PREVIOUS COLUMNS: MAY JUNE
just the dirt
by Ross Moorefield
COQUI CYCLERY XC RACE TEAM EXPERIENCE
ASK the TEAM Click Here
JUNE 2016: The Chimney Chase
The Chimney Chase at Walnut Creek is always a highlight on the calendar. Having grown up in Charlottesville these are the trails where I did some of my first riding so it feels like a bit of a homecoming… a homecoming where the school meat head drags you into the woods and beats you senseless for about 2 hours.
It’s a great test for a mountain biker, especially when ridden at race pace. The climbs may not be as long as what you would find further west but they come back to back to back in quick succession, put you on the limit early and keep you there. There are rocky and loose descents and creek crossings to keep you on your toes. And of course there are the roots, which are everywhere and have a knack for bogging things down and knocking you off line. Throw in some heat and humidity and when you’ve finished a race at Walnut Creek you’ll probably feel a little beat up, which is what makes it so good.
I made the trip to North Garden with 2 teammates, Jim McCullen who would be joining me in massive Cat 2 field and our resident single speed crusher Powell Blankenship. The day of the race brought warm temps and humidity, thankfully nothing close to the blast furnace conditions of last year’s edition. We arrived, picked up our numbers, and began the preparations. As more riders trickled in it was great to see jerseys from all over VA riding around the parking lot. Riders from Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Williamsburg, Richmond, Lynchburg, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and other locales all represented well. All in all it was a pretty good turn out from the Va MTB community.
By now when it comes to XC races my time table is familiar and consistent enough to set your watch by.
1) Go out fast to try to keep the front group in sight, moving up when possible.
2) Around 20 minutes in experience a Chernobyl level meltdown. Heart rate at a million beats per minute, totally cross eyed, and incapable of maintaining pace. Immediately start moving backwards through the field.
3) Wallow in agony and self loathing as rider after rider goes by. Question my choice in recreational activities.
4) Somewhere around 40 minutes in, start to feel halfway decent from there attempt to claw back as many positions as possible before it’s over.
And so it went. The 37 rider cat 2 field sprinted up the hill and across the parking lot vying for position before the single track. I moved up a few spots in the lot and in the field after the first section of trail. Once we made to the opposite side of the lake and started the race in earnest everything when upside down. My heart rate was red lined and I started dropping positions one after another, quickly losing track of how many riders were in front of me as I just put all my focus into turning the pedals over. I slogged my way to the high point of the course on the park’s western border. Down to the creek, and across the road at the front of the park which marked the halfway point of the loop in my mind, “mostly downhill from here” I told myself.
Finally starting to feel better coming down the rocky orange blazed trail I began to make up positions. By the time we arrived at the dam crossing and started the blue loop I was feeling good, having fun, and making better time. Starting lap 2 I made a few passes on the climbs but still didn’t know exactly where I stood in the field. Thinking that maybe there were 4 or 5 riders up the trail I dug in, believing a podium position might not be totally out of reach.
Most of the trip back down the orange trail the second time was a lonely endeavor except for a few folks out cheering along a punchy rooty climb. One of them must have recognized my jersey; “Just like Northbank!” he yelled referring to a Richmond standard which is definitely mellower by comparison. I got a laugh out of this, even mid race the sarcasm was appreciated. Right now this was feeling like Northbank on steroids.
Crossing the dam the second time I could see a rider entering the trail ahead of me. Once in the final ~1.5 mi loop of single track I could see flashes of a green and white jersey up ahead through the trees. I picked up the pace, having a rabbit to chase is a good motivator. The distance between us was closing, but slowly. As we burst into the open crossing back over the dam my rabbit, which ended up being fellow Richmond rider John from the FSR team, looked back and saw me chasing. He stepped on the gas and I did the same. We came together in the final small piece of single track and when the trail opened into the parking lot we both spun up the engines for a final effort. Down the small hill together; onto the pavement I started to open a small gap. Hop the curb and onto the final stretch and I crossed the line in front by a tiny margin.
After collecting my lungs off the ground and putting them back in my chest John and I congratulated each other on a good race and a fun finish. I ran into Powell who took the win in the single speed category, finishing a full 9 minutes ahead of me despite his lack of gears. Stories were shared and cheeseburgers consumed.
A short time later I found out that our dramatic sprint for the line had actually been for… 8th place. Turns out the top 4 had all gone out and put in back to back sub 58 min laps, impressive stuff. Combine that firepower with my generally blown up state of affairs on lap 1 and it’s no surprise I didn’t see the front of the race riding away from me! Fortunately it didn’t matter much; the Chimney Chase delivered the goods once again with a very fun day of riding. The CAMBC and Blue Ridge Cyclery crew put on a great race and the Walnut Creek trails were in excellent shape.
Thanks to all the race organizers and volunteers who make this race happen, already looking forward to next year’s edition. Also a big thanks to Clint @ Coqui Cyclery in Richmond who, despite my best efforts to destroy equipment, manages to keep the fork forking, the brakes braking, and wheels turning.
ABOUT Ross Moorefield
32 years old
Been riding off and on since 1997. Picked it back up in 2012 after realizing that running for fun and exercise was only delivering the latter. Currently riding a Pivot Les 29, favorite trails are JRPS (can't beat trails within riding distance of home) and big all day rides in the GWNF
VIRGINIA OFF ROAD SERIES | DIRTY SERIES OF EVENTS LLC | POB 14546 | RVA 23221