The Big Bear 2x12 mountain bike and bluegrass extravaganza took place this past weekend at Big Bear Lake Camplands in Hazelton WV. This event was organized by Dynamic PT Cycling's good friend Mark Schooley on short notice after the 24 Hours of Big Bear event was cancelled just a couple months prior by 24 hour race promoter, Laird Knight.
And boy oh boy what a job Mark did. He came up with a race format that was taxing physically, mentally, and tactically while still being a ton of fun and leaving the competitors fresh enough to celebrate properly afterwards.
Here is how it works: Duo teams compete on 12 miles laps. Sport classes do 2 laps a piece, Expert classes do 3. Short enough to really let the competitors give it their all while long enough to require balancing aggression with endurance.
The prizes for expert classes was $1000 cash, winner take all. That payout attracted some of the top talent in the region vying for overall honors and the big paycheck.
Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling had two teams registered in the event. Gunnar and Betsy were favorites in the coed category, though they faced tough competition from Joey and Mandi Riddle as well as Brad and Heidi and Justin and Suzy.
Taking on the super-stacked singlespeed class for the good guys was the team of myself (Robbie) and Chris McGill. On paper we looked good with three state championship and two WVMBA series overall wins in the category to our credit. However, the singlespeed class was packed to the gills with fast folks and we knew it would be a tough battle the whole way.
My girlfriend, Laura who was racing in the sport women category with her friend Tricia, and I arrived at the venue morning of. There we joined the rest of the team as well as our friends of the PathfinderWV.com contingent with tents and camp supplies aplenty already set up. We only had an hour before the start so we quickly registered, put on our kits and got as much warm up as we could. We were all sporting our Cannondale Flash 29'er alloy's. Gunnar and Betsy with a combined 36 gears, Chris and I with a combined 2.
The race started up a quarter mile of gravel hill then right to the singletrack. I scoped the start out on the way from registration. I figured I'd want to be on the edges of the road to avoid getting bogged down in the deep gravel patches in the center. All the first lappers lined up and waited for the start signal. Except one.
Gunnar came into sight flying directly towards us as Mark started the 10 second countdown. We got the GO signal and Gunnar had manged to cross the start line at the same time as the leaders! ....just in the wrong direction. While he was busy turning his bike around I was busy sucking wheel and sucking air as we rocketed up the road. The plan of staying on the periphery worked perfectly as I saw the group in the middle hit a section of deep gravel and slide back, allowing me to cross to the far side on clear section of road to be 5th overall and 2nd singlespeed into the woods. I had my target set firmly on whom I thought would be our biggest competition, Wes Schempf who was racing with Gerry Pflug on team "funny last names" or at least that's what it should have been. Unfortunately for me, my target was slowly getting further and further away. Trail conditions were mostly good, but had some large wet areas that were slick and tricky to find a line through.
As Wes disappeared up the trail with Cannondale rider and employee Brandon Draugalis, I started to feel the effects of such a "good" start. "Wow it is hot out here," I thought. The day was heating up rapidly but it was also incredibly humid and it was starting to take its toll on me. I let one rider by, then two more, then three more. At mile three Gunnar had worked his way up to me and passed with a small group. I tried to jump on for a bit, but the legs and lungs just weren't having it. I'd dug myself into a hole in the first few miles and it was going to be tough to get out of it. I went into damage prevention mode, sprayed myself down with my water bottle to try to cool off and keep the pace manageable. Not to be though as group after group sped past.
Before the race Chris had told me that if I came in 30 minutes down on the first lap, no big deal, pressure off. "Sure, whatever. You get your mean face on, Chris, you're gonna need it."
Whoops. I came in 13 minutes down. Pressure off. Chris put in some good laps and I managed to continue at a similar pace (slow but determined with plenty of suffering) as my first lap. We had a good time at least, with hugs at each hand-off and plenty of saddle time on awesome trails.
Betsy and Gunnar, however, were racing their butts off as each lap had a new leader in their race. Gdaddy wasn't on his best day and was riding hard, but losing time to Justin, Brad and Joey. He fought hard to keep it close though and Betsy came back every lap with a solid lead in hand only to have to chase it back. After 7 hours of racing Betsy came into the tent first, bringing home the $1000 dollar prize to the Shogren residence. WooHoo! Look how happy they are!
Afternoon rains came to make the course extra slick for the last few laps and added a little sandy mud to the chamois. Luckily, I was sporting merino wool Swiftwick socks, which kept my feet comfortable all day. And, our apparel provider, Pyro Apparel out of Ohio, has enough bang for your buck that we all had fresh shorts for each lap. I was running Kenda Small Block 8s, which are touted as a dry conditions tire, but hooked up remarkably well in the varied conditions that we encountered, though when the mud started to thicken a bit once the rain passed Chris and Betsy were looking quicker on their Karmas.
After the race, beer from the Morgantown Brewing Company and food from Monroe's Deli were on hand to satisfy the racers' hunger and thirst. Awards were handed out and the bands started playing! Mark had brought in a big stage and sound system and some really good bands. East Run Band started things off with some nice bluegrass tunes. The Woodticks followed up with a long set of good 'ol string band fun. Finally, the Staggering Cardoons got the masses up and dancing with a cool blend of Rockabilly/Celtic/Bluegrass music with fun songs and a high energy performance.
All in all this was a great weekend. Mark came up with a new kind of endurance racing that proved to be popular and fun. And I didn't meet a single person who was sad that it didn't go on for 16 more hours.
Mark for pulling off an awesome race with awesome prizes and awesome competition followed by awesome beer and an awesome concert. It was really, uh, awesome start to finish.
The weather for being mostly excellent, despite the afternoon showers.
Betsy for bringing home the facon.
LauraK and JamesB for finding their mountain biking mojo.
All of the great people that make this sport so much more than it would otherwise be.
Thanks to Dynamic Physical Therapy, Cannondale, Kenda Tires, Camelbak, Swftwik, Ergon, I9, Mike Miller DDS, Edward Jones, Performance Coaching Services, Pro Gold Lube and Pathfinder for letting us race on the best equipment in the business.
Elvis singing Karaoke in the middle of the woods (for real).
The Staggering Cardoons for a great show.
Bad legs at big events
Tricia for not carrying a pump/tube on her lap