2013 Bent Wheel Bash – Race Report

Well, now that I have gotten my grumpy post out of the way, better put together an actual race report.

The Bent Wheel Bash takes place on the Buck Creek Trails in Abilene, Texas. Typically this is a Fall series race, but with the 2013 change to a year long series, the race moved to a spring time slot.

I raced this course back in the fall and this course became one of my favorite race venues. The trail was fantastically fun with some great technical sections, fun descents and some sweet flowy singletrack. I had looked forward to making this race all year-long.

Abilene is typically a lighter attended race, and leading up to the date nearly all the top 5 riders had reported they were not going to make this race. The fall course was also a favorable course for me, with the technical sections, no long sustained climbs and flowy, speedy descents. With that in mind, it meant I had a very real chance at a podium finish! And if I have a real good showing, then who knows what might happen!

To my disappointment, the race directors completely changed the course this year and removed nearly every last bit of technical trail features. I won’t go into that here, but you can read about my displeasure in the ‘Whiny Lil Bitch’ post.

So on to the race report!

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I arrived at the venue by 10AM, which gave me more than ample time to prepare and be ready for our noon time start. I got everything ready, set up the bike and cruised around visiting with the various racers. I saw that a couple of the top 5 guys had shown up to race. Kudos to them, but that meant I was going to have to work harder for my placement =)

At staging, I counted 20 men in our group. A good number and I was pleased that there were more than back in October. I knew that was good news for the race promoters.

We rolled up to the line and anxiously await the send off.

That's me on the far left, green & white kit

That’s me on the far left, green & white kit

The countdown was called and we’re off!

I settle into 3rd place behind David C (#4 in series) and Steven C (#2 in series) on the start loop. I figure that will be a good place to be going into the singletrack. That didn’t last long however, as apparently our 18mph wasn’t fast enough for a couple of riders. I’m not sure of their names, but first one (John E I think) passed and went to the lead, hammering hard. Steve C grabbed his wheel but David C eased up. I imagine he knew he’d be fine once we hit the singletrack and didn’t want to risk blowing up.

The first turn off of the jeep road is a hard left and having ridden that section during warm up, I knew it was soft and a real problem for a possible wash out. I’m not sure if John knew this because he went into the turn very hot… too hot… and down he went. He took Steve C out with him as well and they tangled at the turn.

Riders down!

Riders down!

I basically had no choice but to go around and take the lead going into the singletrack. I had the hole shot and I didn’t even want it!

We went into the singletrack riding hard and heavy. I knew the first technical section was cut from the course so I wasn’t suspecting anything at first with hammering through the ribbon of dirt.

The corners were loose and sketchy so holding the turns and paying attention to handling was paramount. I kept pedaling hard.

I lead for probably close to 5 minutes and I was REALLY looking for some technical rock to help me out a little. I knew some technical would give me a little breathing room from the pack of 7 or so riders that were right on my wheel.

Damn near gapped the ladder (unintentionally)

Damn near gapped the ladder (unintentionally)

But the technical didn’t come. I finally had to give in and ease off as there was no way I could hold this fitness hammer pace for much longer. As I eased off, the 6 riders who were hot on my wheel got around and kept hammering.

David C powering by

David C powering by

David C was in the lead through the fun little ‘Bobsled’ segment of the trail and I was trying to stay in the mix. I kept looking up the trail wondering where were the rocks? Where is anything except this flat, hammerfest dirt?

Steve C, Jeff J, John E and Steven C were in the line ahead of me. It was beginning to sink in that they hadn’t just cut out the first technical section, they had cut it ALL out. Not only that, but the short punchy climbs were gone too. It was flat, flat, flat and nothing but hammer, hammer, hammer.

Losing steam

Losing steam

At one little line choice section, a couple of the locals (Todd S and Tracy J?) knew the shorter line to take and they got around me at that section. I was now somewhere in 8-9th place and looking at the reality that this race was just going to be an all out hammerfest for the duration of the race.

It was about here that I started violating one of my primary tenants when mountain biking and one that I belt out anytime I sense someone around me is starting to succumb to its soul sucking evil.

I started grumpy riding. On of my typical mantras is ‘NO GRUMPY RIDING’ and I was violating it hugely. I started cursing and sputtering and just generally not having a very good time.

It was near here that I came up on John E on the side of the trail again. It looked like he had likely washed out again and was adjusting something on his bike. I went around and continued on.

I rode alone for a while, passing the earlier age group stragglers.

After a bit I heard riders coming up on my wheel and I knew it was the next group in our age group. It sounded like it was 4-5 riders. I knew I better get my act together and start riding or I was going to finish a lot worse off than I originally was.

I contemplated letting them all come around as I wallowed in my grumpiness, but my better sensibilities won out and I started pushing again.

Mark A, David O, Michael C and I’m not sure who else, were all right on my wheel. I motored on, still being pissy, which is unfortunate as I’m sure the course is actually a lot of fun, it just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

John E caught back up and motored by. It was about right here that Todd S was on the trail and going slowly. I think he may have had to end his ride due to a mechanical or something.

It is worth noting that I felt fine. I was basically giving it all I had, but I’ll be the first to admit that my 100% on all the time fitness just isn’t where it needs to be for that kind of effort. I really need those ups and downs, in and out of the saddle changes that allow you those ever so slight moments of recovery in your legs and chest.

Oh look!  A rock!!!

Oh look! A rock!!! A rare moment on the new course

This new route just didn’t have any of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I only got out of my saddle on this course less than a dozen times total. My rear stayed firmly planted in the saddle and pedals were turning nearly 100% of the time.

As we were closing in on the final quarter of the course, we finally hit a couple of small technical sections. They were brief but I capitalized on each little section and each time put some gap in between me and my pursuers. They would invariably close the gap again in the wide open sections, but I remained in the lead.

Mark A rode my wheel for a long time and I kept expecting him to make a pass, but he never went for it. With about a mile to go in the course he said something like ‘One mile left, let’s finish strong’.

I knew he was right on me and my chasers were still threatening so it was about this time that I started lighting up what few matches I had left. When I passed a straggler, I would gun it to try to put some distance between me and Mark before he could get around the straggler as well. I didn’t want to give him the chance to come around me at the last minute.

I came across one last straggler probably 1/2 mile from the finish. I called my pass and hit the gas, giving everything I had left. A glace over my shoulder a few seconds later confirmed that my chasers had gotten jammed up behind the straggler and I had some space to push on to the end.

Thumbs down on the new course (my opinion only!)

Thumbs down on the new course (my opinion only!)

I finished it out and got 7th in my group. I averaged over 12mph over the course which is hauling pretty good imho for a mountain bike course. There was less than 300ft of climbing through the route which put this course at about the same (or less) difficulty as the entry level trail in Austin, Slaughter Creek Trails.

UPDATE: There is also a write up in the Abilene Reporter News site.

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 160 lbs
Bike weight: 26.6 lbs
Nutrition: 2 servings oatmeal, 1 cup coffee, some fruit, 1 honey stinger 30 mins before race, took 1/2 bottle of water, but didn’t even touch it during the race
Weather: Clear and perfect, 60 degrees
Dress: Bibs, short sleeve jersey
RPE: Went hard off the gun, eased up through ‘meat’ of the course, burned hard through the finish. Still not quite feeling 100% in the cardio category.
CTL: 42.8
TSB: -13.8 (rising)

About TC

Long time mountain biker, recent mountain bike racer. Borderline unhealthy obsession with mountain biking, constantly drawn to hit the dirt and share my experiences.

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