Monday, April 29, 2013

Ridgeline Rampage Race Report by @LSVLKirk

Two weeks ago I tagged along with Jon Maule as he did pre-rode the Ridgeline Rampage course in Castle Rock. It was originally scheduled for 4/20 and I was out of town that weekend. The race was postponed a week due to snow so I was able to race it. This the first race of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. Jon was fighting the crud and unable to race this week.

The course is on open space just west of Castle Rock. It is all singletrack, it rolls up and down, the surface is primarily loose dirt, there are some nice off camber sections but it isn't overly technical. I saw one place on the web that it was rated 3/10 for its technical difficulty -- that seems right to me. It was a great course for my first mountain bike race, not too technical and not too much climbing. My focus and training this year have been on races under 2 hours. Each lap was roughly 9 miles and had 900' of vertical. RME offers lots of distances, I chose the XC race, 2 laps of the course. They also offered marathon (6 laps), half-marathon (3 laps) and half-XC (1 lap).

Here is a link to the course on Strava so you can see the ups and downs as well as the turns:

I arrived plenty early to get registered and spin around the neighborhood to get my legs warmed up. They called up the junior racers for a front row start and the rest of us were allowed to fall in where ever we could. I made my way through the amoeba of racers and ended up in the middle of the second row. There were around 80 XC racers total between all age groups, Jr, 19-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60+.

Just like in cyclocross, the start of a mountain bike races is critically important. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into so my plan was to go hard at the start but not super hard. I had hoped to slot in the front quarter of the race. I executed my plan and didn't have to dig too deep to slot in at roughly 15-20th going into the singletrack. I'd gotten ahead of most of the slower racers but didn't go so deep that I had people behind me itching to pass up the first climb.

Sooner than I expected we were into riders from the back of the half-marathon race. This was a challenging course for passing. All day I had to balance staying with other XC racers with being considerate while passing. The initial burst of the race was starting to diminish 3 miles into the race. I made a bit of an effort to pass several people coming into the longest descent of the course. I had some open trail in front of me so I could bomb the descent and finally take advantage of my weight. I also wanted to get some fluid because right after the descent was the longest climb. I'd gone back and forth before the race how to carry my water, bottles or a Camelbak I decided to go with a bottle. So picture me with a bottle in my right hand bombing down a descent. You know what's coming next.... I'd closed the gap to the next rider up the trail as I came around a corner. She was moving slower than I expected and I grabbed a handful of front brake. Just as you pictured, over the bars and off the side of the trail. I took a second to gather myself and nothing was broken. My knees were bloodied but nothing to slow me down or keep me from continuing. I climbed back up to the trail, chased down my bottle and my bike was mechanically sound but I'd lost about 15 spots before I could get going. All that work in the start and passing out the window - ARGH! I settled into the climb and started to pick my way back through the traffic.

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful. I continued to make my way forward passing a ton of HM riders and the occasional XC racer. After my spill I was only passed once. I wasn't able to hold his wheel, he was super fast and he was gone in the blink of an eye.

In the last 10 minutes of the race four guys from my age group came together. I was the 4th. My plan was to sit in as much as possible, rest up and be ready for the uphill sprint finish. I got ahead of one guy in the stretch before the finishing stretch by taking a rough line. I gave it all I had and passed one guy but wasn't able to get the other before the line.

After the start and going over the bars and losing a bunch of spots I had no idea of my placing. I waited around for results to be posted and then my name wasn't on the results sheet - ugh. I went up to the timing trailer and found I'd been 7th in my age group and roughly 15th overall. I'm pleased with the result. I'll definitely use a Camelbak next race although I'm going to shop for a new pack as mine sits too high on my back.

The second race of the RME series is this coming weekend, Saturday, 5/4 and will be at Bear Creek Reservoir in Lakewood. I'm going to skip that race and instead do the Koppenberg on Sunday. If you're looking to get into a mountain bike race I can recommend the RME races. I had a great experience other than the timing issue.

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