July 17, 2005
Lake Crabtree Park, Raleigh, NC
The Happy Fun Racing folks put on one hell of an event. A mountain bike race closer than any of the road races we did this year is a rare thrill. Even “pops” Adam was able to sneak out and race. And, if you haven’t been down to Crabtree in a while, they’ve cut some new trails and it’s loads of fun.
Okay, here’s the scoop, but first, a disclaimer. My recollection of the race may be a bit skewed for reasons described below, so I invite anyone else who was present to make corrections or clarifications.
John Miles, Adam, Ali, and I cruised down to the course, ready to kick some ass. Upon arrival John and Adam were busy scouting around the parking lot to determine the GhettoBike award. There were a lot of dudes and dudettes there with some trick rides. These two boys were not among them. I think it has to do somewhat with a technological aversion that liberal arts guys have, as opposed to the techno-weenies of RTP.
In any event, the competition came down to Adam and John’s single-speed rigs. Their bikes were head and shoulders above [below] the rest, but it was unclear who actually had the worse bike. You decide: Adam’s old steel Rockhopper, had a rigid front fork, stickers he got from registering it with the collegiate police department, and neon pink highlights. John’s aluminum Trek, also with no front suspension needed a chain-tensioner (unlike adam’s), but was reportedly pieced together with components costing less than the race entry fee. Both bikes did have riser-bars and V-brakes, although John’s were actually hand-me-downs from Adam’s bike.
While John may seem to have won, I remembered that Adam’s bike was actually stolen from him at some point and he actually saw it locked up on the street and was able to get it back (or some such story), giving it mega ghetto points. My bike is a recent single-speed conversion and is nothing special, although it has bar-ends and apparently it is no longer cool to have bar-ends, or so John informed me. Ali steered clear of this whole mess and has a beautiful bicycle with a full set of working gears.
Anyway, there was also a race. They sent Ali and his huge field of geared competitors off first. He suffered from a bad start position but skillfully fought his way up through the ranks and was only hindered by some minor crashes on the loose dirt. The ground was very dry and there were a lot of crashes due to front tires washing out in the dust. I can’t remember what his final place was, but Ali represented in fine style.
The single-speeds were off next. I think we had a field of about 24 people, which is pretty darn impressive. At the start line, they informed us that we had a feed zone where we could enjoy beverages of a refreshing nature. Failure to enjoy said beverages would result in a 3 minute penalty. A 3 minute penalty in a 17 mile race is not a good thing. On the other hand, a refreshing beverage in the middle of each of our three laps is a very good thing. For anyone who is not in North Carolina now, or hasn’t left the confines of their air conditioned lab for the past few weeks, it is hot outside. And nothing refreshes like a cool refreshing beverage on a hot July day. However, strenuous activity and dehydration can really pack a wallop.
So, in addition to these factors, plus the fact that in mountain bike races, you can ride the entire race without seeing most of the people you started with, I don’t have a lot of actual facts to report about the race. I dropped a chain when I was trying to pick up my bike and run past some fallen riders and I had a pretty solid biting of the dust at another point in time, but truth be told, a lot of the later part of the race is kinda a blur. I'm still not sure if whatever they were handing out would be considered "performance enhancing", but I must admit, I think it improved my riding. Perhaps because it suggested that I too could take home a blue ribbon for outstanding achievement. John rocked to a 4th place finish, earning him a large glass suitable for beverages such as milk or juice, I was out of the prizes but happy with my 5th place, and Adam breezed into 10th.
But overall, we weren’t too concerned about our finishing places. It was a fun and casual time and a nice respite from road racing. We got dirty and a little bashed up and may head out to Greensboro this weekend to give it another go. If you are at all interested in trying some mountain bike racing this summer or in the autumn collegiate season, let me know and we’ll make it happen.