Thursday, August 27, 2009

High on Victory at the High Cascade 100 (Bend, Oregon)


It’s been five days now, and I’m still coughing up the dust I swallowed last Sunday, August 23, while competing in the inaugural High Cascade 100 endurance mountain bike race in Bend, Oregon.
The air I had been breathing for half the day was suffused with tiny particles of sand, kicked up by nearly a hundred riders spinning their wheels thousands of times to complete the epic century distance and rack up 11,000 feet of climbing. Whether I was leading the charge, hot in pursuit of another racer or riding a segment of trail all by my lonesome, there was a constant cloud of dust hanging suspended in the air like a layer of smoke. My lungs protested, of course, but after winning the women’s race and finishing in the top half of the men’s field, a little sand on the lungs didn’t seem all that bad.














The Course
The race began in Wanoga Sno-Park 11 miles west of Bend and featured 70 percent singletrack, 10 percent ATV trail and 20 percent doubletrack across high-desert terrain. My lungs held up through the first 45-mile loop around Mt Bachelor, where racers climbed up well over 7,000 feet and dropped down through threatening lava rock fields. Next came two 20+ mile loops around Old Swampy (the dry, dusty singletrack proved the name a misnomer). The last 11-mile loop brought riders back to town for some fun technical descents down such popular trails as “Tiddlywinks” and “Funner,” followed by a seven-mile ascent to the finish line. Throughout the day, the soft sand sucked our wheels, making us work absurdly hard to power through even the smallest patch of momentum-stealing soil. It also made for some quite scary, nearly-out-of-control descents at speed. But that’s not the half of it.

The Race
We began early—at 6:15am—and we began cold, amid near-freezing temperatures. But once we started spinning our wheels on the slight-incline up the dusty doubletrack toward Mt. Bachelor, we forgot the chill and concentrated on the long, long day ahead. Chris Sheppard was an early leader, attacking from the start and taking only a few pro men along with him. Sheppard would go on to win the event handily, with Sloane Anderson taking second. I settled into a manageable pace, concentrating on having an efficient race, fueling well and keeping myself out of trouble. Of course, the harsh desert conditions (wheel-sucking sand, choking clouds of dust, tube-puncturing lava rock, etc.) took out nearly a third of the entire field. We racers were warned about the “├╝ber-technical” Kwol Butte section ahead of time, but to be honest, I felt far more at ease riding the rocky sections to bombing down the miles of sandy trail that never failed to surprise with sporadic, traction-less slides atop soft sand. But at least it’s soft sand, right? It could be worse. . .

Doh! Mechanical.
Mid-way into the race—at 45 miles—my free hub began to act up. And by “act up,” I mean, every time I began to descend, my bike would make the sound of a swarm of angry bees—or of a prop plane coming in for a crash landing. My bike would shake like it was falling to pieces, and the rear hub would begin to seize up until I slowed down. And I still had 55 miles left to go.
The volunteer mechanics at each of the three aide stations assured me that my bike would not explode, though they could not fix the loose bearing in the hub on the fly. So I kept riding, albeit at half-pace on the descents. I did "Big Ring" it on the less steep descents, pedaling for as long as the terrain would allow me on my hard tail. But when the trail got steep and I had to coast, the angry sound returned. I surely must have scared several riders half to death as I passed them on my deafening bike.

I may have lost tons of time on the descents (descending is my riding strength), but I still managed to cross the line in first place out of the women’s field at 11 hours, 55 minutes. I finished thirtieth overall. I was also thrilled to win a pair of DT Swiss wheels at the post-race raffle. Extra wheels—exactly what I could have used during the race!


Many Thanks
Mike Ripley and Mudslinger Events put on a great show, as always, and they raised $3,500 from the inaugural race to help support COTA (Central Oregon Trail Alliance) in future trail construction efforts. Thanks to all for putting on a well-organized event on a challenging course—and thanks to all the other racers who suffered along with me. It was great to play in Oregon’s biggest sandbox with you.

You can read other coverage of the event on cyclingnews.com and singletrack.com.

Until next time—see you on the trail!
Angela + Sobo = :)

Angela Sucich,
Freelance Copywriter
http://www.angelasucich.com/

Monday, August 17, 2009

Voodoo Kids’ Series: Cascade Bicycle Club’s Dirt Camp ‘09






Don’t you wish you had learned to mountain bike when you were kid instead of in your mid-to-late 20’s? I do! By the time I finally learned to ride, I was already somewhat breakable. So when I was asked to be a guest speaker at Cascade Bicycle Club’s Dirt Camp ’09 a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to help kids learn and hone the skills I didn’t acquire until a more “mature” age.


Led by instructors Kat and Jay Sweet and two assistant instructors, the CBC Dirt Camp was a week-long play date on two wheels at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore, Washington. The curriculum included bike handling and survival skills, covering everything from Negotiating Obstacles 101 to Special Topics: Fixing a Flat.

