My first mountain bike race happened two weekends ago and it was quite a race. As I’ve said before, the Big Creek 4 Ways in a Day race combines XC trails, an uphill climb, a DH run and a Slalom run. The King (and Queen) of Big Creek is the person with the lowest combined time. The shorter events are weighted so that you can’t just run away with the XC course and survive the remaining events. You have to be a well rounded rider. Some people brought two bikes to to take advantage of gravity – either going uphill or downhill.
The morning started a bit brisk around 40 degrees. The riders signed in and had a choice: hit the trails early for the first lap or wait until the last minute and hope the temperature warmed up. I chose the former since riding around the concrete Greenway was freezing my fingers. The riders were starting at 1 minute intervals when I took off and I managed to pass two riders and only get passed by one, so I felt pretty good even though it took half a lap to warm up. I didn’t have to get off my bike in either of the two sections that have been giving me problems lately. That was an accomplishment in itself. While I prefer the first direction we went, I knew from past laps that the counter clockwise direction is faster due to long, slow uphills coupled with steeper downhills. Fully warmed up, I pushed hard on the second lap, again passing two people and getting passed once, despite starting at 30 second intervals for the second lap. 1 way down, 3 to go.
With the second lap finished, it was time for the El Scorcho climb. It’s 700 linear feet with around 150 vertical feet of climbing. While this might not sound too tough, it was a newly cut trail, so the ground hadn’t packed down much and there was evidence of rear wheels spinning out after each switchback. On my 14 year-old 35lb bike, just getting up the hill is tough enough. The race officials were estimating a little under two minutes per run and I finished in 1:48 with a loud grunt and no dabbing. The eventual winner beat out two guys on cyclocross bikes with a time of 1:03.
The race was halfway through and it was time for lunch. The RAMBO folks cooked some tasty (and giant) burgers. A few shops were there offering neutral support and I got a chance to drool over some new Niner bikes.
After lunch was over, the real fun began with the DH and Slalom events. The sun had climbed higher and the weather was perfect for the competitors and the spectators. Finally, the weight of my bike was going to pay off. Being the only person running DH with V-brakes was a little intimidating, butI was totally focused by the time my countdown started. I narrowly avoided clipping a tree and a 2 foot drop on the first run and felt way more confident on my second run. Slalom was more fun, since I didn’t have to worry about any major drops and there were some massive berms to carve through. I rolled all the jumps and ended up a respectable 4th place in the Beginner division.
I returned to the starting area and watched the crowning of the King and Queen, grabbed my sweet pint glass and headed home with my first mountain bike race in the bag.