Thursday, November 21, 2013

Borealis Yampa Carbon Fatbike: Short term review

So, a couple weeks ago i got my hands on a new winter toy: A carbon fiber fatbike! I've been anticipating the delivery of the new steed since earlier this summer when i first learned of the Borealis Yampa frames, and that Freewheeler Bike Shop would be carrying them (i think Curt ordered a dozen or more right off the bat). The frame showed up a while before iceman, and the components were slowly trickling in and teasing me with visions of ripping down the lakeshore and carving snowed in singletrack. After the excitement and post-iceman depression i was in desperate need of a cycling pick-me-up. In the nick of time, Curt got the components in stock and Logger did a fine job of assembling this glorious mode of transport.

As you can tell, i no sooner that got it outside of the shop than started photographing the glory!

Of course, the first thing i did when i got it home was to fine tune the fit to a more aggressive stance and prep it for it's inaugural voyage. It looks a little more like this now:

Stem slammed, seat jacked... that's more like it

Once i had the bike fitted to my specifications i burst out the door in full cold weather regalia and set about seeing just what this machine could handle! First i noted how responsive it was for such a large wheeled beast. Although the acceleration is slower due to the greater rotational weight, i didn't notice it feeling too sluggish. I would compare it to a turbo-diesel automobile; takes a minute to spool up that turbo, but once you hit the right RPM it's all systems go! I headed directly to the nearest park with anything resembling singletrack and set about tackling the steepest hills i could find. I had the bike built with SRAM 1x11 with a 34T ring upfront. For reference, i'm used to my Niner which is geared 1x10 (11-32 cassette and 38T ring upfront). This fatbike with the new drivetrain climbs hills like a tank, you just drop it into a creeper gear and scale grades up and above 30 percent. The drivetrain was expertly tuned by Freewheeler's very own Logger so naturally it snapped into gear immediately and produced literally no noise. I'm very happy with the 1x11 setup and am seriously thinking about making the leap on my Niner now...

That cassette is a marvel of engineering!

Solid Raceface Turbine cranks to put down some meager power at best...

Look at that bottom bracket girth!

When i left my house, i had measured the tires at around 18 psi, which i realize is firm for a fatbike. I could tell right away on the trails that i was giving up ride comfort and traction as a result. Curt was forward thinking when he built this rig, and set me up with the matching Borealis hubs laced expertly by the Wheel Department over at Velocity to their awesome new Dually rims. He also selected some fine rubber in the form of 45NRTHs Dillinger 4" model, and set them up tubeless. I have to say, comparing the tubeless Dually's to some of the wider tire/rim combos with tubes that the difference is staggering. I soon stopped and aired those bad boys down to 10 psi and instantly noticed a smoother ride. The traction also went up ten-fold as it made little effort to overtake roots and stones that would normally jar my teeth half loose. I tackled another hill at a nearby park which although only 25 feet in height, packs a near 35% grade of loose grass and leaves. I'm pleased to report that with the largest cog on the cassette i was able to climb without blowing out a hammy!

These tires also happen to accept metal studs for when winter really picks up. I haven't had any issue with burping the tires from the Dually rims. The whole package is stout!

The rigid fork and thru axle are robust pieces. Borealis did a nice job with the fitment of the hub/axle/fork.

The rear hub has a great sound and feel to it. It engages quickly and after over 100 miles of punishment i haven't noticed a change.

