Raced the MSC Full Tilt in Telluride this past weekend. Sorta. Got is some killer practice runs on Saturday and Sunday. Weather was epic, and I was able to snag the last spot at Sunshine Campground after doing my best impression of The Stig through Durango, Hesperus, Dolores, Rico and finally to Telluride.
Mountains are keen...
After setting up camp, I zipped three miles up the road to Telluride. Pretty fresh little village, though sad to see they are on the bandwagon against free parking. Used to be able to park in the garage all day for free, now they want $5. Still, not too bad considering the locale.
Geared up, double checked the bike for anything strange. Against better judgement, I put new brake shoes on the rear, and changed out the stock Roco coil shock to my Roco Coil World Cup version. It has a little more adjustability and a 100lb stiffer spring. Plus, it does not leak air. Sad to report that the bushings do not fit it perfectly. There is the slightest bit of play in there, not sure what I'm going to do about that yet.
[caption id="attachment_1004" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Gondola to the trails..."]
Once off the gondola, I got registered, added my plate, and headed up the next gondola to the top of the course. Sweet thing about Telluride is - the gondolas are free. Ran in to Ron from 2nd Ave Sports (bike shop in Durango) and did a run with him. Well, almost. On the entry to the second wooded section, I botched a leap over a rock garden and tagged by back wheel, causing it to flat, and causing me to hoof it down the mountain since I forgot my 17mm or adjustable wrench in the car. Nice.
[caption id="attachment_1005" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption=" - Difficult to spot maybe, but there's now a huge flat spot in my back wheel now... Looks like I'll have to upgrade them to Atmolab or something. Dang."]
Another "neat" thing about Telluride in the summer is the weather. Its always changing. Also a victim of monsoon season, the days start out (usually) stellar with bluebird skies and comfy-cool mtn temps. As the afternoon progresses, clouds build up, and showers usually ensue. This weekend was no exception. I got in another dry run, then two more wet runs just to see how well I could negotiate the rock garden in the wet. I prefer the wet actually.
[caption id="attachment_1010" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Long sweeper berm leading to the second wooded section, including a hop over small rock garden that carries a high penalty for failure.."]
Later in the afternoon, I packed it in, got some coffee and hung out with the wife and met up with Neil for a beer at the Hop Garden. Felt tired, and wished I' practiced a bit more, but I had some time in the morning before the race to iron out details. Back to the campground for the camping thing, and to get some rest. A night full of rain and thunderstorms woke me up occasionally, but I woke feeling well-rested.
A few images from the day:
[caption id="attachment_1013" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Chilling at Telluride Coffee Co., watching the day unfold..."]
[caption id="attachment_1016" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Finish line, Pro Qualifying on Sunday Morning"]
[caption id="attachment_1017" align="aligncenter" width="407" caption="The Taka just behind the finish line..."]
[caption id="attachment_1018" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="View of part of the lower section of the course"]
[caption id="attachment_1019" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Midway through the course, just after the rocky section... "]
Sunday - Race Day
Woke to overcast skies on race day, zipped in to the village and got a couple more runs in. The course was slightly damp, but seemed to be drying up and was becoming a bit tacky. The clouds slowly began to break, and blue skies were pleasantly threatening. Nice. I was comfortable with the course except for two points - one, the rocky section after a road gap - steep-ish full of sharp, pointy, just larger than baby head sized rocks all over. No brakes and momentum are a big help here. I was comfortable riding through it, but couldn't seem to get the control I was comfortable with for line choice. Then a section just after that with a couple sharp turns in a new, grassy section. Actually had to ride uphill and pedal for a about 10 yards, and then take another descending hairpin at about zero miles per hour. I feel is was a flaw in the design of the course, a sort of last second addition to link to parts of an otherwise stellar tail together. Nobody seemed to keen on it, and whoever could negotiate this the quickest, would probably gain the winning advantage here. It's always something, as Rosanna Rosannadanna would say...
[caption id="attachment_1021" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Road Gap sequence: Approach, Run-up, Mid-Air, Landing..."]
MSC didn't have the traditional starting gate set-up, which was another slight disappointment, but I'm just being picky. I stood at the top of the course and watched all the younger CAT 2 guys get down, looking for last-second options to gain a fraction of a second... didn't see any, I was pretty hip with the top section of the course. I recognized a few racers from the MSC at Angelfire and made some small talk, everybody was super cool and down to earth - we had an informal sort of "Category" meeting, just agreeing to give each other trail in case somebody needed to pass, understanding that if you're caught on the course, your race is pretty much over anyhow. It's pretty much standard protocol, but it was cool to have everybody on the same page up front like that...
[caption id="attachment_1022" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="checking my number plate on the jumpt at the bottom..."]
