Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thule Urban Assault

Today I rode in the Thule Urban Assault mountain bike race.  The event is part of Dominion RiverRock, a weekend festival of outdoor activities.   It is my home course, run on trails in the James River Park System that I regularly ride, so it seemed liked a good occasion for me to enter my first race.  Apparently the event is quite a draw for professional riders on the East Coast.  The pros would be doing two loops of the course, I would be doing just one, ten miles in length.  I think to most non-mountain bikers that doesn't sound very far, but on technical single track - trust me - it's a good distance.

Then send the pros off first, then there is actually an hour wait before the people doing a single loop set off.  This gives enough time for most guys to get around.  Unfortunately it meant sitting around on a hot afternoon waiting to get going.  I guess I could have showed up later but there was supposed to be a 'competitors meeting' at 12.30pm, which I thought might give some useful insight into racing etiquette but actually involved the announcer admonishing us to 'keep the rubber side down'.  So then I had to wait around until my wave start time at 2.11pm.

My wave, the beginner group ages 19-29, only had about 10-15 people in it so I was hoping that the trail wouldn't be too congested.  However, not only were there some people coming around for their second loop and catching up with us, we also had to contend with the fast guys in the 30-39 group that started a few minutes behind us.  My theory is that if you're in the 19-29 range theres a good chance you're in reasonable shape and just want to give it a go.  If you're in the 30-39 range and you've entered this kind of event it means you're a serious mountain biker.  Really, they need to adopt a wave start more like running races based on predicted time, not age.

Some of the more seasoned riders were very nice about trying to pass.  Others were down-right rude.  The biggest issue was that the beginner group had a lot of complete amateurs, so they would stall out on even the less technical hills but not really get out of the way.  If you did pass them they'd then come flying up behind you only to skid off the track at a tight turn.  I had one guy crash into the back of me when I was at the back of a traffic jam.  Basically it was carnage.  It was also exhausting, as it is much harder work to get off and push, then remount the bike and get going again.  I wanted to continue at my own pace but it was difficult to tell when the person behind you was legitimately faster than you rather than just tail gating.  The strange thing was, not matter how often I pulled over to let people by, there was another group on my tail in no time.  I guess I was going pretty slow!

Despite all the traffic, the race was a lot of fun.  There were several groups of spectators at a few of the obstacles, cheering people on and growing nuts when somebody successfully negotiated a technical section.  The course is great and it was awesome to be a part of a race that showcases my favorite trails.  Overall I think I am pleased with my performance.  I rode in one hour, 18 minutes, coming 6th in my age group from a total of 14 finishers, and 51st out of 96 who rode the 10 mile course.  I think I could do better but not sure if I enjoyed it enough to take another crack at it.  Maybe next year I'll marshall this race and run the 10K scramble instead!

No comments:

Post a Comment