So, what conditions have i put the fatbike through exactly? Well i'm glad you asked... Here's a rundown of the flogging:
  1. First trip out was brief, i hit Manhattan park to check the confidence on leaf covered, steep trails. I rode through the sand pit several times, and hit some greasy trails to check mud-shedding. Tooled on over to Fuller park and tested out some really steep stuff and more tight trails.
  2. Second trip was a pro-longed urban MTB course. Threw in some mulch, railroad tracks, railroad bridge, long and steep descents and stair descents. Long story short, the bike is confident riding off and down stuff.
  3. Threw in a few more urban MTB rides with a lot of mud, sand and tall grass. Rode through a dried up swamp which was interesting. It's amazing how much grass you can wrap into the drivetrain and still be able to ride...
  4. Three loops at Luton. One loop with fast segments and waiting at the end of each mini-loop. One loop of recovery and one full loop without stops. This bike can really soak up the roots and rocks that otherwise pose a threat on normal MTB tires. Also, i was able to hammer corners without worry in the leaves. This thing has a ton of traction and good handling.
  5. Went out this past Sunday in the epic rainstorm. The bike does awesome with foot deep or less puddles and creeks...
I've got 110 miles in so far, and a pretty good cross-section of terrain to report on. The rest of the build is pretty standard:

Brakes: SRAM XO hydraulic w/Ashima Ai2 ultralight 160mm rotors
Cockpit: Carbon Niner flat bar, carbon Niner seat-post, alloy Niner stem
Seat: Fizik Ardena
Pedals: Shimano SPD
Grips: Lizard Skins rubber w/custom Freewheeler Lock-on clamps!


 I like the feel of these grips, and the latest version of SRAM XO hydraulic brakes.

I chose a smattering of tried and true durable goods. The pedals are M525 which weight half a metric ton, but are indestructible. The cockpit is not boutique by any means, but built to handle thrashing down Belknap hill at 40+ MPH. The seat is built for comfort and also is near one metric ton. Even with a non-uberlight build this bike tips the scale at 24lbs in full riding decor (pedals, two bottle cages, and tail-light). If one were so inclined to drop an extra couple hundred bucks you could easily slide into the 21-22 pound range.

I plan to partake in several fatbike races throughout the winter months as well as continue training sessions once or twice a week on this beast. Overall, i'm very pleased with this build. The bike can tackle the worst of it with ease, but still carve up some singletrack and post top 10s on serious segments. It's light enough that it feels nimble when pushed to the limit, but not so light that i'm afraid to bomb drop-offs and curbs. I'd like to give a big shoutout to Freewheeler Bike Shop for the sweet build and great timing! I'll report back after I've got to logs some serious training/racing miles on it with an update on how it's holding up!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Doing hood rat things with my friends, and other random events...

It's been quite a while since my last post, but there's been plenty going on. Lets go in chronological order from where i left off with my last post....

Early September - I was doing a lot of gravel road riding and some trail riding in preparation for the Chequamegon Fat Tire festival 40 mile race that i had registered for at the beginning of the year. They do a lottery for this race, and it's never a sure thing that you'll get in. I was feeling good and excited to get out there as it was also my birthday weekend. I had a whole weekend planned of MTB things and good times. Three days before the race i went out for one last singletrack ride to shake the legs out and test my equipment when disaster struck... I got a little too carried away on the third segment of the Cannonsburg SGA loop and washed out on a sharp turn into a tree. I went flying and was stopped cold by an unforgiving maple tree with a pig attitude. It took me a minute to get up and get my wits about me. I grabbed my bike and felt a nasty pain in my shoulder. It was definitely no longer in the socket and there was more movement than i care to describe. Fortunately for me i was only 3 miles of rough trail from my car so i rode the rest of the trail one handed and very slowly. The result of the tree altercation was a fully separated shoulder.

Needless to say, i was pretty bummed out to not be heading to Wisconsin for an awesome race and good times with cycling folks. I laid low for a few days to let the shoulder heal up, and got tired of doing that so i tried road riding a few days later. I figured how much worse can it get anyways? September was a slow month of recovery and testing and overstepping the bounds of what i could do with my arm. A few Wednesday night Korienek Killer gravel rides thrown in for good measure.

Stand around talking about bike things

October brought with it the promise of off-road glory and perfect riding weather (read: rain, wind, mud and cold!!). I know, i know, i have a problem, but i love this time of year when the dirt roads are desolate and you need a light to stave off the darkness. There's something about being out there pushing yourself when no one else wants to even go outside, let alone battle a furious west wind. The first weekend actually found me racing trails, but not on a bike. For whatever reason i though that a trail half marathon in the rugged Porcupine Mountains State park would be a grand idea. Mind you, i had run few enough times during the summer to recall with the 10 digits of my hands. IT was a wicked day as far as wind and wet, the trail was destroyed, and so were my legs by the end of it. The fruit of my labor was sweet (literally, i won a bottle of syrup for 3rd O'all).
Pre-race bro-down

Now i just need some pancakes

It was a grand idea to wear my new shoes...

