Sunday, June 19, 2011

RACE REPORT - The Pinnacle EFTA series # 4.

The Pinnacle is just one of those races you can't miss.  To podium one needs to demonstrate talent across the board. A fair amount of climbing, followed by fairly techy terrain - that leads into swoopy single track and then the ultimate rush - The plunge at the end:  Nearly instant 35+mph on yer mountain bike.  Ooohh yeah!!  EFTA should totally add one of those "your speed" radar displays at the bottom:

The other race in the series that offers similar dynamics is the Maine Sport Run-Off: A great climb followed by a marvelous switchback descent with a few rock gardens along the way.  Good stuff - in a beautiful location to boot.  Aside from lacking the plunge aspect - it's way up there. 

Some of the scene. Check out that sky!!

This was my third visit to the Pinnacle.  The prior two had been on overcast / drizzly days.  Today (Fathers Day) was about as good as it gets.  On the way in I couldn't help but think how tragic it'd be to be that guy who died "doing what he loved" on fathers day.  Yeah,  a bit dramatic - but life is damn short. You never know.

As a few folks might have noticed  - I bumped my arse up to Elite.  It wasn't an easy decision. But a few things helped turned the corner:

  • Stupid Colin is right.  A challenge is better than just about anything
  • How many medals is too many?  They are pretty awesome at first - but after a dozen or so they lose their "zing". Man this sounds like Willow elaborating on her desire for a "fix". 
  • Apparently I have issues with losing.  In the last race - I made a move that I'm not entirely comfortable with - don't think I ever will be either.  On the one hand - it's racing - the other, well...  Let just say I was AUDI before it became the choice of assertive @$$holes worldwide.  Back when I bought it, it was the understated counterpart to BMW's. These days everyone knows better. (Dang)
  • My offspring has witnessed nothing but winning and I fear it's staring to rub off in the wrong way.  Competition is good - but everything in life deserves tempering. 
So.. The race!!

On arrival I immediately notice I forgot socks.  Crap.  How the heck did that happen?  I bring 4 pair of shorts but no damn socks??!!  I headed over to the Nelson-mobile with my sob story and they dig around and find me some genuine Bikeman socks.  Thanks guys! Let's hope Marcy doesn't fall head over heels in love with my smell..

A few rides here and there to warm up then t'were go time.  Always comes up quicker than expected.

The race began like just about any other - with the exception of being first in line.  At the start - dudes TOOK THE HELL OFF.  Around and up we went.  Being new and all, I kept in the shadows - but maintained my position.  When the course opened up on a funny little residential street section I even gained a few spots.

Onward and upward we went.  I was feeling pretty good.  About 3/4 of the way up on a double-track section I could see the main pack just ahead.  That was fairly encouraging.  I don't trend towards negative splits - but I do have some of that slow-twitch business going on.  If I can keep these guys in sight - I should start being able to pick folks off later in the game..  Or so I had hoped..

You see, on top of experimenting with the Elite group - I decided to experiment with my drive train.  My bike has been dropping the chain off the inside since day one.  I have tensioned the rear derailleur, aligned and dropped the front derailleur - but it continues to be a problem.  Particularly over rooty flat or downhill sections. 

I decided on running a 1X9.  Isn't that what all the cool kids use?  In a few tests on the backyard trails it seemed to offer the reliability desired.  

Pauls keeper

Close to the top of the first climb - I experience some chain suck.  In the process, the chain wound it's way around and jammed into the keeper.   No worries, I back-pedal some and it frees up.  The keeper is a little tweaked now and scraping a bit - but its not so bad.  At the top of the climb I pull over and get to work with a rock to put it back in position.  Off we go..

Soon it's time for some downhillin'  Hell yeah!  I start getting in the groove through the singletrack - really flying and taking chances here and there. Behind I can hear another rider.  It could be me, but it feels like I have "inspired" him some.  In tight sections I gain on him (I'm sorta narrow and twisty) but when things open up a little he is able to gain.    Clearly - these Elite chaps know how to ride.   At one point he asks "can you let me through?".  Fair enough - when the time is right (this is all on the singletrack) I pull over.  He goes by then gets a bit  loose.  It's fun to watch and all - but I don't know if I should have let him go.  He's not really going any faster..   Oh well.  We catch up to another couple of riders and get slowed down quite a bit.  Then it happens - pretty close to the bridge heading down:

Chainsuck to full-on chain keeper tweakage.  

