On Saturday, April 23rd, 200 racers took to the line for the OMBC race at Mohican State Park near Loundonville, Ohio. It was a cool but gorgeous day and the trail conditions were pristine. Early in the week, there were fears that rain might dampen the event, but the state park was spared the heavier rains that hit the rest of the state. The singletrack was tacky to dusty with no mud and it was a perfect day to lay down a PR – at least that’s what I had my sights set on.
Let’s rewind a second to the last race at Mountwood, despite the horrible trail conditions, I was able to knock 9 minutes off my previous expert time. Then, in the week leading up to Mohican, after several hundred laps over the last decade on Alum Creek’s P2 mountain bike trail, I surprised myself by hitting a new PR (27:14 @ 13.1mph for those that care).
I was feeling fast and confident, so I went back and looked at my old times at Mohican State Park. 2013 was my fastest year. I was able to finish the 25-mile race in 2:20:04 – an average speed of 10.9 mph. This particular year was a personal peak for me in fitness and I wasn’t sure I would ever get that fast again. But, with all my newfound confidence, I decided that this day had the potential to be my new record – even if it was only by a few seconds.
I knew I wasn’t going to win the race. I had a different strategy. When I lined up, I was ready to race myself.
Bottom Bracket Issues
Before the race, I had an issue to resolve. During some routine maintenance, I cracked a plastic piece in my bottom bracket in two. It was still functional for a couple more rides, but there was a clicking noise when I pedaled that was driving me crazy. I woke up at 5am. I couldn’t fall back asleep because it bothered me so much.
I sent a text to Michael Whaley (Team Breakaway Quickdirt Trek) at 6am lamenting the situation. He texted Ben Michels (Trek Store Columbus), who had just replaced his and bought an extra bottom bracket and the tools. Mike then recruited Chris Boyle (Team Breakaway Quickdirt Trek) who works as a mechanic for Performance Bicycles.
45 minutes before the race, they took off my cranks and replaced the bottom bracket. Several people thought this was a risky move, but I thought it would be more mentally defeating to hear a click every time I pedaled on the trail. I trusted these guys. If they thought it was possible, then I was all for it. Would you have replaced it or ridden it as is? The clicking was gone and my bike felt like a sleek bullet-train once again. I was ready to race.
Tools Needed For Press Fit Bottom Bracket Replacement
- Race Face BB92 Press Fit Bottom Bracket
- Park Tool Press Fit Removal Tool for Bottom Bracket
- Park Tool Crank Puller for Splined Cranks
- Park Tool CCW-5 Crank Bolt Wrench
- Park Tool Bearing Cup Press
The Slow, But Purposeful, Start
Since I wasn’t trying to win or beat anyone in particular, I was treating this race more like a time trial. I knew that I wanted to average 11.0 mph and the best way to do that would be to have a steady pace throughout the race. I decided to skip the sprint start that plagues most XC races. When race director Ryan O’Dell said go, everyone flew from the line and I casually started pedaling and gave a friendly wave to my friends as I left.
It felt like I was getting left behind, but I still covered the quarter-mile gravel road to the trail in plenty of time to hike up right behind Jeremy Larson, who had gotten stuck behind a few other riders. I didn’t even attempt to ride the short steep slope because I wanted to save any legs I had for the hills where I would have more momentum.
At the top of the hill, I remounted my bike and my well-rested legs helped me shoot past Gary Hocke and Christopher Seeley on the doubletrack before we hit the official loop.
My heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be, but I still felt pretty good. I knew I could be going faster, but I was trying to be smart. I settled in behind Larson and we followed a few guys for a mile or two. At this point my average speed was below my target of 11 mph because of the climbing at the beginning of the race, so I decided to start making some moves so that I could be closer to the speed I wanted. I cut some uphill switchbacks tight to pass Larson and my nemesis, Chris Knapp, and pulled up behind Dave Tingley. Dave is a solid rider and we trade finishing places from race to race, so I sat on his back wheel for a while to see what his pace was like.
When I finally did make my move to pass Dave I didn’t pull away from him for two reasons. One, there was another rider right in front of us. Two, I was just trying to stay at my target speed, not blow it away.