Once my legs didn't feel the urge to fall off anymore, i picked the bike back up and hit the gravel again. With that horrific running race behind me, i could once again focus on getting back in good bike shape for the remainder of the seasons races. Next on the list was something new for me; cyclocross! I decided to give it a shot out at Cascade Park as part of the Kisscross series. I had heard nothing but good things about cyclocross (pain, suffering, glory and beer). My friends had urged that i do the A-race but i stubbornly insisted on doing the B-race because i had never done cross before... Bad idea, i looked like a sand-bagging mofo out there on the front the the B-race. I like to think that i always race in an appropriate category/field when it's my choice to make, but this was definitely not the road to valor. Oh well, it was an awesome race, and i found out that i really enjoy the added pain that cyclocross has to offer.

The weekend following Kisscross was reserved for Peak2Peak, but after last years debacle and the poor weather forecast for this years event, i decided to bail and go do a gravel group ride instead. I heard that it turned out ok for those fine folks that decided to race, but i have to say that it was nice to get together with my Freewheeler kin and hammer some headwinds out near Lowell. We managed a good ride and pace, and stayed together for the most part. 

We share our dope!

You may be asking yourself, why all the gravel?! Well, good question, because one of my favorite races (Lowell 50) was just around the corner. Plus, who doesn't like riding terrain like this:

Top-secret two-track

Cyclocross combines two of my favorite things: anything involving bikes and beer. I like talking about bikes, thinking about bikes, riding them, looking at them, weighing them, building them.... You get the idea. The great thing about late season training is that the most important thing is just getting a workout without getting burned out. After 6,7,8 thousand miles or so, it can get a little bit old, and i love bikes! So, in an effort to stave off the dreaded dead legs we often find that it pleases the mind to combine rides and beverage stops into one good time. In pursuit of that effort i submit exhibit A:

Those are thirsty eyes

It is ideal to travel a distance no further than 10 miles give or take between re-fueling stops. It is also ideal to not linger for a period of time as it can result in over-indulgence. The goal between stops is to hammerfest until you arrive at your next juncture. The stops provide sufficient motivation to induce pain and thus grow into a stronger more indignant cyclist. Anyways, i digress.... The Lowell 50... There's not much for me to say. I felt great at the start, was at the front of the lead group coming onto centerline road and snap! I looked down at my drivetrain expecting an exploded chain only to discover half of my pedal on my foot and the other half in my crank. Not... Good....

Not easy to pedal on a nubbin

Quick release pedal system, patent pending

With the Lowell 50 a failure on my part, i decided to vent some steam at Manhattan Park in the form of Kisscross. The course at Manhattan was much more trying than the Cascade setup, and i found the hills and singletrack suited me well. What didn't suit me was the three dismounts that i'm utterly terrible at. I frequently found myself stumbling and fumbling to get clipped back in to my pedals. Must have been a higher being telling me to relinquish the weight weenie Crankbrothers in favor of tried and true Shimano. The Lemans start was pretty awesome, and i had good position throughout the race. I came in 4th in the A-race (where my sand-bagging A$$ belongs!).