Crap, crap, crap!! 

I pull over to address the issue -but it's no use. The keeper is just too far out of whack.  There is no getting it right.. 

From then on - the remaining laps revolve around this sad, sad routine:  Beginning with the plunge on the first lap:
  • The plunge induces full chain drop - re-position at / near all the water bottles.  Make sad faces for spectators.
  • Head up the climb using the straightest chainline available - this is awesome - I am gaining on people! Even if it sucks using more gear than I'd prefer.
  • As soon as the trail becomes flat or downhill - be ready for the chain to come off many, many times - try to keep the brakes on while pedaling - that helps.  When it doesn't, pull over, re-attach - gain on someone, pass them, then pull over again as soon as the chain comes off while apologizing for wasting said passed person's time. 
On top of the chain issue- my fork seemed to be bottoming out - and the wiper / seal came out of position.  That's weird.

Around the end of lap three I am considering hanging it up.  The problem is - this course is too freaking fun and it's so nice out.   Also - If you do the math - the extra $6 for the entry fee is more economical.  Experts are paying $8.3333333 each lap - but the Elite ares cashing in on $7.50 laps!!   I'm finishing this damn race.

On lap 4 my connecting link lets go. I'm sure the chain slapping the tire, spokes and getting bound up in the derailleur isn't helping.   Whatever..  I'm used to this by now - and put it back together in less than a minute.  At the last part of the last lap I catch the last  Elite woman.  She pulls over - and I warn her:  "I am going to have to fix my bike a few times - you should keep going"   She encourages me to go ahead - and sure enough, we swap positions a couple of times.  Finally I get to the downhill sections that don't need no stinkin' chain and I can gain some ground without impeding her progress.

End result:  DFL!   To be expected.  Usually I'll have some nice piccy's for folks of the results board etc.  Not this time -seems I missed the awards while out riding and cursing the idiot mechanic.

I did get another #1 number plate for being the series leader....  In Expert.

Humility:  Achieved.  Well... Kinda.  This wasn't a complete test of how I'll manage overall amongst them thar Eeelites.. but I'm pretty certain I'll be staying with them.   You really, really have to work hard to keep up with these guys. The distance wasn't an issue.  Speed and power to weight...Well.. That'll take some doing.  

When I got home - the best Fathers day surprise ever.  Lucy organized / cleaned the workbench in the garage.  I own virtually everything I need and then some, which makes it hard for family to come up with gift ideas.  Pure genius solution.   I wish I had a before picture so you could see the difference. 

As for my own dad, I wish he was still around to see his long term impact.   Among his many talents - he was quite good at going fast on two wheels.


  1. Not my place being just an expert rider and all. But, time for a new middle chainring. Or just put the damn front derailleur back on! Seen too many issues with chains and mechanicals. I don't think you need a lecture either about reliability over lightweight either.

    Second, those Elites are going to have their hands full with you.

    Third, your Dad would be really proud of you.

    You'll get em next time! Maybe time for a 39/26 up front. (ok had to get that in)

  2. I like this post. :)

  3. Yah.. Methinks it's time to steal the XTR crankset from my beloved old YETI. It never ever failed (full suspension = better over roots??) . Or maybe just a whole new bike!

  4. A buddy of mine had nothing but trouble with the Paul chain keeper on his CX bike. The best solution I found was a front derailleur with an extra long low limit screw.
    Actually, I can think of an even better solution...

  5. You kids and your 1x9s. Sigh.

  6. Nice work, Alby. And welcome to the elites. Not sure I belong there, but it's fun to ride with guys who push you. And since riding bikes is so fun, why not ride an extra lap? The more the better. See you at Camden!

  7. I still haven't taken the socks out of the plastic bag - I'm afraid. Oh and I have pictures to send your way.

  8. chain suck in a mudless race? something fishy is going on there.

    see you in camden and bring some damn socks this time.