Dave asked me if I had missed my start when he noticed that I was on a singlespeed, but still racing with the Expert 40+ racers.
“No. I just wanted to race you guys again, ” I replied. Even though I had switched to a singlespeed, I still liked the size of the field and the quality of the competition in the Expert 40+ category. We had 21 riders in our division at Mohican and I think the larger group makes racing more exciting. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t be able to hang with these guys on a singlespeed when I bought it, but I was willing to take that chance to switch things up this year.
He seemed a little surprised that I would race the geared guys with only one cog. Then two minutes later he asked for a pass – because “of the gears n’all” or something like that. Singlespeed discrimination. I guess he wasn’t feeling the 11mph pace at that point. I let him pass but had no problem staying on his wheel afterwards. We passed a couple of riders and eventually caught up to Vince Urichich, who crushed me in lots of races last year.
Dave passed him and I was contemplating whether to make a move.
Vince said something like “This is a tough one. Just hoping to survive this early in the spring.” Or some random super-desperate crap like that. (Just kidding Vince.) There was my excuse.
“With that kind of attitude I’m going to have to pass,” I replied. I quickly shot past him and caught back up to Tingley. At this point I was starting to feel more confident. My speed was close to 11.2 mph. My legs and my heart felt strong. I just had to stick to the plan.
Somewhere around the 6- or 7-mile mark, the trail gets a little wider and I made my move on two or three riders, including Dave, on the same climb. This was where I started to open it up. The tough rooted ascent that passes the gnomes is where I started to gap a few of the guys. I could still see Tingley on the switchbacks. He’s on the Breakaway/Quickdirt/Trek race team with me, so I shouted some words of encouragement to him. My average speed was climbing – 11.3, 11.4, 11.5mph.
When I hit the covered bridge at the half-way point of the race, my average speed was 11.6mph, well above my target of 11.0. I felt good, but was I over-doing it? I don’t have many races under my belt as a singlespeeder, so I’m not really confident in how I should feel in a race or whether my legs will give up on me at some point.
The climb after the covered bridge is tough. It’s known as the “Mohican FU Climb (after the covered bridge)” on Strava and has an average grade of 7 percent. Riders rise 336 vertical feet over .9 miles. A lot of racers end up walking it at some point. I stood on my pedals and starting steadily rocking my bike up the slope. I found an unhurried rhythmic cadence and just let my 32:18 gear ratio do the work. If I could survive this climb in good shape, then I could handle almost anything Mohican could throw at me. I reeled in two more experts by the top of the climb. One of them was Kenny Kocarek, another singlespeeder who was on his way to a PR at Mohican. We stopped and hugged and after a long loving embrace he decided to let me pass so that he could focus on his race.
By the top of the climb my average speed had dropped to 11.4mph, which isn’t surprising considering how tough the climb is, but it did make me start to doubt myself. What if I couldn’t keep this up? It was faster than I had ever finished before and there was still a lot of climbing left. What if I bonked at mile 20 and my nemesis, Chris Knapp, passed me like he did a Dillon last year? That would be humiliating. …so, so, so humiliating. …worse than a good flogging.
But, I still felt good so I stuck to my pacing strategy. My average speed rose back up to 11.6 on the downhill sections and I tried to be quick, while still being an efficient and smart rider. As the race progressed, the traffic died down and the miles ticked away. I was having a fun ride, this wasn’t the torture-fest, pain-cave type of riding that I expected from a PR-attempt. I was pushing myself, but at most moments I felt like I could go faster. I passed a few more riders who were fading in the final miles and when I exited the “official loop” at Mohican and was working the “prologue” through the campground, my average speed was still 11.5mph. At this point, I knew a PR was inevitable, but I just couldn’t tell by how much.
When I exited the woods, I started sprinting on the road to the finish. I wanted to subtract every second I could from that final time. I crossed the finish in 2:10:42 seconds – nearly 10 minutes faster than my previous best. Hell yeah! I was ecstatic. After racing the big loop twice a year for the last five years, I had crushed my PR. I was shocked. I’ve been training a lot this winter and spring, but I didn’t think that I had done more than in previous years.
