Monday, August 07, 2006

Downieville Race Report

by Piper Ehlen

This was my first race at Downieville.

Last year when I read the Downieville XC race reports, I thought to myself "28 miles, 4,400 feet of climbing, and 5,700 feet of downhill? sounds gruelling! can't wait to do it next year!"

And yes, it was gruelling. This was the longest race I've ever done. Maybe even the most technical (well, I guess Skyline might have it beat in the crashes department). And I can't wait to do it again next year.

OK first of all the start was crazy - they sent all the sport men, sport women, clydesdales, singlespeeds and tandems all at the same time - there must have been 250 bikers trying to get off that start line! I finally got moving about 3 minutes after I heard them say "GO!"

I'd ridden the course once before (climb and all) so I kinda knew what to expect. I'm a much better climber than I am at descending, so my plan was to pass as many people on the (absurdly long and intense) climb and hope to keep some speed in the descent. It may have been a good plan if I had known that the fire-road climb was going to turn into a single-file line of bikers as far as the eye could see. I passed every now again, but passing on the loose rocks outside the single-file line took so much energy! I did pass one guy after he farmer-blowed and it landed
on me. Um, time to get around you, snotty. I passed about 30 people overall on the climb. And then they all passed my on the descent. As is always my racing technique (or lack thereof). Someone teach me how to descend faster, please!!

At the top, I was happy to see Miss Mary and some other Bellas and TWW'ers - thanks for the encouragement! About a minute into the descent, my handlebars started moving, up and down. Uh oh. It was then that I remembered that I had failed to tighten them after unpacking my bike from my trip to Colorado the day before. Buzzkill. There's no way I could do that downhill with wobbly handlebars. So I pulled over and asked everyone who passed if they had allen keys I could borrow. My knight-in-shining-allen-keys finally stopped and I did a quick fix-it, and back on my bike.

I have a love-and-hate relationship with the downhill of this race. It's challenging to me, to say the least. I love when I can breeze over technical parts that are intimidating. I hate when I freak out, hit the breaks, and have to walk over sections that I know I could probably ride. I was actually very proud of myself for the difficult spots that I rode over without a second thought. Sometimes it was simply because someone was right behind me and I didn't want to slow them down.

I finished the race in 3 hours, 31 minutes. Just about what I thought it would take me. I finished 10th in Senior Sport Women (out of 16). After some beer and pasta, I hitchhike back to the campground and head back to SF.

This was an awesome weekend and a great race. Thanks to all the Bella and TWW support and encouragement!!!



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