“GHORBA Big Ring Challenge” or “Adventures in Category 3, 19 – 29”

Hi. My name’s Andrew and I race mountain bikes. No. I’m not very good at it.

It all started last year, I was playing around with some ideas of what I wanted to focus this year on, and somehow I got this idea that racing mountain bikes would be a great idea.

4 months into the 2012 spring season, I have to say it is a great idea.

Let’s take this last race. On Sunday I competed in the GHORBA Big Ring Challenge (GHORBA stands for Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association, if you were wondering). I came in 14th out of the 22 in my age and division. Not good, but not horrible; kinda lower middle of the pack.

With a pre-ride with some new friends on Saturday, I knew the course was an easy, fun ride. It would be a great place to take some friends and just spend a weekend on some really flowy single track with occasional long fire road climbs. It, however, would be a very fast race. I was feeling good. I might have even dared to dream about 3rd place… BUT, as you can tell (if you just read a little further up), 14th is where I ended up. How did that happen? What went wrong? Let me finish the story.

The course started on a nice paved road for about 200 yards. Okay, well, I’m really bad at judging distances, but we can ignore that. At the end of that undefinable length of super fast racing, the course takes a 90 degree turn to the left and right into some single track (watch a video here, and here). I was super excited, I wanted to do well to show off for my new friends, I am inexperienced and am sadly rather out of shape. I said all that to let you know I managed to secure second place going into single track. I knew I was pressing hard at that moment, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up, and bam! I hit a tree stump with my pedal and my rear derailer. It knocked my chain to a different gear, then changed it back. I lost the fragile hold I had on the leader’s rear tire and got passed by a few riders.

Just a few minutes later, on a downhill section, the trail took a hard right turn right between two trees only 3 feet apart. I realized that I was going too fast into that turn when my right shoulder hit the close tree and then my left shoulder hit the far tree. By some miracle I managed to stay on my bike and kept going; I was dazed and seemed to be passed by the rest of the pack.

There I was, close to last, out of fuel, and only 2 miles into an 11 mile race. I did what I had to do, and I did it the best I could: I made my legs go up and down and my feet in little circles.

Eventually I started getting passed by the older category 3 guys, I’d do my best to follow them, to dig a little deeper and try to ride their lines. That would only last for probably 5 minutes or so before I got dropped and I was once again riding alone. I mean it was a nice place to ride alone. There were pretty, tall pine trees which I haven’t seen since I was last in California; there were oaks, and shrubs, and it was just nice to be in a real forest again. BUT, this wasn’t a pleasure cruise, I had people to catch up to and people to keep in front of.

I managed to catch 3 or 4 people in my category and didn’t get passed by anyone else that mattered. About 4 miles out from the finished, I got my second wind and started pushing harder, and the last one mile I was going strong.

With a finish of 14th with a time of 1:02:26, I was only 9 minutes behind 1st place and 2 and half minutes from breaking the top 10.

This week’s going to be a lot of riding and working on becoming faster and keeping my energy through out the race.

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