Next up was the illustrious Iceman Cometh mountain bike race. If you aren't familiar you should probably just stop reading right now and not bother reading anymore of my blog posts because i am infinitely disappointed in your lack of bike knowledge. Ok, now that we've cleared that up, Iceman!!! For me, a grown man with no kids, Iceman has become a figurative Christmas. There are many similarities between Christmas as a child and Iceman as a grown adult. For instance:
  1. The anticipation leads to sleepless nights and obsessing over what time/place i will get
  2. My friends and i have trouble working or doing little other than preparing for the race, being festive and making plans for who is leaving town and when
  3. We all get together in one location for the weekend to eat, be merry and suffer (oh, wait, i guess suffering was never part of christmas...)
  4. It's cold as hell outside
This was my first year racing Iceman in the afternoon, and i have to say that the weather couldn't have been better aside from the wind. The sun shone occasionally, the trails had dried out just enough, and the course was fast. My biggest mistake was lining up too late and getting relegated to the back of the field. Per usual, the pavement was a slugfest with yahoos riding through yards, puddles and contemplating bunny-hopping cars. Once we got onto the first two track there was a slow up, and then a stop. Two fine fellows tangled and tacoed their wheels about 3 miles into the race, classic! From then on out it was a task of working in a group long enough to recover and then setting out on my own for muddier pastures. I felt good, my bike was working awesome, and my pace was high. I managed to get into a group with Dan Korienek (of course the pace was high) and begin working together to get to the finish as fast as possible. Several miles from the finish we picked up Mike Simonson and he assumed some pace making duties as well. I knew coming into the final climb that the lead position was the place to be so i drilled it on the front to stay there. The climb went by quickly with a blur of fans cheering and teammates urging me on. As we came over the top i could tell i hadn't done enough damage to separate myself. On the descent to the flyover Dan came by in full beast mode. At that point, i knew he was gone so my main duty was to hold the other couple guys off until i crossed the line. In the end i crossed the line in 1:44:03 and 23rd place. I was thrilled with my time and happy to be in the presence of such elite riders. Afterwards i joined my team for a beverage and photo op. The Iceman was a nice success after a fall blighted with bad gear and busted shoulder.

"I wonder when Dan is gonna pass me?"

Battle of the beards!

Bikes are like family

Mustache night!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Grinding gravel and random racing

The past couple weeks have been an eclectic mix of fun rides, training and racing. It's that time of year when the road scene comes to an end, the long mileage is starting to take its toll and all i want to do is get out on trails and gravel roads. The relentless mileage that comes with road racing wears and tears throughout the spring and summer, and by the time August comes to an end i have trouble stomaching anything more than an hour or two on pavement. Add to the massive accumulation of miles the fact that my poor Fuji Altamira has been laid down, ridden through gravel, and in the five figure range of total miles. Don't get me wrong, i have been more than thrilled with my Fuji as it has served me well and gotten me from my first Cat 5 race last year (cone azalia) all the way to Cat 2! I've got a lot of memories wrapped up in that bike and don't know if i'll ever be able to part with it. Anyways, i digress, so i'm tired of riding on the road...
Among the assortment of bikes that I've procured through the always exceptional Freewheeler Bike Shop is my trusty Niner Air 9 RDO, which has recently seen a rapid increase in activity. I dabble on trails and gravel throughout the summer when i just need a break in training, but this time of year it's a complete roll reversal. My Fuji will get it's well earned break and rest comfortably indoors while my Niner takes the full flogging. I have had a particular itch to ride gravel at the tail end of August coming into September. I think it's a combination of the rural setting associated with non-paved roads, the minimal amount of traffic, and random seasonal roads interspersed throughout the countryside that pique my interest the most. There's something about hammering out some steady mileage as the sun is busy painting the skyline in iridescent tones that just screams "Fall is here!!!" to me (Fall happens to be my favorite season). It feels good to breathe in the cool evening air and just go wherever the dirt roads wind to. I find that i am in dire need of a break from structured training this time of year, and getting out on the MTB is just the cure.
View of the Lowell countryside with fellow Freewheeler Eric

