Written by David Keppler Tuesday, 29 August 2017 00:00
The Bike for Bovines race at Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH is a great race at a great venue. Chris and Jill of Root 66 Racing consistently put on a top-notch event and the location is a family friendly place with lots to offer. Stonewall Farm is an educational farm that has cows, draft horses, rabbits, an ice cream stand, and even a Tool Museum. There’s a small river that runs through the property and there is a coop full of chickens right at the start line of the race. Overall, a unique and entertaining place. The fact that it is only an hour up the road from where I live makes it even more appealing.
The course winds its way through the property and takes full advantage of the mountain that makes up the back side of the farm. The advertised vertical climbing for the race is 600 ft. per lap but it sure feels like a lot more than that. I find the race to be deceptively difficult and always eat a bit of humble pie throughout the course. It is a very challenging and exciting course that has a little bit of everything that makes New England single-track mountain biking what it is.
The weather on race day was just about perfect as it was sunny but not too hot and even a little breezy. As usual my age group was one of the most crowded but I’ve found that the numbers always make for a more aggressive and exciting race. The course is also laid out in a way that you can pretty much always see other racers. Determining who’s in front and who’s behind can be a challenge so you find you are always working to not be overtaken or to catch that guy that seems like he’s just around the next corner.
Cat 2 was the last category of the day and our start time was delayed a bit as the Cat 1 racers were taking longer to finish their 4 laps than expected. Wasn’t sure what that portended but I did my best to keep a positive mind set and lined up for our 1:45 p.m. start. We would be doing 3 laps of the 4.3 mile course.
With the excitable chickens right next to the start line we were sent off with a whistle and a rooster call. Cool. The first lap starts on a double track forest road and heads into the woods after about half a mile. The single-track is extensive and the flowing, aggressive downhills last just long enough for you to think you can catch your breath and then they jolt back up hill. The climbing feels pretty much non-stop, even at the beginning of the course. After spreading out a bit on the double-track, we dove into the woods to climb up some well cut single-track switchbacks.
The trails at Stonewall are well established and have a mix of exposed roots, LOTS of rocks, and some very grippy, loamy soil. The terrain is a great combination of up, down and across with a couple of serious hill-climbs placed right at strategic points in the lap. The first hill hits about half way through the course and the second one is about ¾ of the way through. Both are long and steep but mercilessly clear of serious obstacles. They definitely scrub any momentum you might have built up and get that lactic acid flowing in your thighs. With the mix of punchy climbs and relentless obstacles this is one of those races that doesn’t really allow you to recover at any point during the race. That makes it fun in its own way but also challenging for those of us that haven’t been training quite as much as we would have liked.
At the beginning of the second and third laps there was a fun new section of single track instead of the double-track that we started on. The water stations were well managed and there were cheering fans interspersed throughout the course.
Although I didn’t finish quite where I would have liked I was glad to survive without any serious crashes and really did my best to enjoy the course. My Kona Hei Hei DL performed perfectly and I was very glad to have my new X-Fusion dropper seat post. It looks like this may be the last mountain bike race I can attend this year and it was a great day to end the season on. Now it’s time to prepare for Cyclocross and all the fun that entails. If you can make it to Keene to race the Bike for Bovines race, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
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