Ore To Shore

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With only two more races left to go, my mountain bike season is finally coming together.  I've been generally crashing, sandbagging, and posting piss-poor performances through this whole season so far.   Finally, I've managed to eek out something I'm proud of.   

Last year, I had myself a bit of a religious experience on the Ore To Shore in which I saw the single speed light. It was at that point that I was a strong enough rider that I no longer really needed the low gears to survive, but not quite strong enough to really take advantage of the taller gears on a geared bike.   I'd go on "Single Speeds Are Awesome!" tirade here, but the internet is already full of people waxing poetic about the merits of single speed mountain bikes, I'll try and refrain from adding more here.

Anyway, we started Ore To Shore this year in nearly the exact same conditions as last year- a light rain at the start. Perfect for me and my newly repaired Unit.   The start, is well... the start. It sucks on a single speed. You get passed by everybody, including their grandmothers who are just out for the exercise. Then you get to  a long climb still thick with packed up traffic.  Still, that's the beauty of one gear. It is what it is. Nothing you can do about it.  No nagging self doubt about "Am I pushing too big a gear, will I blow up?"  or "Am I in too small a gear, can I go faster?".  You just ride.   

And ride I did. First past the spot where I crashed last year. Then I charged through the puddle that caused the worst of last years chain suck. I found myself doing not just well, but really well- and not on the edge of blowing up either.  I know I'm doing well when I start telling lame jokes to other riders, whooping and hollering in the fun stuff, and yelling like a mad man to psych myself up for big hills ("I LOVE THIS HILL. IT'S SO MUCH FUN.")    I like breaking up the monotony of a sport dominated by cooler than thou hippies and the steely eyed nature of the super competitive back of the thirtysomething pack XC racer.   

The high point of the race was the powerline section.  It's constantly up and down on really rough, grass covered terrain punctuated by occasional exposed bedrock, some quick steep climbs covered in loose rock and sand, and a couple of killer hills that pretty much require carrying the bike.   Everything came together for me here and I was just nailing it.

Then well.... Hey, at least it was a great race up until then.  See, half way through there's this paved section- part of which is composed of a series of somewhat long climbs with brief downhills and flats thrown in.  I got dropped here, hard.  See, I can sort of power my way through the steep and quick stuff and even the occasional long grinder.  But hill after hill after hill just did me in.  By the time we hit the dirt again, I was alone on the trail.  This is never a good thing, first because I tend to slow down without anybody near me to race against, and also because the Ore To Shore is basically a road race on dirt- you need to ride in packs to get the benefits of drafting.

It took me probably 10 miles to get my legs back and get back in some traffic I could chase. The last 10 miles or so of the course starts to resemble a mountain bike race a little more with tighter, twistier trails and some challenging sandy downhills.  I was back in my element, feeling strong, and gave a respectable pull to the finish.  

Last year, I finished in something like 3:55.  I figured at least 15 minutes of that was screwing around with technical problems on the side of the trail.  Since this was my first real race on the single speed with no option to bail for a geared bike part way through, I wasn't certain what to expect.  I knew I'd be happy with anything under 3:45. I was positively ecstatic to finish at 3:14. The cool thing is- looking at how I placed amongst my fellow competitors- I don't think a single speed makes me any slower.  And given how poorly suited a single speed bike can be on this course, it might actually be making me faster.   

Next weekend is the big challenge though.  There's an unofficial single speed throwdown in the 27 mile Deer Chase.  The trails in this race are perfectly suited to a single speed- and as a result, very, very fast.  It's going to be fun as long as I can keep from bending another fork.  

1 Comment

Way to go! Next year, you'll be under 3:00 for sure. :-)

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