So Sarah and I talked ourselves into doing the Firecracker 50 (a ridiculously long and hard mountain bike race, at least by my standards) on the 4th of July, and since Sarah's dad has a condo in Keystone, which is a 15 minute drive from the course, we decided we'd just stay up in Summit county for Thursday and Friday as well, then race the Winter Park/Crankworx race on Saturday and drive home. That's a, uh, 5 day weekend? Jeez.
Here's a shot of McCalla (who ended up 6th) at the start. I've known Mike since I was about 4 years old - I remember him attending several of my birthday parties (and usually eating all the pizza). The fields were HUGE - the bike race portion of the 4th of July Parade stretched for at least 5 blocks. Awesome. Mountain bike racing is back!
We had to modify Sarah's brake lever slightly - the axle that the brake lever itself pivots around *fell out*, so once we found it again, we fixed it by stealing some stickers off of fruit (I believe they were plums) at the grocery store and pasting them over the top and bottom of the shaft so that the axle couldn't fall out. Thankfully, it worked great - that would have been a quick end to our race, otherwise.
We ran into lots of friends at the race - Sportsman, of course (pictured), Tom K, Martini, Mike Hogan, and too many others to mention here. It seems like there are new faces at the races in recent years, but the old guys (like me) aren't quitting - the fields just keep getting bigger!
In any case, the Firecracker was a great race, though we didn't do so hot. We were racing as a team, which meant that we each did one 25 mile lap (with a nasty 5400 feet of climbing). Unfortunately, we didn't think about strategy very carefully, and had Sarah go first - meaning that all the roadies and awful bike handlers beat her up the first (mostly paved) 2400 foot climb and jammed up the singletrack something awful. She reported that she had to walk almost everything even vaguely technical, because so many riders were crashing or walking in front of her. Then she managed to get lost for 10 minutes, and by the time I started, we were already way behind the competition. I passed 280 of those people on my lap and had a fun time, but we finished 5th out of 13 teams, not nearly as good as we'd hoped. C'est la vie - we'll be back next year!
As a side note, the Firecracker is a REALLY fun and well-run race. And it drew something like 750 racers! Crazy cool! As you can see, I managed to wreck pretty good in one spot when trying to make a very stupid pass through a switchback.
The next day we did some DH runs at Keystone - well, actually only 2 runs, because the rain and lightning rolled in and ended the fun at about 1pm. D'oh! We rode the Burro trail and some other random stuff in the Hoosier pass area on Friday (we're sitting on a log on the Wheeler trail in the picture), and then went to bed early to try to get up for the drive to Winter Park.
Unfortunately, I chose to drink about 2 liters worth of Apricot Nectar (made by a company called Looza - how's that for irony?) and had, shall we say, a few more trips to the bathroom than I expected in the morning. Then we got stuck behind a semi full of cows on the pass that was going a blazing 20mph. When all was said and done, I missed the start of the pro men's race (9am) and started riding, all by myself, at 9:20. I figured I'd ride hard and get a workout, and then check out all the fun Crankworx stuff happening at the base area afterwards. The first half of the "race" was pretty funny - all the course marshals were either asleep or did hilarious doubletakes upon seeing me rolling by 20 minutes down. Unbelieveably, I managed to catch a couple of people by the top of the (long) climb, and I caught a couple more on the uber-technical Mountain Goat trail - the descent featured a teeter totter, a 6 inch wide bridge over a pretty decent sized drop, and numerous 2-3 foot rock drops and ultra-steep sections - it was by far the most technical terrain I've ever ridden in a cross country race. I managed to clean everything by just concentrating on being smooth and taking my time picking lines. In any case, I finished 27th out of about 40 starters, though some of those folks got DQ'd for getting lost and off course. My time, according to my cell phone, was somewhere around 1:57, good enough for second place behind Ned. Too bad I didn't make the start, I guess...once again, c'est la vie.
Sarah was *flying* in her expert race and ended up 4th out of about 25 experts. She also won her age group and took 11 minutes off her time on the same course 2 years ago. Not bad!
Taryn won her beginner race, in fine style, and proved that she's figured out how to descend (the fact that she's now got suspension might be helping too!) We'll probably have to shame her into moving up to Sport next year, I suppose. Congratulations Taryn!
Brian K was 5th in the super-competitive Expert 30-34 race, and Yuki and Nick finished 9th and 7th in the pros. A great day for a race, even if the course marking (and my punctuality) could have been better.