just the dirt
The Right Call
2016 VORS #7 Urban Assault

by Powell Blankenship

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MAY 2016 : Urban Assault

Rumors starting swirling the Tuesday before the Urban Assault race scheduled for Saturday in Richmond. The forecast was getting worse every time I turned on the news or looked at the weather app on my phone. One to two inches of rain expected Friday night. What would Sportbackers do? There's no way they would risk having a repeat of the 2013 debacle when the race was shortened to one lap during the race or called off completely if your class had not started yet. Word started trickling down of an alternate "urban course". What? No one would want to pay for a ride we do routinely when the trails are wet, would they? Social media started buzzing with many people calling for Sportsbackers to just cancel the race, give refunds and try again next year. No decisions had even been made yet and people were calling the promoters irresponsible and greedy.

Ross Moorefield

II found out Wednesday that the urban course was probably going to happen and a decision would be made on Thursday. Again, social media blasted Sportsbackers. Many of us who had preregistered began to wish we had not, figuring there's no way we would get our money back.

Our Coqui Cyclery Race Team pre-rode what we heard was the course on our normal Thursday night team ride. It was not bad but certainly more of a road race than most of us were used to or wanted. An elevation gain of about 200 feet in 12.5 miles is about as flat as you can get around Richmond. Not exactly a good thing for us non-roadies.

After the ride I checked my email in the parking lot to see if Sportsbackers had made a decision and indeed they had.

*Important Weather Update*

*If you love the outdoors like we do, then you know that plenty of fun and adventure can be had rain or shine, and Dominion Riverrock (including the Urban Assault) is a rain or shine event! Please be aware, however, that in an effort to protect the integrity of the trails, the course will be rerouted due to the forecasted rain. Please read below for the details.*

Powell Blankenship

*To protect the trails, the course has been altered due to the weather forecast. **Click here for the new course map* * and **here for a written description**. Please note that the course is now approximately 12.5 miles long.*

*Everyone, regardless of Race Category, will complete just one lap of this course. Due to this course change, no prize money will be awarded. If you wish to receive a refund rather than compete, please **email us* < >* next week and we will process your refund.*

Pretty radical idea to let us decide whether or not to race and get a refund if we decided against it. Sportsbackers and others involved in putting on the race decided to use the race as a good example of what you can and should do when the weather makes the trails vulnerable to damage as they have been for almost a month.

Now for the decision. Is it worth it to race for 45 minutes on road and gravel? I reluctantly decided to go ahead and do it along with about 112 others.

Jim McCullen

It was the right call to race and the right call to green light the "Urban Assault Hard Packed Course". We went up stairs, down stairs, over railroad tracks, the flood wall, the canal walk, slave trail, gravel roads, sidewalks, roads, pedestrian bridges, paved paths, mulch trails and even a little single track.

Every racer I heard or talked to after the race agreed it was a great and fun course and they were glad they did it. I think the inch or two of rain we had Friday night and Saturday morning made it more fun and more MTB-like. There was A LOT of water on the course and to keep things wet it rained on and off during the race.

None of the big boys showed up probably due to the course change and the lack of prize money but this gave some of the younger guys a chance to gain some big VORS points and some bragging rights. 18 year old local Edward Anderson took the Pro Expert win followed by Tannon Blankenship(no relation), Nathan Kottkamp and Coqui teammate Sam Forsyth.

As for my race, I squeaked out a 2nd place finish in the singlespeed cat barely crossing the line ahead of North Carolina racer Michael Wilson only after he crashed right in front of me trying to navigate one of the urban obstacles(90 degree downhill turn on the Belle Isle Pedestrian Bridge just before the finish). As usual, longtime local singlespeeder Ethan Lindbloom got off the couch and beat us both by over a minute.

Man, not only are we lucky to live in a place with some of the best urban trails in the country but also a place with enough options to hold a race with over a hundred mountain bikers after a couple of inches of rain soaked the James River Park System trails. Maybe now that the precedent set maybe we won't be so reluctant to race on an alternate urban course. It was a blast.

Thanks to Clinton Kronenberger, Jr.
Coqui Cyclery
Pivot Cycles
Ardent Craft Ales
Virginia State Parks
Davenport & Company
and Bizport

Powell Blankenship
SS Racing
Age 54 ​

ABOUT Powell Blankeship and Coqui Cyclery XC Race Team

Married with 2 grown children. Been riding mountain bikes since 1989. Captain of Coqui Cyclery Race Team. Worked at USPS for 30+ years. Raced in many 24 Hour Canaan and Snowshoe races in the 1990's and 2000's. Current bike Pivot Les 29er SS. Favorite race course Walnut Creek in Charlottesville.