Big Cedar Race Report

Photo by IngotImaging

Photo by IngotImaging

18904_DORBA_BigCedar2013_Shirt_ThumbBig Cedar is the 9th race in the TMBRA State Series. There is only 1 Spring race left, and then 4 more in the Fall.

I really needed to make Big Cedar, as up to this point I have only made 5 races and need to get 8 quality races for my placement in the state series. Currently I’m sitting in 9th place, but I am still 2 races short for point totals. Even when I do get the number of races I need, it’s still going to be tough, if not impossible, to break into the top 6 in the series.

Big Cedar is known for tight and twisty singletrack, with some of the most climbing in the TMBRA series. It had been reported that the course would have around 1200 ft. of climbing over the course of the 8.5 mile lap. It was going to be an interesting race!

After pre-riding the course the day prior, I noted how the ‘start loop’ was very short. Only about 100 yards to the first bit of singletrack. Once you enter the singletrack, you have about 2 and a quarter miles of very tight and twisty singletrack, with very few opportunities for passing.

Getting a good start off of the line and getting into the singletrack in the top slots was going to be paramount. I had decided I was going to all out sprint to the singletrack to be sure I was one of the first 3 to drop in so as not to get slowed down by the jam ups that were sure to happen in the twisty singletrack.

Knowing this, when the top 10 call ups were made, I shimmied up between John E and Steven C. I knew John would blast off of the line and Steven would make sure to at least hold his wheel. I knew that between the two of them, I’d have a clear lane to get right in behind them and likely be the #3 guy into the singletrack.

Big Cedar Line Up

Big Cedar Line Up

The 4 minute stagger was torturous as usual. Those 4 minutes are hell to wait through until the whistle is blown.

When the whistle blew, everyone jammed hard. John blasted off the line and was out front like a rocket, just like I knew he would be.

Unfortunately, something went amiss with Steve’s start. I don’t know if he missed his pedal or someone bumped him or what, but unfortunately for me, where he ended up was right on top of me. He finally got away, but not before nearly taking me out. I barely managed to get unclipped and stabilized enough to keep from crashing out, but in doing so I was WAY back in the pack.

Oh, Hi, Steve!

Oh, Hi, Steve!

I hadn’t been this far back in the pack in any race this year. And this is the worst possible course to be this far back. I hardly have any time to get through this group before the singletrack hits, at which point it is going to be mostly about riding smooth and conserving energy as passes in the first 2 miles are next to impossible.

Pack attack!

Pack attack!

This is not the start I had hoped for, but you play with the hand you’re dealt. I estimated that I was probably between 15 and 20 positions back. I jumped on my horse and mashed as hard as I could before the singletrack.

I managed to pass 4 or 5 guys before we lined up for the singletrack. And came to a dead stop. Again, my worst fears are realized as we are already jamming up and we haven’t even gotten started yet.

Jammed up

Jammed up

I was feeling a bit frustrated at this point, but what are you going to do. I concentrated on riding cleanly and smoothly. I stayed on the wheel of the guy in front of me.

As I progressed down the trail, riders in front of me started making minor errors. Maybe mis-timing a turn, or stalling on a short climb. I was able to make up another 3-4 positions in this segment, just dodging people who were stalled out for any reason.

While I wasn’t where I wanted to be in the pack, I was having a lot of fun. It’s nice to ride through actual forest for a change and the trail conditions suited me well.

On another stalled out climb, I was able to get around another couple of guys, and who do I find myself following? David O’Bryan, yet again. I seem to end up finding myself trailing David quite frequently!

I trail David closely, weaving through the trees, always urging him to stay close to the riders in front of him. Surprising to me, I spot Steve C. and Kirby W. ahead of us. On a little climb that stalls out a copule of riders, David and I take a clean line and manage to pass both Steve and Kirby as well as a couple of other riders I don’t know.

At this point I figure I’m probably somewhere in the 5-10 range, which is nice, but my biggest concern is that the leaders have likely been making fantastic unhindered time through this segment (Copperhead Ridge).

I hold on tight to David’s wheel and know that a long straight doubletrack decent is coming up. I know once we pop out onto this section of trail, it will be time to drop the hammer and fly like the wind and try to get as many passes as possible before the next section of singletrack.

Holding David O'Bryan's Wheel

Holding David O’Bryan’s Wheel

We were cruising fairly well enough, but I was still feeling like I could be opening it up a bit more. At this time we were also starting to hit some of the earlier age group back markers, which started slowing us up some. Fortunately, they were all great about allowing passes. Even still, there was a long line of us all in a row.

Apparently this became a little too frustrating for a couple of guys and as we came around one loop spot, they cut the trail.

This little cut allowed them to jump probably 7-8 positions.



The rider marked above came out of the woods 3 positions ahead of me. Unfortunately for him, I knew who he was. Additionally I had a camera running and caught him in the act. There was another rider who I did not know in a black jersey who also cut the trail, but I did not get footage of him as he did not come out in front of me.

Since I knew the guy’s name, I started giving him lots of crap. I called him out on it, first and last named him and let him know it was documented on camera. He aptly gave in and pulled to the side to get back in his ‘right’ place. After the race, he would later tell me that a CAT 1 racer had showed him the ‘line’ and that he was just following a ‘line’ he thought was legal. I’m sorry, that ‘line’ is nothing more than cutting the course, cutting out a good 20-30 yards of a loop and jumping him up numerous positions.

I’ll not name him here, but I’ll say he rides for PACC team. If any PACC members happen to read this, you might consider educating your riders on the difference between a ‘line’ and cutting the course, aka, cheating.

A short bit later, we popped out onto the double track and I dropped the hammer. I was around David O in a heartbeat and blasted down the decent. After passing 2 more riders, the way appeared clear and I pedaled furiously to try to catch the next group of riders.

