Sunday, July 11, 2004

Thunderhill Race Report

So the Thunder has been trod. Not quite as epic as its name promises, but a bit of an ordeal nonetheless. Actually, the official race slogan--Tread the Thunder--is kind of appropriate for this race, since much of it ended up being covered by foot. Mostly, in my case, due to the short steep climbs that might be rideable if it weren't for spinning out on a root at the base. This is easily the rootiest course I've ridden in Manitoba. I'd forgotten about that part of it. My ass must have been sore last year, because it was yesterday as I bounced from root to root hardtail style, but clearly it has a weakened capacity to remember.

After Friday's wet and muddy, not to mention mosquito infested, preride, my mood for racing was a tad on the sour side. Why did we drive 6 hours to ride in a swamp for a couple of hours? With all the wet roots, this had the potential to be one dodgy race. But it didn't rain overnight as forecast, and it actually ended up being warm and sunny during the day, so by 4pm the course had dried up quite a bit. This made it possible to ride through all the squishy bogs and climb more hills than otherwise.

One of the great features about Thunderhill, aside from its dorky name, is its long climbs. There is one long, gradual climb about 1km into the course that just seems to go on forever. And then to end the 10km lap is a 1km beast of a climb that has a way of inducing some serious self-doubt. Actually, more like a 10 minute confidence-shattering crisis. Worst of all was the pain these climbs inflicted on my back. It felt like someone had attached a vice around my lower spine and was cranking it tighter and tighter with each turn of the pedal. In between the climbs is about 6km of twisty singletrack (not unlike the new section at Bur Oak but a little less tight) and a bunch of fun downhill sections. My plan for the race was to survive the middle section without losing too much time and to gain all of it back and more on the climbs. Things played out pretty much as expected: the middle section was characteristically sloppy. After a momentary lapse of concentration I nailed a tree which led to a cuss-filled tumble from my bike. There are likely also a few more pieces of bark out by Swan River with my hide clinging to it. At least I seem to be missing a few chunks of flesh from my knees and thighs. Fortunately, however, there were no serious incidents. On the climbs, I was able to reel in and then drop a bunch of riders who, as usual, I let get off the front at the start. I ended up spending most of the first lap in 2nd place, but was hoping I might be able to make up that time during the 2nd lap. That was not to be, however, as the officials called it a race after only one lap. I guess they thought we'd exceed the time limit set for us lowly Sport class riders by more than a reasonable amount. This is the second year in a row that has happened, which is kind of frustrating. But at the same time, it was nice to be spared the pain I would no doubt have had to confront on the 2nd lap.

Look for a report from Unger coming soon.

In other race news, start thinking about the stage race scheduled for Asessippi on Sept 4 & 5. Five stages in two days: a fat tire crit, an uphill time trial, a cross-country race, a downhill race, and . . . I'm not kidding . . . a round of Playstation 2 Downhill Domination (anyone have one of these we can practice on?). But most importantly for FGBC members is the special two-day license possibility. Non-licensed riders can get a temporary race license for $15. This is a perfect opportunity to try out a race without having to fork over the big bucks for the standard UCI license. You can register for as many or as few events as you like. It should be noted that there is a tradition of sorts shaping up of late summer events: namely last year's gender barrier-breaking Medora event, and the previous year's proto-FGBC riding at Riding Mountain. This looks like a great option to round of the summer riding season for this year.

Hal was spotted riding his bike on the road today. After riding to Unger's place and back, might it be possible that he's got more miles in him than some FGBC members?

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