I soaked up some of that Great Lakes beer that OMBC had provided and marinated in my accomplishment. It was hard to hide my excitement. This was one of my favorite days of racing ever. I ended up getting 6th out of 21 for the day – just one off the expert podium. That’s two races in a row where I’ve PR’d by almost 10 minutes. Hell yeah!
I’m really looking forward to my second race at Great Seal State Park on May 14th. This course is one of the most grueling on the expert schedule with 30 miles and 3900 vertical feet of climbing. I’ve only raced there once, but I didn’t exactly knock it out of the park the first time. I’ve left myself plenty of room for improvement. Let’s see if the new singlespeed can handle the Barbed Wire climb and the other epic ascents that Great Seal challenges riders with.
Make sure you follow Quickdirt on Facebook to see how that turns out in two weeks from now.
I wasn’t the only one that had a fast time that say. Course conditions helped bring out the best in a lot of people. Drew Purcell finished the entire course in 1:52:14. I’m pretty sure he was on an e-bike, but maybe he really did pedal the whole thing at that super-human speed. With expert champ, Ben Ortt, out this year with some bigger races, this might be Purcell’s chance to win the OMBC trophy. Follow along this season to see if he can pull it off.
Here are some folks to watch out for this season!
Top Novice Racers
- Joe Belmont 30-39, 50:50
- Takahiro Nozaki 40-49, 52:58 Breakaway Quickdirt Trek
- Ashton Mills 52:59 Triple M Redig Rescue Ranch
Top Sport Racers
- Anthony Toops 30-39, 2:11:07
- Aaron Graber 20-29, 2:12:01 Ride On Wooster
- Thomas Dunn 30-39, 2:13:23 Ride On Wooster
Top Expert Racers
- Drew Purcell, Open, 1:52:14 Ride On Wooster
- Jeff Rupnow, Open 1:55:52 Paradise Garage / Evolution Training
- Jared Zollars, Open 1:56:02 The Bicycle Hub
Top Women Racers
- Novice: Laura Reynolds 57:20 Velo
- Sport – Jen Toops 2:37:15
- Expert – Lauren Mika 2:23:59
Jimmy’s Equipment List
This is what I actually had with me during the race. …plus a couple of items that helped me get ready for the event. Click on the links to see reviews and prices:
- NEW!! Race Face BB92 Press Fit Bottom Bracket
- Trek Superfly SS
- Camelbak Hydrobak 70oz Hydration Pack with 3 scoops of Gatorade Frost Glacier Freeze
- Bontrager Rally Mountain Bike Helmet
- Under Armour Compression Cold Gear Base Layer
- Shimano PD-540 MTB Pedals
- Bontrager Evoke Full-Finger Gloves
- Giro Carbide Bike Shoe
- Crank Brothers Multi-tool (17 functions)
- Park Tool Tire Levers (2)
- Stan’s Notubes Sealant 2 oz.
- Park Tool Valve Core Remover
- CO2 Cartridges
- Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Elite Inflator
- Bontrager Race Lite Bottle Cages (Orange)
- Stan’s Notubes Tubeless Set-up Kit – to set-up my tires tubeless before hand.
- Bontrager Flash Charger Tubeless Ready Pump – this was actually used before the race.
- Powergel Tangerine 2X Caffeine gels (4)
- Bontrager inForm Evoke grips
- 6th of 21 in Expert 40+ (71st percentile)
- 22nd out of all 57 Expert Racers (61st percentile)
- 22nd out of all 159 Expert and Sport racers who completed the full loop (86th percentile)
- Distance 25.09 (According to Garmin GPS)
- Official Time 2:10:24 – I beat my PR by 10 minutes!
- Moving Time 2:09:56 (Garmin)
- Average Heart Rate 148 bpm
- Max Heart Rate 168 bpm
- Average Speed 11.5 mph
- Max Speed 27.3 mph
- Elevation Gain 3094 feet
- Average Temp 47.5 F
- Minimum Temp 44.6 F
- Maximum Temp 55.4 F
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