Warda Race Report

Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, Texas is one of those trail destinations I just hasn’t made it out to yet. From what I knew about it from hearsay and a couple of videos, the trail wasn’t really my style. Pretty flat, exposed, un-technical, and wide open.

My assumptions were confirmed when I made it out to pre-ride the course with Kirby on the Thursday before the race. The course was an all out hammerfest and I’m not quite sure how anyone would say it isn’t. I’d like to know what exactly a hammerfest is, if it isn’t Warda!

Early in the season, I had expected to skip Warda for this very reason. But with still needing to get more races to get my 8 races for the series, and not knowing what I’ll be able to make in the Fall, I decided to do the race. Scheduling turned out to make it not a bad day for me to be away, so I felt compelled to go.

Looking at pre-registrations, it looked like some of the top dogs might be passing on the race, so that somewhat fueled my excitement to go to Warda. But that excitement was mis-placed as pretty much everyone showed up for this race, including some additional roadie ringers that I’ll get to in a moment.

My hopes of placing in the top 5 were soon replaced with hopes of finishing in the top 10.

So far in 2013, we have had exemplary weather. With the exception of a rainy and muddy Rocky Hill Roundup, the weather has been generally perfect. No temps in the 90’s, often clear, beautiful 70 degree weather.

Warda deviated from that just a little. Fortunately for us Cat 3 racers, we got to start early in the day as it turned out that many new high temp records were set on this day. Coupled with the heat, it was very humid. I was very thankful that we were getting to go early for this race.

I arrived at the venue in plenty of time to prep up. Warm up went fine and I felt primed and ready to go at the start.

There were 38 in our field, and since I am in the top 10, I was also fortunate to get called up to start on the front line. This is the first front line start I’ve gotten since Mellow Johnny’s!

Sadly, on this course, a front start is only partially helpful. The ‘start loop’ is over a mile long and all of it is easy passing. Even when you get to the single track, there are ample opportunities for passing if you are so inclined.

At the start line, I saw some unfamiliar faces. Many of them sporting that gaunt roadie look. I knew what was coming. Those guys were going to blast the open areas. Hey, more power to ’em, I wasn’t going to burn myself out on the start loop and I knew it.

The whistle blew and the racers were off. Sure enough, the roadies took off. I, and some of my smart brethren, let them go.

Off the line

Off the line

In addition to the heat, today also happened to be a particularly windy day. With winds gusting to over 20mph. The initial start goes with the wind, but it soon does a 180 right into the wind.

Here, I took a lesson from my roadie friends, and found a nice wind blocker to lead me into the wind.

Roadie style!

Roadie style!

We were riding about 20mph on loose gravel into a 15mph headwind. I drafted off of the guy in front of me, working to save some energy before the fun really begins. A couple more roadies charged by the pack and worked their way towards the front.

We all hit the singletrack within 15 seconds of each other and I went in around 10th place. Steve C & David C were right in front of me. We were cruising through the twisty section and I was focusing on riding smoothly more than pounding it out.

Kirby W

Kirby W

It wasn’t long when I came upon Kirby W on the side of the trail. He hopped back on as I passed. I asked what happened and he mentions that one of the roadies had endo’d right in front of him, causing him to topple as well.

The roadie was in front of me and I rode behind him for quite a ways. Several times in the twisty section, he nearly washed out, with his rear tire breaking free. He nearly went down when going for an unsafe pass on David C in a short open section when he hit a log.

Watch that log!

Watch that log!

At any rate, other than riding kinda sketchy, he was riding pretty strong and fast through the singletrack. I concentrated on riding smoothly and spending as little energy as possible through the tight turns and little up and downs.

We managed to overtake 3 more class riders in the single track. Either a roadie in the sketchy turns, or someone who had went a little too hard in the start loop and was paying for it in the single track.

Hammer time!

Hammer time!

We soon popped out into the open and it was time to hit the gas. Well, as much as I can hit the gas at least. Of course, here is another section where the roadies shine. It’s smooth, flat, and wide open. I do my best to draft off of David C while Kirby comes around and heads out.

One saving grace of this section is that when it drops back into the trees, it’s the best part of the course. A short downhill segment that is a lot of fun to ride. Of course, if you can say there is anything technical on this course, this is it and it is here that I am not surprised to find one of the roadies clinging to the hillside.

Roadie down!

Roadie down!

I throw out a quick ‘Are you all right?’, to which he replies ‘Yes’, which is good because I didn’t want to have the moral dilemma of stopping or waiting until I see a course marshall! (Just kidding, I would have gladly stopped!)

The fun downhill is short lived and we again pop out into a field for another long section out in the open. It is a short loop of a hay meadow and then we get to head for the only climb of the course. It is relatively short so I just suffer up it and turn the corner.

Climbing the hill

Climbing the hill

After a short, sketchy down and some navigating some trees, we again pop out for a long 1 mile loop around another field. I am again passed by another roadie. I draft off of him for a while until we turn sideways to the wind, where the gusts break my will and I let him go.

Drafting like a Pro/Cat 1/2!

Drafting like a Cat 2 roadie!

Clicky this link to see road race results for this Cat 2 road racer!

At this point, we’re about 80% of the way through the course and there’s mostly all out hammer the rest of the way. I can tell I’ve burned a lot of my matches despite my attempts to conserve energy. I fade a bit and lose a little of my fire as I figure I’m pretty out of catching anyone else in my group and also have a long lead on anyone behind me. Those big fields give you the opportunity to see anyone who is +/- 1-2 minutes of your position.

I make my way through the last little interesting part of the course, the BMX area and the Roller Coaster. Unfortunately, I’m too drained to really pin it through here and don’t make great time.

As I come out of the Roller Coaster and pop out onto yet another half mile of wide open, I see another from my group. Miguel A is a strong rider and I’m surprised to see him. I’ll later learn he had crashed and that was why I was able to catch up.

At any rate, I latch on. We have another half mile of wide open, into the 15 mph headwind. I grab his wheel and draft, with plans of making it a final sprint finish. Miguel senses my plans and he really starts to hammer. As we near the final stretch, he really puts the hammer down and pushes our pace upwards of 24mph. We’re cooking!

The final little bit is a hard left on very loose gravel. Taking that turn at 20mph is suicide and Miguel pays for it. His wheels wash out and he goes down hard. As I happens, I see his rear end washing out and I think to myself that I am going to go down too. I veer right and roll over his rear wheel and across the course ribbons. Fortunately nobody was standing there and I was able to recover without crashing into anyone.

Miguel goes down hard at 20mph

Miguel goes down hard at 20mph

I roll across the finish in 7th place. The post-race festivities were great. Free Shiner beer and BBQ.

Race video here: Warda Mountain Bike Race Video

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Bike weight: 25.8 lbs
Race Time: 10AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Clear and windy, 85 degrees
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: Normal Tuesday Interval workout, Thursday pre-ride at about 85% pace
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 53.5
TSB: 0.4 (steady)

Addendum: I should state that I do not have anything against roadies or really fit folks. I’m just giving a hard time, as I always do. Roadies amaze me. I don’t have the will to do what they do and I’m just jealous =)

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.

Comments

  1. David C says:

    Just read this report. Nice!
    Yes it was a hammerfest, no recovery zones! Argh!!
    The roadie link cracked me up! LOL!!
    Worst part of his efforts is he still got beat by the 3 main guys. He should be ashamed!! HAHA!!

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