark 2:01:02 Expert 40+, 2:01:02
- Jeff Harper 1:23:30 Veteran 30-39 Mid Ohio Velo Sport
- Josh Kunz 1:23:43 Singlespeed, Ohio Fat Tires Racing, Mohican Malabar
- Cameron Reagan 1:24:00 Senior 19-29
- Joe Worboy 43:25 Masters 40-49, Breakaway Quickdirt
- Anthony Toops 45:36 Veteran 30-39
- Chadd Hartman 45:43 Masters 40-49
- Expert – Emily Ponti 2:22:31
- Sport – Vanessa Marts 1:50:54 FMBR Frankford Bicycle Inc.
- Novice – Katelyn Cassell 51:03
I felt pretty good when I stepped up to the line. I was well-rested and looking forward to the challenge. I’ve almost finished my first expert season and I’ve got a pretty strong understanding of where I am in the pecking order – middle of the pack with the fast guys – not too shabby and I think I still have room for improvement. Moving up to expert isn’t just about riding a longer race, you also have to rethink how you look at pacing, positioning, nutrition and hydration. A lot of things that I could get away with in sport, like doing a whole race without water or food, would not work for me at this distance.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I should not go out too fast. I counted 11 guys in my wave and at least 3 of them were guaranteed to beat me unless they got taken down by a grizzly bear. I’m referring to Ross Clark, Brad Rogers and Brad Smith. When the figurative gun went off, we sprinted through the field for a about a quarter mile to the woods. I let 7 guys get ahead of me and I felt like I had everything under control. My breathing felt good and I hadn’t wasted a lot of energy on a pointless sprint. It’s a long race and there is no need to burn a match to move up one or two positions this early in the race (at least within the reasonable goals that I have set for myself).
When I got in the woods, I was able to quickly close the small gap between myself and the two riders ahead of me – Brad Smith and Jeremy Larson. Brad was in the “guaranteed to beat me” column on my spreadsheet. The fact that I could still see him meant that I was going plenty fast. I settled in and the three of us rode for a while this way. At one point, Brad passed Jeremy and Jeremy started to lose Brad’s wheel, so I asked him for a pass. He very politely let me by.
Lesson 2 for the season is that expert racers are usually really cool about letting you pass. I don’t worry about position as much this year because I know that the guys I race with will not only let me pass if I need, but are really good at it too. They can pull to the side of the trail and never skip a beat or waste much energy. I remember when I was a novice and each pass was an epic battle with a 50 percent chance of someone crashing as they veered off into the weeds.
But speaking of passing, Brad and I caught up to Chris Knapp, my nemesis, who was riding much slower than I would have expected. It turns out that he had just crashed in the woods and honestly he still seemed a little dazed. Brad got by him pretty quickly and I wanted to get by because it was clear that Chris wasn’t going to keep up with Brad in his post-crash state. This ended up being my worst move of the day.
My standard request when I’m looking for a pass is “When you get a safe spot, I’d like to get by.” I try to be as polite as possible about it and give the rider plenty of warning. My philosophy is that it usually works out better if the person in front of me finds a place where they feel comfortable and we can both pass safely without losing a lot of energy. I believe this is what I said to Chris, but what he heard was probably something more like “Let me by now, you slow jerk.” He immediately started riding on the left side of the trail and wanted me to pass on the right. I wasn’t planning to pass this quickly, but I went for it anyway. It was a twisted, uphill, root-covered section of trail and while I didn’t crash, I certainly did stumble hard. I lost momentum and then we had that awkward moment where it was clear that I was ruining his ride. I hate that moment. Sorry Chris.
I had to start and stop one or two more times to get my footing back. Chris was clearly annoyed. I think I said “Sorry.” It seems like something I would say. But, at the very least, I had passed my nemesis. It was still early though. Plenty of time for him to recover and/or for me to bonk. Clearly this race was just starting to heat up.
Another lesson that I’ve learned this year is that I need to do a better job of hydrating. A Camelbak is the best option for staying hydrated, but I prefer racing without anything on my back to stay light and nimble. So, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with bottles this season. I have had successes and failures, but Chestnut Ridge taught me that I am probably better off switching back to a Camelback. I had no problem staying hydrated, but I lost a lot of time doing it. This became clear after Brad and I caught up to Scott Young.
