Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Velo Bella - Kona Pro MTB is BACK!

The Velo Bella - Kona Pro MTB team is already racing and they haven't even attended camp yet. Shannon Gibson produced fantastic results in Tucson at the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo sponsored by Kona. Natasha Cowie joins the team this year after being nominated by her peers in Tenessee to represent them on the professional circuit. This is her first race report...

By Natasha Cowie

Quarry Racing: SERC #1, Reddick, Florida

Racing ON and IN quarries, that is. Not actually racing the quarries themselves.

Having spent eons training on the frigid, forbidding plateaus of Tennessee, I welcomed the opportunity to improve my (nonexistent) tan with the first Southeast Regional Championship (SERC) series mountain bike race in Reddick, Florida. Some desperate yearning for sunshine and beaches causes everyone to start driving 98 mph as soon as they hit the Florida line. Note to anyone traveling to Florida: free road maps and citrus juice at the welcome center. Also lots of sand and palm trees everywhere.

Natural history lesson (sorry, I am finishing a natural resources degree in May and I am a DWEEB about this stuff): 50-60 million years ago, a warm, shallow sea covered what is now Florida. The calcium-rich shells from ocean critters piled up, and were eventually compacted by pressure, forming limestone and coquina (incompletely cemented limestone that still contains the original shells). Central Florida forests look primeval. Enormous live oaks (salt- and drought-tolerant trees that can live for centuries) and saw palmettos lined the course.

Lined up at the start, I felt like one of those strange cave creatures that spend their entire lives in darkness. Sun! Heat! Humidity! Lush tropical forests!! It didn’t help that about three-quarters of the pack were happily tan, citrus-juice-fueled Florida ladies.

The technical bizarreness of the course hit us from the start. Half a mile in we swooped over an off-camber dip and up a wall of a climb, and things only got tougher as we wound around the quarry, along narrow ledges past greenish pools of stagnant water. I kept expecting to see an alligator stretched across the trail, but there were only a couple of snakes. I spent lots of time sprinting up reeeally steep hills with my bike on my back. I like my Sidis very much; they’re nice and stiff on the bike but they sure helped on those stupid hill run-ups. And they improve my badass factor no matter how slow I’m going. Which is always a positive thing.

Damn. I’ve been racing a while, but I sure learned a lot last weekend. Among other things, I learned:

1. Never, ever let your 17-year-old semipro brother advise you about energy drink:water proportions. I spent two and a half hours drinking syrup. Thank you brother.

2. If you average 4.5 cups of (outrageously expensive) coffee a day, do NOT go without coffee on race day. I am now saving pennies to buy a nice, portable French press.

3. Don’t crash on fossiliferous limestone. Just don’t. It’s bad.

I felt good physically, but admittedly I’m kind of a spaz on technical stuff. I’m happier on mountains than on power courses, but that made Florida awesome practice for me. I finished sixth, behind some amazing women who are very tan (if we were ranked by tans I would have been dead last). I didn’t actually meet any Velo Bellas there, although a wonderful person standing by the race course cheered, “Go Bellas!” as I passed. Unfortunately I never managed to find her after the race to say thanks.


At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome read there Tash...


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