Monday, October 24, 2011

TVR: Treasure Valley Rally or the Terrible Viscous Race

I was looking forwards to testing the new Scott Scale 29er under race conditions.  But let me start first with one of the top race rules: do not mess w/ your bike the night before the race.  As a cat 1 racer I should have known this.  I did know this!  Yet temptation was just too much to not try to convert a brand new wheelset to tubeless the night before the race.  Mind you I had set up my 26er wheelset tubeless a gazillion times w/out any issues and have gotten pretty good at it.  So no big deal I thought!  During the conversion process I noticed that the inner rim edge of the DT Swiss xr39 seemed to have a very small bead.  My concerns were amplified when pumping the tire to 60 psi without ever hearing that "pop" of the tire locking onto the rim. I continued anyways, shook the stans all around, and checked for leaks by applying soapy water and checking for them bubbles.  All seemed to be good.   Let the air back out to 30 ps1. Took the bike out in the rain for 1/2 hour stint in the dark to take some really tight turns on a grassy field to make sure the tire would not burp.  All seemed good... Next morning some air had leaked out of the tires but nothing too bad.  Pumped air back to 26 psi and off to the race.  Also right before leaving, installed a new Easton EC 70 post that had just arrived in the mail. Not a lot of 34.9 post makers out there!

An hour later parked in the lot (fast driving!), pulled the bike out and... the rear tire was flat w/ the tire being off the bead and stans leaking out all over my man van!  Not wanting to take any chances, back to tubes.  Since I had flatted twice on a night ride the previous week with 26 psi and I had heard the course was really rocky (which it was!), I decided to play it way safe and add 30 psi in the rear and 28 in the front.   With the changing of tires, (mostly spend cleaning up the stans liquid) this left little time to warm up.

Race course is in blue.
I knew nothing of the course other than having heard a couple of the EFTA regulars casually saying it was rocky and technical (boy did that turn out to be an under statement).  The course was a 9 mile figure 8 w/ most of the climbing and the technical sections in the first half.   Below is the elevation profile for two laps.  Right at the start there were two creek crossing that seemed to have caught many off guard.  There are a couple of photos floating on the interweb of racers taking a header right into them.  The climbs were good but not too bad.  The first one being long but gradual, probably around 6% with a little kicker at the end of it.  It was followed by a fast and steep down hill section w/ some very challenging rock gardens. The rock gardens were not just big but they were sharp and pointy too. Some of them were even challenging to just walk through.  And for some icing, a few of them were wet and slimy!  The second climb was much steeper with a surprising second kick to it.  The back side of the course was not as technical but did have a couple of small creek crossings and enough rocks to keep you at attention.  I would say this course was the most technical race course around.  Much more challenging than Glocester Grind or the Wrath of the Boneyard.   Many after the race used the term "a real mountain biker's course" to describe it.
Elevation Profile of the course. Two laps for a total of +- 1800 feet of climbing.

I almost missed my start trying to get a quick warm up in, and like the last few races, decided to sit back and take a couple of miles to ease into the race.   When we came to the first creek crossing i was dfl but holding on to the stragglers.  The crossing was not clean but I made it through w/out dabbing.  I ended up w/ one wet shoe for the second crossing.  Since I had no idea what to expect out of the first climb, I settled into a sustainable pace and passed a few of the guys.  On the way down I was really struggling w/ clearing the rock garden's.   I know I should have been able to clear them and it was getting really frustrating I was messing up.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had no confidence left and was hesitating even over small stuff.  Those guys I had passed were now back on my wheel.  I dropped and passed some more on the second climb but once at the top, every time the trail turned rocky or rooty, the bike would bounce off the trail or the line I was trying to ride.  3/4 through the first lap, I was fighting the bike and the trail and was back to being dfl since I was dabbing on everything and riding w/ a fist full brakes.  I even fell a couple of times and was starting to use profanity way to much.  My hr wasn't even high since I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to try to bring my speed up.  I was actually hating it so much I had decided I was going to dnf once I hit the start/finish area and sell the bike to the first person who offered me a $100 for it.  29er my ass!!!!  Had I had my 26 inch Epic, I would have easily floated over that terrain and probably be in the top 5.

From the Tvr facebook site
When I came to the start/finish, since the last mile had been mostly rolling trail, I had somewhat regained my composure and decided I needed to ride this course out.  Minimally I should use it as training.  As I calmed down, I started to figure out that under racing conditions I was automatically trying to ride and race this bike like it was my Epic (three years on a bike is hard to unlearn!)  I needed to slow down even more, take my time, and try to adjust to the bike.  I knew I had way to much air pressure in the tires but because of the sharp rocks, did want to let any out.  I did pull over and slowed the rebound on the fork some which somewhat calmed the front end.  I crossed the two streams w/out issues and half way up the first climb started to pick up riders.  By the top, I had passed three.  The technical descent was another disaster and I was now mostly walking all the rock gardens.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had been passed by everyone again and was back to being dfl.  During the second climb I passed those riders again and picked up a couple more.  Climbing the hills on the second lap showed me how slow I had been going thus far because I had no difficulty powering up them and my legs were way to fresh.  Since I had passed a few riders in my category on the way up, I decided to try to get back in the race and hold some off.  It partially worked.  I continued to hesitate and not have any confidence in the bike.  I had now take my hands off the brakes and was trying to find some semblance of flow but this happened very infrequently.  I had become flustered enough that I was not even tying to my pick lines ahead of time anymore and was just staring at my front tire.   Though I was trying to bring up my pace, two caught up to me again and I let them through.  Every time the trail got a little technical they would pull away further until they eventually disappeared. 

great movie from higginchuk on youtube! 
Boy was I glad when I finally saw the finish line.  Though it was a terrible (awful, bad, sucky, stinky, suck ass) race, and I did not even really get a hard work out of it (I did not even need a cool down ride after finishing since my hr was not very high), I was still glad I got to be out there, experience the course, and be w/ my fellow racers this late in the season. What is great about mountain biking is that even really bad rides or races are still just awesome!  I can't wait to race it again next year. By that time, hopefully, I will have adjusted to the new bike and should be even able to ride the power line rock garden.  I ended finishing 6th out of 10 starters and 8 finishers.

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