Written by Kevin Ryan Tuesday, 10 July 2018 00:00
I have yet to submit a grumpy race report. I try to keep them upbeat and positive, so please allow me the exception that follows:
This year was my second and perhaps last time at the Battle at Burlingame six-hour race. I did this race two years ago and found that it was a good choice for an early-season endurance event, with each lap around 15 miles and only 600 feet of climbing. I recalled the course being a fun one, featuring a good amount of single-track with a few punchy climbs and technical sections to keep a rider on his/her toes, interspersed with fast, flowy, less-technical stretches. In 2016 the course was nice and dry. This year, sections of the course were soaked due to a wet spring. This made the technical sections in the beginning of the course quite nasty.
I lined up at the start towards the middle of the pack, figuring I was not going to be one of the fastest riders. Besides, we all had six hours to sort everything out. As in 2016, racers were immediately faced with narrow single-track and a log crossing for everyone to get backed-up on. I found myself just about track-standing behind several racers who were stopped. A racer rolled up behind me and encouraged me to “pedal pedal pedal!”. I replied that I could not pedal into the guy in front of me and he begrudgingly conceded my point.
My first two laps went fine, my times were close, and I was feeling good. It was my third lap where things went downhill (pardon the pun). The 6 Hours of Burlingame runs concurrently with the Battle of Burlingame, which is a 21.5-mile race sharing some of the same trails as the six-hour course. The six-hour race started at 8am and the Battle started at 11:30. This means that the Elite Battle racers need to pick their way through some of the 6-hour racers, with the latter already having been on the course for 3.5+ hours.
I get it. A racer should get out of the way of another racer coming up behind them. I have certainly gotten grumpy a few times when someone would not get out of the way. The problem here, though, is that we’re getting out of the way of people doing a different race. In my experience, nobody gets worked up faster than an Elite racer wanting to pass. It’s just not cool to have them on the course at the same time.
At 3.5 hours into the race, I was on a fun section of singletrack that weaves through oak forest with a thick understory of huckleberry shrubs. A pack of racers doing the XC race came barreling up behind me and I immediately pulled into the shrubs. I then had to pull twigs out of my drivetrain before continuing. Several minutes later, another pack of racers showed up and I again immediately pulled over into the huckleberry. This time, my chain broke as I started going. I shouted more than a few expletives and then ran with my bike two miles to the finish line. I actually had company as a fellow whose crankarm fell completely off his bike caught up with me and chatted a bit as we hobbled to the staging area.
Teammate Warren Gerow’s better half, Carol, was at our aid station where I was able to find a chain tool in Warren’s toolbox. Frustration coupled with “race brain” led me to make several silly mistakes when fixing my drivetrain. Despite not being a mountain biker, Carol was able to point out several mistakes I made and thus get me back up-and-running. (Thank you, Carol!) I did my last lap without a problem although my motivation was down knowing there was no way I was going to get back the time that I lost. I ended up finishing 12th overall in the open category. As it turns out Warren had a great day and took the win!
As an unfortunate end, racers received an email from the race organizer stating that the race will probably not be held again as “The park staff and rangers listed incident after incident of rude behavior displayed by the mountain bike community over this weekend's events at Burlingame. There was a complete lack of regard for the campers and staff in the park.” While I never observed any altercations, this left a bad taste in my mouth.
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