Teaberry

The Terror of Teaberry, the final race in the 2011 Michaux Endurance Series is the hardest mountain bike race in my world. I say this even after doing more-or-less the same course in the 2010 and 2009 editions of this race. You need to have your equipment dialed, every bit of your peak fitness, and confidence to test your skills to the limit just to finish safely. A slow progression of system failures lead to a showing that I’d like to soon forget, let alone share.

I drive up to the race venue with my frequent travel partner Jed Prentice. I finished just ahead of Jed last weekend at Revenge of the Rattlesnake which he doesn’t like very much since he’s the better rider. As we line up at the start, the only Masters racer I see that I care about is Paul Wojack from New York. Paul is just over 4 minutes ahead of me in the series, but if I beat him by the same amount I did in the Summer race, I’ll win the Master’s series.

Bang! We’re off in a rare mass start. Thinking the Master’s will be started in the 3rd or 4th wave which is typical, we’re all off together. I’m lined up way in the back so I spend the first several minutes trying to work my way up into the top 30% It’s at times pointless since the early single track is narrow. Finally we spend 10 minutes or so on a double track section with lots of passing room. I’m finally able to establish the position I’m after and so settle down a bit. No sign of Paul… but his typical MO is to mark who he thinks is the rider who’s the biggest threat and attack at the first sign of weakness.

Be Terrified

My first mistake of the day was to participate in Cross Practice the day before the race on my sweet new Cronus CX. Bad idea. Even though the total mileage of the practice was something like 12, the drills involve lots of high energy movements: dismounts, remounts,
shouldering, running… all at high speed. It was a good practice, but not the thing to be doing the day before the hardest mountain bike race in my world. At the time, it didn’t seem to hard, but the leg soreness when I woke up Sunday morning told a different story. Now that I’d been on the gas for 20 minutes, I could tell I wasn’t 100%.

As we finally dive into the first tricky single track, I’m having difficulty seeing through my fogged glasses. It feels pretty close to 100% humidity in the forest. After several rounds of dicey one handed riding trying to clear the fog with swipes from the glove of my other hand, I give up and stuff the glasses in a pocket. This maneuver is usually a last resort since my glasses are prescription. Being near-sighted tends to make me look less up the trail and more down directly in front of me without my glasses since I can’t see as clearly without them. Strike two.

It’s not raining but the rocks are pretty greasy from the humidity. My third strike was to mount some barely 2.0 mud tires that I’d never ridden before on my Superfly 100 in anticipation of a wet and muddy outing. Despite all the rain in the week leading up to Teaberry, A) It was not really muddy and B) Mud tires don’t work on rocks! Those prominent knobs don’t sink into rock. Instead they just slide off. And because a 2.0 tire requires more pressure than say a 2.3 tire, you do a lot of bouncing off of those rocks. My conclusion is my setup is downright dangerous… The normally awesome Superfly was stunted like a football player wearing flop-flops. I was trying to ride my bike down a luge track without studded tires. I’m not riding well.

We pop out onto some smoother double track for a short while. As if on queue, Paul motors by. The race has barely started, but I’ve already checked out. I don’t chase. I’m worried about surviving this outing unhurt. My pace is already reduced to a slower and safer level.

The boulder fields and ridge riding don’t disappoint. I’m riding even less of them than last year. I pass crew teammate Gordon Davies fixing a flat. Twenty minutes later I see Jed at Aid Station 3 with a broken saddle. He’s trying to reattach it to the post with zip-ties. Michaux can be rough on equipment. Duct tape and bailing wire would probably also be helpful to have along except for the extra weight and bulk.

Soon Gordon passes and I’m briefly motivated to stay on his wheel as if my precarious tire situation would somehow magically go away. I’m able to stay with Gordon for a mile or so, but he slips away as my hap-hazard trajectory forces first a pedal strike then a near endo. I settle down again.

With five miles to go Jed finally gets by me after a very long repair stop. He’s riding strong trying to hang onto his series lead even though he knows he’ll be lucky to podium today.

I finally finish at 5:14 exactly a half hour slower than Paul. Not my best showing but good enough for 2nd behind Paul in the Master’s class in the Series. Jed and Gordon finished 3rd and 2nd in the Vet class behind Bike Line’s Mike Stevens. Despite all the problems today, Jed managed to snag the Series win in the Vet class. Congrats to Jed and Paul for their Series wins!

Crew teammate Mike Keefer managed to snag the Men’s open series win despite being beaten the currently flying Robbie Spreng. Nipping at the tail of Keefer were Harlan Price and Justin Pokrivka both on single speeds finishing 1st and 2nd in that category. Amazing! Frequent travel companion Churtle, the queen of Michaux, rode uncontested into 1st place on the day and for the series. Nice way to end your season my fast friend!

Hat’s off to the folks at Gettysburg Bikes and all the Cupcake volunteers that tirelessly put on this fantastic series year after year. These are the best races around. Always challenging. Always humbling.

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One Response to “Teaberry”

  1. […] Roger Masse 29er Crew It's not about the racing – it's about the people racing « Teaberry […]

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