In the start gate, I had small case of butterflies - until about the 10 second mark, then focus and adrenaline took over. On the beep I cranked out, in a bit harder gear than I probably needed, but saved me a shift later on down the course when I needed gear. My acceleration was good, and I railed the first two flat turns almost perfectly, and fast.
Into the first wooded section, there is a quick right berm that transfers directly into a left, about 90 degrees on each, and you sort of jump from one to the other - fast. Railed those pretty fast, but maybe a bit low on the second, left berm. Out of the left berm there's a small bump-jump to another 90 right hander, another larger bump jump to a quick, but longer left berm, leading to a long, sweeping, high speed right.
[caption id="attachment_1025" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Bump off the first, and hop the rest. Don't miss..."]
At the end of this berm, the trail is off camber, slanting down from right to left. And there are two line choices: one leads directly IN to a short but burly rock garden. You can roll it, but you better be very light on your wheels or you'll flat. On the right side, there's a small rock placed in such a way that you can bump off it, and clear the entire rock garden. The trick is getting out of the berm early enough to fight the camber in the trail, cut inside far enough to hit it. If you miss the rock, you'll flat for sure, and probably ding your rim in the process. If you're too slow, you make the leap, and will also flat and dent your rim. I found the line, and made the leap, avoiding the flat and the ding, and entered the next section - a series of three 2 1/2 foot tall wedge drops - with some serious heat.
[caption id="attachment_1026" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="three small, high speed wedge drops"]
After the rock wedge drops, you exit the woods for a second via a 3 foot tall jump that leads in to a short descent to a road gap. Check - railed these faster than I ever have, but scrubbed a bit too much speed before the road gap. Still, made the gap no sweat. After landing the gap, it's a steep run out to sharp right hander, and its rocky, bumpy, and loose. After the berm its a straight shot down a rock strewn, rutted strait lined with Aspen trees. The smooth lines are ruts between the rocks and precariously close to the aspen trees, which like to pick at your bar ends as you fly by them. At first, focus is difficult, but after you let go of the brakes and understand that momentum is your friend, it goes pretty easy. Just stay light on your feet and avoid pinch-flats and snake bites.
I did pretty good through there, its the place I had the most trouble keeping speed through. On this race run, I bounced off a couple rocks I didn't see before, and it cost me some speed. At the end of the straight, it breaks left and gets a bit steeper. It's still fairly rocky, but the trail is a rut full of moon dust about 8 inches deep, and full of braking bumps. Speed is for sure the key here. I make the left in to this section just right, maybe a bit slower than I'd like, but I'm off the brakes and feel momentum build up. there's a short rise you can boost off, to clear a couple rocky undulations, and I hit it. As I land, I notice something is not right.
[caption id="attachment_1027" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Section just before things get weird..."]
Photo above shows me mid-air, about to touch down and keep mobbing. What I don't know at this point is that my front tire is rapidly loosing air (photos is not from race run, just used for reference). The air loss is so rapid, that by the time it touches down, it's flat. Flat front tire + deep rutted trail + mood dust = ouch. As my front wheel lands in the rut, it immediately tried to climb out to the right, I fight the steering but its a lost cause, and my wheel gets out over the edge on the right, and my back wheel drags in the rut, bouncing off hidden rocks and generally not behaving well. Front wheel hits something that won't move, the bike stops and I eject side ways down the trail, tumbling and testing my safety gear. Luckily, it all worked. My immediate reflex was to get up and keep going - and at the time I didn't know my front wheel was flat. I jumped up and collected my bike, ran it to the trail, set it in the rut, and then realized that the tube was dead. My race was over. I was bummed. State Championship race, double points, sort of home track, and I crashed out. Grrrr.
Via my GoPro footage from practice, my practice runs were taking about 4 minutes flat. But that included start/stop and accelerating to speed, so I'm certain my lap time was significantly under 4 minutes (for reference though, the winning pro did the course in 2:55 and some change!). The Cat 2 winner's time was 3:38. I'm confident I would have been close to that... funny, coming in with a slower time is something I was sort of prepared for. Crashing out, I was not. Difficult pill to swallow.
[caption id="attachment_1030" align="aligncenter" width="427" caption="Hard to be too bummed with a view like this..."]
I'll be in California next weekend, so won't be able to make the MSC race in Keystone, but will try to make the one in Snowmass in a few weeks. And, they just announced the date for the "Fall Tilt" race - a 12 hour endurance/downhill race, which takes place on October 1st. I will be attending for sure. Had high hopes for the Telluride race, and in spite of the disappointment, I did become a better ride for it, and Look forward to the next time.
And, for the record: I'm no racer, I don't even play one on the interwebz. But dang, its fun, and I'm getting hooked!
If you get a chance, click on over to the Dirty Wheel
, it's a keen rider's resource, the guy that runs it - Shawn
, is a stand-up cat, and was kind enough to run a feature on me this month, find it here
That's it for now, video in the works, out later this week... Thanks for looking!