Wednesday, September 23, 2009

more collegiate racing notes

some additional observations from my weekend trip to Boone/Banner Elk, NC.

* There were about 3 other racers kicking singlespeeds, including one guy from an unknown school (he was wearing a plaid button-down shirt and baggy shorts) and one woman who gave me props for riding a singlespeed 29er, but heckled me for not also having a rigid fork like her. She is my hero.

* I also spotted a dude with a vintage Manitou 3 suspension fork. This was the first suspension fork I owned, which I bought used around 1995. Elastomer shock, no dampening. I still have it in my parts bin. It's not a very good fork, but could be considered a work of art.

* I'm pretty sure I spotted Lees-McRae alumnus Brent Bookwalter hanging out around the start/finish line in his BMC Team kit. He should be over in Switzerland preparing for the World Championships about now, but it was cool to see him out supporting his old team.

* Lees-McRae College, along with places like the Colorado School of Mines, is one of those tiny schools that most people haven't heard of. That is, unless you are a collegiate mountain bike racer, in which case, you quake in fear about the humility of having to race against semi-pro kids (probably like Portland State University's basketball team "getting" to "play" Duke). The newest major mtb powerhouse/school I'd never heard of is Union College. Not Union College of upstate New York, I've heard of that one and actually know someone from there. Union College, Kentucky. I'm not trying to dis this school. I really don't know anything about them, except they have a lot of fast mountain bikers. The one thing I found curious (after figuring out they didn't drive down from the northeast to kick my ass) was their team kits: orange camouflage. Style is a personal thing, and many people find all cycling costumes ridiculous. Nevertheless, I found this design fairly terrible. On the other hand, I don't know much about Kentucky (except for Dr. Pirate), but perhaps these jerseys keep them from getting shot during hunting season.

* UNC-Asheville's jerseys feature a dog's ass.

* It wasn't that hot out, but a couple of dudes opted for the bibs-only approach. I don't think that this is technically legal, and perhaps I should have protested. Not out of observance of the rules, but for the sake of common decency.

* While most of the fastest guys were from schools near mountains, school location did not necessarily correlate to skill. During the race, I found myself getting passed by one kid from a mountain-area college who blazed past me on a descent, but who wasn't a very strong climber, and passing another kid from a different mountain-area school who was a terrible descender (and a mediocre climber). That being said, I saw at least one dude from Flordia drop out on the first lap.

* Did I mention that collegiate racers are pretty cool and will let you pass whenever you ask? It's true. Very polite, like a Triangle-series race.

* There was one dude with the last name Haile. A relative of anyone we know? An unknown relative of anyone we know?

* I saw the weirdest mechanical: a guy snapped his chain, which somehow managed to whip back and wrap itself around his tire, then back around a spoke. This appeared to puncture the tire and tweak the spoke (the chain was still lodged in the spoke when he carried his bike across the finish line) in this very rare trifecta-failure. It may have actually broken the rear derailleur, making it a quad-fecta.

* If you stop for a burrito at Black Cat in Boone and are fairly dirty and look mildly shellshocked, people don't seem to mind. I'm not sure if this is a Boone thing or a Black Cat thing or a universal burrito establishment thing. Either way, it was a good thing. (As a side note, when I was returning home from a ride the other day, I received a text from my lady to meet her at Allivia's for a beer. I was reluctant to stop since I was fully kitted-out, but the weather was nice, the patio was virtually empty, the beer was refreshing, and people didn't give me too many awkward looks.)

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