Pace Bend Race Report

Gorgeous day at Pace Bend

Gorgeous day at Pace Bend

Well, I made it! The little guy that I was at the mercy of hasn’t made his appearance yet so I was able to get out to race Pace Bend this weekend.

And I am so glad that I did! You can’t ask for a more perfect race day. Everything went right leading up to the day. We got some passing showers and a cool front on Thursday that not only cooled things off, but wet the trail just enough to have perfect, ‘hero dirt’ conditions the day of the race.

I made sure to eat well, hydrate well, and get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to the race. This is my A race for the year, on my home turf. This is where I better put my best foot forward and give myself every possible chance at a strong showing.

After riding Pace Bend the previous week, and putting down a 47 minute lap time, I was feeling really good. I knew a sub 47 lap was within reach, but I didn’t know how much I could improve upon that. I knew it was going to take a stellar ride with everything going just right to pull off a high placement.

As I expected, nearly all of the top riders showed up, with one exception. As I knew each one’s riding strengths and weaknesses, I had devised a plan that would give me the best chance of success.

Pace Bend Starting Line

Pace Bend Starting Line

One wrench in my plan was the starting loop. Since I have missed 3 races, I had fallen out of the top 10, which meant I wouldn’t get the top 10 call up. I would be starting at least 1 row back and for my plan to work, I was going to have to get by a good number of people on the start loop.

The start loop is a 1/2 mile, uphill-ish loose gravel jeep road. In the past, I have blown up on this little climb only to have to spend too much time recovering in the first section of technical singletrack, which is one of my stronger riding sections. I was going to have to walk a fine line of gaining position and not overdoing it and blowing up on the race to the singletrack.

One of the competitors that I have been struggling to best is John Eddington. This guy has the fitness of a race horse and he can power like no other in the less technical sections. Where I have a little advantage over John is in the technical sections, particularly on the fast technical downhill sections.

I knew he was going to explode up the start loop and I was going to risk running hot in an effort of keeping with him, with plans of trying to get around him in the singletrack in an effort to put some time between he and I before the trail started heading more uphill.

At the whistle, we all charged off, and as expected John E flew up the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clear opening to keep up and the leaders quickly gained a sizable advantage. At the top of the hill, just before the drop into singletrack, I had one last opportunity to get a pass in to open the path in front of me, but I didn’t have it legs to push right then, and it would have required me to likely have to cut off David O right into the trail and I didn’t want to make that move.

Start Loop

Start Loop behind David O

I dropped into the singletrack in 5th place, behind David O. We made decent time, but I was wanting to open it up more. At the first opportunity I had, I passed David O and motored on.

Kirby W was right behind me, and urging me on. We were blazing through the singletrack. My front tire stuck in the turns like glue and we were shredding it through the turns.

It wasn’t long before I started catching glimpses of John E ahead in the trees. We began reeling him in and we finally caught up with him. Unfortunately for John, in a small little down and up section one of the prior race group riders had dismounted in the feature. John wasn’t able to stop in time and he endo’d over.


John E Endo

This gave me & Kirby an opening to get around and we got by and headed on.

I knew that here is where I had to make good time. We only had a little more of the fast and flowy before a 1.5 mile mostly uphill and less technical section of the trail, where I knew John would make good time and likely close any gap we put in.

It was here that I told Kirby to get on as I knew he’d be able to put some time on. He came around and headed out. I lost sight of him and didn’t see him the rest of the race.

I cruised on, still feeling great. I rode as hard as I could, entering my ‘diesel engine’ state of just breathing well and getting smooth turns.

As I neared the well, I glanced back and saw that John had indeed closed the gap and was now on my wheel. As we rounded the well and started our approach to The Hill, he came around.

I was disappointed, but I knew I still had a chance, if I could keep him in my sights and manage to get around him before the next descending sections, then I might be able to hold him off.

We made good time on The Hill, which is the only real climb of the race. It is only 1/10th of a mile, but it is steep and loose and has a couple of non-trivial step ups, especially after you have been putting down 30 minutes of race pace riding at that point.

John topped the hill first and dropped into the next little section ahead of me. I lost sight of him and worried that he had dropped me for good. As I started towards a good technical downhill segment, I caught sight of him up ahead and pushed hard. If I could manage to get ahead of him before the descent, I could possibly put some distance between he and I through the descent and the NXNW ‘endless rockgarden’ section before we hit the final last mile hammerfest.

Upcoming Descent

Upcoming Descent

Unfortunately there was an earlier group rider between he and I and by the time I could get around that rider, I had no other opportunity to get around John on the descent.

I had to be content with riding his wheel and hoping that I might be able to get around him before entering NXNW.

Looking for a way around

Looking for a way around

We encountered more prior group riders and had to work our way around them. It wasn’t long before we hit NXNW and I was still holding John’s wheel. We were both riding well and I kept looking for an opportunity to get around.


Diesel Mode – Picture by Ingot Imaging

By this time, I could feel that my legs didn’t have the power that I wanted and I wasn’t getting those short bursts of strength needed to blow over the rocky segments as smoothly as I would have liked. John was riding smoothly and consistently, whereas I was getting bursty, with little gaps forming, then me closing them.

Riding strong in NXNW

Riding strong in NXNW

Eventually I was the first to crack and I stalled out on a little section that I normally clear with ease. John was able to get away here and that was that.

As I popped out of NXNW, I knew John wasn’t too far ahead and I hoped that I could somehow catch him. So I dug deep and I pushed hard on this last mile of wide open. From here is just about 1 mile and 4 minutes. A good chunk of this part is also downhill. I pedaled hard in the hopes of catching sight of John

I never caught him and wound up in a final sprint with an earlier group rider, just nudging him out at the line. This makes the 2nd year in a row that I ended up in an all out sprint on the road to the finish line with a ‘photo finish’, barely edging out the younger competitor.

Final sprint to finish

Final sprint to finish

I crossed the line 18 seconds behind John E. It was a good race and we both rode our strengths well. John wins this one by a narrow margin.

I check my timer and I see that I’m sitting on a 46:10 lap time. I have improved on my best lap time by another minute. Over the past 3 weeks I have gone from 48:30 to 47:15 to 46:10.

I felt really good with my race. I rode a clean ride, gave it my all and finished in 5th place out of 38. It was an amazing day and one that I’ll have to thank my nephew for allowing me to make when he makes his appearance into this world.

Video available here: Pace Bend Race Video

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 157 lbs
Bike weight: 25.8 lbs
Nutrition: 2 servings oatmeal, 1 cup coffee, 6″ Subway Sandwich, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Clear and sunny, 75 degrees, beautiful!
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: 75% workout on Tuesday, 50% workout on Thursday, 45min spin with couple of hard efforts on Saturday
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 55.8
TSB: -5.0 (rising)

I also want to point out the improvements that were made from this race last year. On April 15 of 2012, my 2nd race ever, I finished 32 of 42 with a time of 57:14. An improvement of 11 minutes and much better placement as well!

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. Nice race Cooper!!

    • Thanks! Finally had a race I was 100% happy with, too bad it took till the 8th race in the season to get it!

  2. Great job on the race! It looks like a good course. Awesome improvement over last year.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s a fun course, and my ‘home turf’ so to speak as it’s a fairly close trail that I get to ride regularly.

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