We caught Scott near the end of the first lap and that made me kind of excited. I did the math in my head and if passed him, then I would be in 5th place with plenty of time to try and catch Vince Urichich, who I’ve been close to in several races. Brad passed Scott and I followed the two of them until we hit the field at the end of the loop. This is where I had planned to drink all along, so I pulled out my bottle and started chugging. My speed slowed down greatly as I tried to cram as much liquid into my stomach as I could. I watched them open up a huge gap on me. I didn’t want to lose them, but I knew that I had to drink or else risk dehydration and cramping later. It would be too difficult to drink from a bottle on the curvy singletrack. I finished the bottle and threw it by the team tent before sprinting off into the woods.
It took a mile or two, but I was able to catch up to Scott. There was no sign of Brad. I was still feeling really strong, so I stayed close to Scott’s wheel. On the climb up to the apple barn, I was almost tripping over him on the switchbacks. This was my chance. When we reached the top of the climb and hit the open field I surged past him on the left. I was now in fifth and trying to set a punishing pace in the hopes that I could lose him.
We rode together for several miles and a singlespeeder, I believe it was Todd Blumerick, was with us as well. We started getting into some of the twistier parts of the trail and I was loving it. I was having the ride of my life and I started to put a small gap on the guys behind me. Heck yeah!
PING!!! Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping…
Crap. My spoke was broken. I jumped off my bike and searched for the culprit. I wrapped the broken spoke around another spoke in a panic. Just as I finished, Scott and Todd cruised right by me. I mounted my bike and started pursuing them.
Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping…
Crap. My quick repair was not good enough. I hopped off again and reworked the spoke so that it wouldn’t hit on the frame.
I started riding again. I could still see Scott on the switchbacks, but I couldn’t quite reel him in. He had opened up a pretty big gap during my repair. My mental advantage had slipped away and belonged to him now.
Even though I had lost ground, I still felt energetic. I was making good time and stayed within reach of Scott until we hit the field at the end of the lap. Once again, I had to drink according to my plan. And once again, Scott opened up a gap on me in the field when I started to drink out of my bottle. I need to wear my freakin’ Camelbak.
My final lesson of the day – there are a lot of switchbacks at Chestnut Ridge. And, just because you can see someone doesn’t mean you are close. I kept seeing Scott Young and Vince Urichich ahead of me and that would inspire hope that I might be able to catch them. Then I would see Chris Knapp and Jeremy Larson behind me and get filled with paranoia. I couldn’t let my nemesis catch for a third straight race. I was still able to push hard, but I couldn’t tell if I was gaining or losing ground to the other riders in my division.
For the final lap, I held my place in the standings. Scott Young rode well and passed Vince to get 4th place. I was after Vince and came in 3 minutes ahead of Chris Knapp, which felt good after he beat me in the last two races. Jeremy Larson finished 45 seconds after him. Great race guys!
In the end, I finished 6th out of 11 riders in my class and 12th out of all 25 racers doing the expert distance – middle of the pack amongst the fast folks. My race at Chestnut was one of the most fun ones I’ve had this year. I held my own and I even see more room for improvement. Take out the broken spoke and add a Camelback and I might have even caught Vince before the finish line. I’m already looking forward to taking the lessons of this season and aiming higher for next year.
Until then, my focus is on the championship race at Mohican State Park on Saturday, October 4. I’ll be missing the Scioto Trails race because of my trip to Colorado (Yippey!). Let me know how it goes.
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6th of 11 in Expert 40+
- Official Time 2:11:25
- Moving Time according to Garmin 2:10:56 (This means I lost about 29 seconds because of my broken spoke)
- Distance 24.54 miles
- Avg Speed 11.2 mph
- Max Speed 24.5 mph
- Elevation Gain 2877 feet
- Avg Temp 57.4 degrees F
- Avg Power 232 Watts
- Normalized Power 268 Watts
- Training Stress Score TSS 173.0
- Work 1821 Kilojoules
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