Race Report - Dirt Spanker MTB

4:22 PM

So once again I found myself standing at the start of another of the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series races – the Dirt Spanker MTB race at Mont Du Lac in Superior, Wisconsin.  There are lots of words to describe my typical emotions at the start of a race: excited, nervous, hyper, antsy, bubbly (I’m a total chatter-box at a start line…no silent intensity from me!), but for this race I can sum up my feelings in one repeated word:


Really?  Really?!

We were starting up a very big hill.  Enormous.  Huge.  Vast. Immense.  Gigantic.  Massive.  Colossal.  Mammoth.  Mighty.  Titanic.  Gargantuan.  Towering.  Whopping.  Jumbo.  Astronomical.  Ginormous.

And we were going to climb it three times.

The Spouse is clearly not a pro photographer...
or I really am that fast...
no, I'm not that fast...
For people like my Spouse (a man of slight build), a course like this is greeted with glee, as he knows he will be able to distance other guys who have to carry some extra pounds up those hills.  The ladies, on the other hand, all tend to be good climbers, so this kind of course only brings pain, not advantage.

Ok, complaining section over.  Once again, I’m not going to narrate my whole race, as that sort of exercise tends to bore even the most patient of readers.  Rather, I’m going to focus on the one skill I mastered during the course of this race, which was my first race on the 29er.

I decided to race the 29er, even though I’ve only completed a couple of rides on her.  Basically, I’m sticking with the 29er for the rest of the season (only a couple of races, and cross is about to take up much more of my training time…), so why not?  This proved to be an important decision for this race because of all that elevation gain. 

See, when you race in a loop you need to go down exactly one foot for every foot you gain (go math!), which in this course meant two significant (and very steep) down hills, plus a tight, technical downhill 180 in every lap.  Getting off the back of my 26er is something I will do, but not something I’m very comfortable with.  Before yesterday I had never gotten my bum off the back of the 29er a single time.

Ok, so it's totally out of focus, but if you look close you can see I'm
waaay off the back of my bike!
By the end of this race, like one of the other women noted, my stomach was more on my seat than my butt was!  I rode down the steep grades with confidence, even letting go of the brakes earlier and earlier with each lap.  I felt completely in control, totally able to drive the bike even in the extended position, and wholly grounded over my bottom bracket.  That downhill 180 that looked so terrifying?  No problem, as I smoothly navigated my line with ease. 

The major epiphany of the day was in those huge 29-inch wheels: they roll over stuff more smoothly whether you are going up or down, and a smooth ride when you are facing some dramatic exposure can give you an incredible level of confidence.  There is no frantic gripping at the brakes when your bike isn’t popping up unexpectedly under you when you hit the rocks and roots. 

I did miss the maneuverability of my 26er a bit, but score one point for the 29er in downhill confidence!  

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