I had been mountain bike riding for about a year, and riding 2-3 times a week for about an hour per ride. I wanted to challenge myself and see what mountain bike racing was all about. After a little searching online, I found tourdedirt.org, the website for the Oklahoma race series. I glanced over the rules, evaluated the event schedule and began to prepare for the race in March.
I did not know what to expect, so I continued my 2-3 day a week schedule plus added in a course pre-ride or two before the event date. I felt good about my ability and preparation, and looked forward to race day.
When the big day arrived, I got up early, loaded up the bike and all my gear and drove the 1 1/2 hours to the Clearbay Trailhead at Lake Thunderbird.
When I arrived, I was surprised to see the number of competitors, and the vast array of speed machines that people were unloading. Everyone was very friendly and approachable.
I walked over to registration and got signed up for cat 3, which is the beginner’s group in mountain biking. I was feeling really good about my chances, but I was about to find out that being a beginner in racing is far different than being a beginner on the trails.
After registration, I unloaded my bike and put on my shoes and helmet. I noticed that there were a ton of riders on their bikes spinning around at various speeds. I thought to myself “what are these guys doing?, they are going to be tired before we even start!” I did a very small warmup ride, mainly just to look like my peers, and lined up for the start.
On the start line, we were lined up according to age. We would be started with the different age groups, separated by 2 minutes. I met Richard Brown there on the line. He had just one race under his belt, so he was able to fill me in on race etiquette on the course.
In a few short minutes, we were off. I was floored by the speed of these guys! I could barley hang on to the main group – and the leaders were out of sight within seconds! I worked harder than I had ever worked on the bike, and I was still falling further back from the field. It wasn’t long before the upper age group started catching and blowing by me. When I finally reached the end, I rode over for a few words with Richard about the race. Then I promptly loaded up my bike and was on the road home less than 5 minutes after my finish.
It was a humbling and frustrating experience. I finished 9th in a field of about 12-13. I contemplated never racing again, but that thought was long gone by the time I got home. I loved it and I was hooked, even though I knew I had a long was to go to be competitive.
If you are interested in racing and want to see what it is all about, you’ll want to come out to Roman Nose State Park on Sunday, June 23 for the race presented by Off Camber Cycling and Wheeler Dealer bike shop. Details can be found at: http://tourdedirt.org/Flyers/RN-Flyer.pdf
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