The camp also featured guest speakers, such as trials rider Joel Moreland, who inspired the camp kids with trick riding and general coolness. The kids took Joel’s energy and intrepid spirit to heart as they themselves rallied over ramps, teeters and small jumps. The kids even practiced manuals! You can check out their accomplishments in filmmaker Jay Sweet’s Dirt Camp ‘09 movie.

My task as a guest speaker was to talk about XC and endurance racing. As a Voodoo Cycles rider, I was thrilled to share some of my racing experiences and teach the kids about the equipment, training regimen and racing strategies that are part of those disciplines.

We played a fun game of name-that-racing-accessory: “What’s this? “A tube!” “What’s this?” “A chain-breaker!” “What’s this?” “CO2!” “What’s this?” “Electrolytes!” (Okay, so they didn’t get that one). As it turns out, a couple of them had already jump-started their young racing careers this year at the local Indie Series. Ah, can you imagine how fast those racers are going to be when they’re our age?

All in all, we had a great time together, fixing flats and riding through the park. Then we finished the day with cookies. I tell you, it's good to be a kid again!

Until next time, see you on the trail!

Angela Sucich,

Freelance Copywriter

www.angelasucich.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voodoo Race Report: Feeling Born Again at the White River Revival (Greenwater, WA)


For all you former mountain bike racers out there disillusioned by fire-road racing that passes for “mountain biking” these days, or the easy, buffed-out singletrack that makes even an 80-mil-travel fork overkill, prepare to have your faith restored.

At the White River Revival in Greenwater, WA on Saturday, August 8, the course took mountain bikers down trail they’d actually choose to ride for—get this—fun. Now I know there’s burley XC racing in our sister cities to the north in B.C.—I love ‘em, too—but last Saturday’s race in the shadow of Mt. Rainier is as close as one gets to technical XC racing in Washington State, and I was happy to be there to enjoy it. I think I even heard myself giggle on some of the downhills.

The Place: The White River Revival, 10 miles east of Greenwater (an hour and a half drive southeast of Seattle). The race began and finished on the Ranger Creek airstrip just up the dirt road from the Buck Creek Recreation Area off HWY 410.

The Course: 30+ miles in two laps (Trail 1194 to Road 7160 to Fawn Ridge section of Suntop Trail 1183).

The Race: The open/pro race got underway around 2:30 when the afternoon was cool with a slight breeze—perfect conditions for climbing up the fire road (yes, I guess there was a fire road, after all) and dropping into the lower (and bermier) portion of the popular Suntop Trail. The climb was long but not too steep, and I settled into a constant quad-and-hamstring burn for countless turns, until the singletrack trailhead thankfully appeared before me. I was in second place, and as I dropped into Fawn Ridge, I was determined not only to use my descending skills to catch up to the woman ahead of me and put more distance between me and the riders behind me, but also to revel in the unadulterated fun that was the lower Suntop Trail.

Fawn Ridge was aflame in pinkish-purple fireweed and alive with racers snaking down the exposed, dusty slope, switchback-style. As the course descended deeper into the forest toward the Buck Creek and White River areas, the mist rising from the valley hung over the trail like a ghost. The course dropped all the way down to hug the river bank, and it was this final section of trail that me feel as if I were channeling a deer in flight—bounding over every rock, root and stream in my path. Then I turned my bike uphill and rode the second lap, urged on by the dangling-carrot promise of a second, thrilling descent.
As I whipped my bike around the last couple of miles of what can only be described as a hacked-out trail, it finally registered that much of the lower trail meandering along the river was cleared or at least widened for us racers’ benefit. In fact, as I heaved my bike over stumps, roots and rocks that plugged up the path, it pleased me to think that this trail—our red carpet—was rolled out just for me and the other happy racers who came out for the White River Revival. When I crossed the finish line in second again (ah, always the bridesmaid!! but a much closer second to Kari Studley than last race, and far ahead of Melanie Lewis in third), I felt more revived than tired. Faced with proof that the kind of XC racing that tested bike handling skills as well as fitness did exist in Washington, I felt born again.

On the men’s side, Benaroya Research Institute rider Russell Stevenson claimed first, and teammate Toby Swanson came in second.

For visitors and locals alike, I highly recommend Suntop. Whether you shuttle or climb it, you will enjoy this ride. Believe it.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!

-Angela Sucich,
Freelance Copywriter

Monday, August 10, 2009

Craaazy 88

This past Saturday was the Crazy 88 race here in Flagstaff.  The brutal but very fun course included dirt roads, fast descents, and some amazing singletrack.  I decided to just do the first 44 mile loop because I didn't want to destroy my knee since it is still in some pain, but had a great time and was the first to finish from the second group that left at 9:00.  The first loop included a new section of the Arizona Trail on the back side of the peaks, which may be my favorite new trail.  The weather was great, a lot of people showed up, and the Aizan worked perfectly.  But I think one of the best parts of the race was all the cookies, beer, and twizzlers you could eat at the finish.  Huge thanks to Nathan Friedman who put on this awesome race, and congrats to Adam for taking the overall win with a super fast time of just over 8 hours.



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