Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cowbell Challenge 2008 - Full Circle

The 2008 Cowbell Challenge in addition to being a fun race, was also the one year date for me riding 29er's. Last year's Cowbell was the first time I ever rode a 29er and I haven't looked back.

This year's event was somewhat cooler than last year and at a new venue. Fisher Farms is a beautiful place with a nice 4 or so miles of singletrack that is tight and flowy fast with a few technical challenges along the way and very little climbing to speak of. The balance of the course included some wide open field sections and three short climbs that made up for the lack of climbing elsewhere.

It began like all races should, with a mass start. I understand the methodology behind the LeMans start, prologue laps and other things that promoters try to spread out the riders before entering the singletrack but none of them work really. The first lap of any of these races always ends up being a KLSTRPHK. I went first and had heavy traffic to deal with despite having a decent position going into the singletrack about 30 back from the front. I was in some company that I am not used to being in; Ernesto Marenchin and Nat Ross were not far ahead of me, I could see Dicky (no pun intended), Dave Holmes, Josh Tostado, and alot of really fast guys. Things were going good until we came to some rocks and a tree root and I got hung up with the dude in front of me. Imagine a five car chain reaction on the Interstate, same kind of thing. I don't know how many people got by me but I was in a whole new group of people and they were riding slower than I wanted and I began picking them off until it happened again. A guy blew one of the skinnies and jammed us all up. It smoothed out after that and I just rode as fast as I could and tried to get a good look at the course. I came in in 35:something and Chris went out.

We had some stiff competition with the team of Andy Applegate and Daniel Corum putting 4 or 5 minutes per lap on us, it looked like we were going to be racing for whatever was left and after 4 laps, we were in a fairly close race for 2nd - 4th. We were in 4th and about 8 minutes out of 2nd and doing all that we could to make the time up. The teams that were going to see to it that we didn't do that were no slouches. At this level, everyone is fast and one mistake can cost you dearly. Like clockwork, Chris and I not only were turning consistently fast laps, we were within 30-40 seconds of each other's lap times all day. We made very few mistakes except we both were trying really hard to catch the guys ahead of us and that combined with the heat took it's toll. We slowed down a little by lap 10 and then maintained that pace for the rest of the race. By then, we were about 22 minutes from 2nd and anything could happen. It could rain (that would have been evil) there could be a mechanical or the other guys could slow with the dark coming. We kept as much pressure on them as we could.

Transitions: Easy as One...................



I mentioned the lack of climbing earlier. Don't get the wrong idea, there was climbing there and what little bit there was really hurt later on in the race. My 32X17 gearing was a great choice though and I am happy I used it instead of something lighter. A lighter gear would have made the singletrack and freeway sections really suck. As Chris and I toured the 7 mile course, the laps kept ticking up. We, well everyone was turning laps really fast. By dark, we had 16 laps and that is something you don't see at a 12 hour race very much, hell I have been to 24 hour races that were won with less laps than that. The course was that fast.

I went out for my 9th (our 17th) lap at about 8:05. The cutoff was 9:00 so I had time to get back and get Chris out for one more giving us 18. It was fully dark now and I rode my ass off. I wanted to turn another 35 minute lap but the traffic wouldn't let me. I passed 12 people on my last lap and at the top of the steepest climb on the course, a girl tells me the race has been called due to a storm that was in the area. Shit! I thought. I eased up a little in the last 3/4 of a mile of the course and still made it back in time for Chris to go out but it didn't matter. We were done and we ended up 4th, roughly a half lap down from 2nd.

Ah it is what it is. Me and Chris had never teamed up before and we rode together like we had been teamates for years. It was a blast to do a race and ride each lap as fast as I could and actually pass people for a change (I only got passed once, by Nat Ross). The upsides of team racing. Some of the downsides are the nervousness of waiting and the constantly calculating time. What time did Chris go out? What time do I need to go again? If I make a mistake how much harder do we have to ride to make the time up? It is all about time. Each of us had on average about 25 minutes to rest between laps before we had to get ready to go again. Hardly enough time to really rest but it wasn't so much that you got cold and stiff. I don't think we could have rode any faster or done anything much different.

It was a blast.

Thanks to Chris, Nancy for the food and cold towels and the driving and the pics and the everything else, Nathan (he was so cute grabbing my bottle from my bike and refilling it between laps), and all my sponsors: Vassago, WTB, White Bros, Ergon, Crank Bros, Carbo Rocket, and Under Armour for the help. Y'all rock.

Also to Taylor and all the volunteers for putting on a great race and to whoever maintains the trails at Fisher Farms, It's a really nice place.

Let's not forget the sponsors.

The start was fast and dusty. Some dude ate it just after this pic was taken. It looked painful.

This little rock garden had the potential to hurt bikes and bodies.

Chris on the climb to the finish.

Got Cowbell?

Nathan yelling "Go Daddy"

Am I asleep? Stoned? Maybe just tired and faking it.

Photo credits: Nancy Archer and Chris Baker

1 comment:

Misty said...

Awesome job Brian and Chris. You guys did great. Pics are awesome. Glad you guys had a good time at it this year!