While it wasn’t technically the season opener since the Quick N’ Dirty kicked off the weekend before, this last weekend at Vail Lake was one of the first ‘larger’ races. It brought in a bunch of big time talent from a few different states (and Canada) and was sure to be tough and fast.
When it was raining in Cardiff at 8am (it was actually raining, not like our usual ‘rain’ days) the morning of the race I had kinda made up in my mind that there would be no race. After texting a few friends and my traveling buddy Ben Jones it looked like everyone was still going out to the venue cause it was maybe gonna clear up later.
So off Ben and I went driving rainy roads in the 1996 Chevy G1500 completely equipped with mood lighting, an excellent choice for muddy bike races. When we got to the venue it was still raining and we decided to go check out how wrecked the other racers bikes were getting from the mud.
This is just the beginning of the season, the possibility of how wrecked your bike would be after the mud was really a big turn-off for me to race. The mud here is like cement after it dries, and is capable of ruining anything in its path.
But we decided at the last minute to go for it, saying something like ‘this is what makes memories.’ I got in a horrible warmup of about 10 minutes on the pavement, got to the start line late and was in the last row of a crowded field, and had no idea how the course was, proper professional preparation(PPP for future reference).
After the start we hit a single-track climb and I was taken back at the skill level of some of these ‘pro’ mountain bikers, or lack thereof. After getting around some other riders I was still pretty far back and the lead group was gone. My main goal for this race was to get into the front group, which I was guessing was going to be about 5-7 guys, but that didnt happen.
After the first lap I was seriously thinking about dropping out because of the conditions, but I figured my bike was already kinda f*cked, and I wanted to make sure to get a workout in so I kept chugging along. I was getting into a better groove, with the mud and all, on the second lap. I was used to having mud in my eyes, and not being able to see, and now knew the course.
It also stopped raining on the second lap, which is when mechanicals started happening. The mud started to dry out some and became more of a peanut butter consistency. It was so goopy that it was jammed in between the links of my chain and would just push itself right off of the chainring. I would seriously stop, put the chain back on the chainring turn the pedals and it would just hop right off. After some cleaning with the water bottle I was finally able to get going again, probably loosing about 4 minutes in all on lap two.
By the third lap I was grooving, I learned the mud and the course, the trick was not to touch your brakes, ever. The mud was so slow there was no need to! I managed to catch one rider on the last lap and finished 10th. Not at all where I wanted to be but its mostly my own fault for the crappy warmup, late start line position and lack of initial motivation in the rain(PPP). On the plus side I had one of the top 4 or 5 fastest last laps, I never felt tired during the race and know that the race fitness is coming in a month or so, so thats good, just have to be patient.
I raced my hardtail (Focus Raven 29) at this course because of the lack of technical sections, but considering the mud I don’t think a full susp would have been a disadvantage at all. I ran my regular dry fast course tires, Kenda Small block 8’s, down at around 21/23 psi and they worked surprisingly well. The main thing they lacked in the mud was rear wheel traction up steep climbs, which something like the Karmas, or Honey Badgers would have been better at. At the last minute I also cleaned the crap out of my chain and applied WD40’s wet lube, and it worked great in the muck, there was nothing any lube could have done to keep the chain from poping off the ring.
Since the race I replaced my BB bearings as the drive side was completely frozen, top headset bearing, and brake pads since they were literally true metallic pads. I have completely disassembled the bike cleaned it and put it back together, its the only way to try to make it feel like it wasn’t just destroyed.
Other racers reading this, what tires/pressure or other modifications did you make for this mud race?