Ranger Romp - Blast off!

Ranger Romp – Blast off!

This section of doubletrack is actually fairly lengthy, and provides a good amount of trail where you can go wide open. Wide trail, coupled with long and straight and mostly downhill means good speeds.

I eventually caught up with Chris W but I had burned a few matches to get to him. I tucked in behind him and drafted off of him to get a little rest before going into the next bit of singletrack. For the next while, the trail criss crosses over a creek and drainage and is punctuated by several ladder bridges. They are fun, but do make for some careful riding so as not to end up in the water, as Phil Lewis of the Cat 3 50+ group found out!

Tailing Chris W across a bridge

Tailing Chris W across a bridge

I kept on Chris’s wheel, trying to save up energy to prepare for a next passing opportunity. Once the trail opened up a little, I hear Kirby from behind urge me to get around. I make the pass before heading into the next bit of twisty bits.

The trail continues to twist, turn and cross bridges. Kirby and I make our way around more back markers, but we stop seeing any more riders from our group. I do not have any idea where I sit in the pack.

It is about here where the trail starts turning uphill, and as usual, I urge Kirby around as he is a much stronger climber than I. He jets off and I don’t see him the rest of the race.

I continue motoring on. There is an interesting feature coming up, which is an off camber slab of concrete, with a bridge at the approach and on the other side. You have to be careful here as the bridges only connect on the low side. So if you happen to come in hot and high, you could very well find yourself launching off into no man’s land.

Cement/bridge feature

Cement/bridge feature

The event organizers had placed a course marshal at this feature, and apparently had given instructions to blow loudly on a whistle as riders approached to notify them of the upcoming feature.

Well, I was unaware of said marshal and as I approached and he blew loudly, it broke my concentration and my handlebar hit a tree. Down I went.

I was unscathed and continued onward. I cleared the feature with ease and felt fine.

It was about 2 minutes later that I heard a strange clicking noise coming from the front of the bike. More specifically the handlebar. And more specifically, from where my GoPro is mounted. I looked down and saw that the rear door of my GoPro case was missing, along with the GoPro contained inside.

Well, isn’t that just great. I’m sure that I lost the camera on the crash.

Oh well!

I pedaled onward, passing more backmarkers, and entering the steeper section of the course. I actually gave up 3 positions to riders in my group behind me through the powerline fields and I wondered if I was going to have the energy for a strong finish.

The ‘Brick Climb’ was up ahead, which is a pretty steep incline. I knew going into it that this section was likely going to be a complete log jam as it is so far into the lap and we would be thick in the back riders of the earlier groups. I had no hopes that the way would be clear for a possible non-dismounted climb.

Brick Climb - Add about 10 more bikes and dismounted pushers to this pic

Brick Climb – Add about 10 more bikes and dismounted pushers to this pic

Approaching the hill, 2 of the guys who had passed me stopped at the bottom and mentioned that they were not even going to try. I urged them to give way and I powered up the hill.

I passed the other guy who had passed me (Chris W) as he was dismounted and nearly made it to the top of the bricks, where the trail turns into very loose dirt. I was forced to dismount at this point, but surprised myself in that I had energy to run up the climb the rest of the way to the top, passing yet another 2 guys in my group on the way, as well as 2-3 earlier starters.

On the Brick Climb alone, I had managed to recover my 3 lost positions, and make another 2 passes. But I knew the climbing was far from over. From the top of the brick climb, the trail continues it’s ascent through some tight switchbacks.

Apparently my legs had found some recovery somewhere because all of a sudden, I felt very energized. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t want to give up any more positions or what, but I found that I had plenty of energy to push hard up the climbs.

I pedaled for all I was worth, knowing there was less than 2 miles to go. I asked my legs and lungs to give me all they had left, and they graciously complied. I found that I was making as good a time now as I was at any point on the race and I was feeling strong.

I completed the climb and was happy to hear the cheers of the people lining the trail indicating that the end was nearby. I gave it all I had, with no idea of my placement, but I had assumed I was somewhere around 7-8th place.

Nearing the finish, one last prior group pass

Nearing the finish, one last prior group pass

As I popped out into the final sprint, I went ahead and gave it a healthy sprint, even though there was nobody for me to sprint against.

As I crossed the finish line, I looked around and was surprised to see only John E, David C, and Kirby. Could I possibly have pulled out a 4th place finish after all of that?

Come to find out, indeed I did!

I was very happy with the final placement, and overall very happy with the race.

Now it was time to see about the status of my GoPro. I informed an organizer and the call went out on the radio. Much to my happiness, about 30 minutes later my GoPro was turned in and returned to me!

When I got home, I took a peek at the video on the GoPro. Unfortunately, the video cut out even before the crash and I ended up with only about 20 minutes worth of race footage. I’ll still put a little something together, but it won’t be as good as I would like.

Also took a look at my fork from when Steve C and I bumped on the starting line. His rear tire made an interesting design on my fork!

Hope that'll rub/wash off!  I'm vain like that!

Hope that’ll rub/wash off! I’m vain like that!

Update: Race video here: Big Cedar Mountain Bike Race Video

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 157 lbs
Bike weight: 25.8 lbs
Nutrition: Hearty breakfast, breakfast tacos, eggs, potatoes, PB&J Sandwich, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Clear and sunny, 75 degrees, perfect!
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: Normal Tuesday Interval workout, skipped Thursday due to bad weather, pre-ride at about 85% pace on day before race
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 55.1
TSB: 6.6 (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.


  1. Great race recap! I’m glad you were able to get your GoPro back, that would have royally sucked. 4th place is fantastic man, I can’t believe that you were able to make all of that up out there. The start you had on that course in Cat 3 would have broken the typical man. Super Coop was racing that day!

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