Many miles from the glamour and prestige of the Windham World Cup race a more traditional & hardcore race was taking place in Camden, ME.
I hear Windham is fairly pretty - I'm bettin' Camden is prettier. For sure - it's gnarlier.
Last season was my first time visiting Camden. It's a long drive (5 hours or so) from RI so it makes sense to drive up the day before and camp out on site.
No one needs this much crap for one night. But's all the foldy stuff is so cool!!
The problem with an area like this is you want to ride - alot. Last year on arrival - I pre-rode the short loop first, then hiked to the top - then pre-rode the long loop in the morning before the race, then pre-rode 3/4's of the climb just before the race.
This year just as I get on site local boy / fellow Bikeman Rick comes zinging up yelling "You gotta race the short track!!!" "There's like only 8 people!!". So much for chilling out the day before the race.
Little did I know Rick was doing his best to salvage his honor. You see - the competition was comprised of women, children and some guy on a 40lb Mukluk. Everyone already knows Rick is "that guy" - sure enough, he roped me into being "that other guy". (I can't stand people who say "that guy")
The short course was too fun. It started near the ski lodge, went down a steep little grassy hill, across the front near the parking area and up and over a wood-chip pile. On a couple of occasions I kind of misjudged my speed and nearly piled myself up airing off the wood pile. It's a simple fact: Emu's do air better than I. At one point re-connecting with the ground I managed my first tubeless burp. Just like a baby passing gas - it elicited a goofy natural born smile..
How many times do you suppose this shot has been taken this way?
The course went along the dirt road toward the Toboggan run / camping area - then went up a decent climb with some tech into a small part of the official course - up some more across one of the ski runs - into another, where it headed back down towards the start.
We rounded the course lord only knows how many times lapping all the other riders several times (freakin jerks) while injecting a few shoves and swapping places here and there. I don't know about the Rick but my goal was showmanship. At first. When Mike called out "2 more laps" I couldn't help myself.. MUST... DEFEAT .. RICK... Or was he saving some energy for the main event? Hmm...
So, I won a little victory beer and I headed back to the car to put some "civilian" attire on for a pre-ride. Cuz - it makes sense to burn all your energy the day before a race. Speaking of beer - I just learned the SPD beer opener trick from the good folks at the short course. I'm still such a novice. How can I possibly ever buy any other kind of pedal now??
I loaded up my DSLR making sure to bring 2 extra lenses "just in case" then loaded up my camelbak with 2 liters of water as it was pretty steamy for coastal-ish Maine. Then it was off to do a little recon.
The first climb at the Runoff - just goes, up and up, and up - through very tight switchbacks. The kind you can *barely* make with your big-ass wheel bike. About 3/4 of the way up while crossing one of the ski slopes I see something moving along some exposed rock. It is a cat of some kind. A really big cat. The kind of cat that will eat your German Shepard. Holy #$^%!! I know it's highly improbable to have spotted a Mountain Lion (they're reportedly extinct) but I'll be damned if it wasn't. No spots, a tail - huge paws - very fast, very quiet & very smooth. Unfortunately my big lens was in the bag.. You'll just have to believe me here.
While continuing further up the climb it crossed my mind: Maybe the big cat will eat some of the skinny climber-types. This could work out.
At the top the view is great. Unfortunately I was too amped about big kitty's and riding to take any decent pics. Then - it was time to switch into muh' downhill hat.
The downhill here is serious business. Lots of switchbacks, rocks & roots to send you flying if you lose concentration for a nanosecond. My favorite kind of riding - when not loaded with water and camera gear.
About halfway down - I remembered how long and brutal this downhill can be. Already, my back was seizing up and my hands were going numb. Swapping to an aluminum flat bar wasn't helping either (wanted to add some bar ends for climbing). I paid special attention to a couple of spots where I tripped up last year hoping to burn better lines into my memory. At least that's what I think I was doing. Maybe I was just out for a nice ride.
Tomorrow's gonna hurt.