My last road race of the season came in the form of the Pro/1/2 criterium which happened to be the State Championship at Birmingham. I came into it just hoping to finish with the main field, get a good workout, and end the season on a note that says "you can hang with these guys!". As expected, the race was a fast one, and frankly after the first few laps i had no idea what was going on. The field was splitting, people were off the front, groups were on the verge of lapping other groups, and there i was just riding along. I should clarify, i was hanging on for dear life to whatever group seemed to be upwardly mobile. As it came down to the final laps, it was self-evident that i was no where near the front so i decided to break away from the group i was with and push myself to finish hard. There were a few guys in the field i wanted to help out as i discovered they were in the top 20, and also from Grand Rapids. When they regained me i slyly sat up to disrupt the riders that were in pursuit of them. It felt good to contribute to someones day since i was destined for mediocrity. I finished in the dead middle of the field of just over 60, and was plenty happy with that to wrap the season up.
Notice the mismatched wheels, the matching front was destroyed at Gaslight

The weekend following Birmingham, Labor Day weekend, was set to be one full of fun riding and racing. Bissell is kind enough to make the weekend 4 days in length with the addition of Friday off from work. My work friends and i had a scheme to ride around 50 miles of gravel starting in Allendale at Scott's house, stopping at Lake Michigan for a break, and returning via a different route. What we didn't count on was the toll that the wind and savage heat/humidity would take on us. Starting the ride out we knew we were in for a more difficult day than any of us had desired. A third of the way into the ride we hit a season road that could pull double duty as a beach.
Joe assessing the road conditions thoroughly

Spirits were lifted as the Lake came into view and we set the bikes down to revel in the awesomeness of a day off spent riding to the lake with good friends. There was much anticipation of a tail wind on the return trip, which unfortunately for us never quite panned out. We weaved our way north and east up to the Bass River area to explore some gravel and two tracks. An unplanned hot lap around a pond was completed and we resumed our trip back to Scott's. The last 10 miles were a bit of a death march, few words were uttered and the pace was kept high to get back as soon as possible. Needless to say, arriving back at Scott's was nothing short of glorious, and a well water fueled hose was presented to cool the masses. The remainder of the evening was spent in good company consuming massive quantities of grilled meats and delicious fare. All those that rode concluded that next time we would ride far fewer miles at a less fervent pace as to stash energy for the evening's social activities.
A welcome timeout on the friday ride

Joe and Aaron practicing for the circus

I had nothing in the tank to ride Saturday so i executed my plan on being lazy and hanging out with my buddy Chris at some local establishments. Sunday rolled around and i managed to squeeze in a brief ride to recover the legs and then resume my lazy ways. Labor Day brought with it my second appearance at the Honeycreek Duathlon in Cannonsburg. This is a really fun race that helps to break up the usual bicycle hammer-fests that occur year-round. It's a run-bike-run format and is pretty low key which adds to the laid back nature of the event. I have to admit that i haven't been running very much, and wasn't particularly pumped about the 1.5 mile first run which is naturally blazing fast. I knew i could suffer through the 3.5 mile second run, and the only question was if i could gain enough time back on the bike to make up for how slow my pace would be! It went better than i had expected, and i knew coming in that it would be a battle for second place with Fast Jimi in the field. In the end i got overtaken on the second run with about a mile to go thus ending the race in third position. The real fun began afterwards as the live music started up, libations began to flow and good food was piled onto segmented disposable plates often associated with summer cookouts.

My tan lines, loud and proud! Photo courtesy of Julie McGraw

This week has been primarily filled with more gravel and single-track as i prepare myself for the Chequamegon 40. I attended my first Korienek Killer gravel road ride and had a blast! Those guys sure know how to have a good time, with plenty of dirt and sand to go around. It was the first time i've had the headlamp out in a while and it felt good. Last night was spent carving up some local singletrack in the cannonsburg area with an ascent/descent of the main ski hill thrown in for good measure. I'm looking forward to many more gravel group rides and singletrack shenanigans as Fall gets into full swing!
Cruising the beach in the Allegan state forest

View from atop the Cannonsburg ski hill

Friday, August 23, 2013

My first Pro/1/2 criterium complete with my first Pro/1/2 crash...

The Delta Subaru Gaslight criterium is one of my favorite crits for myriad reasons. First, I can ride my bike to the start since it's less than 3 miles from where i live. Second, The course provides a good spectating experience which seems to consistently draw a good crowd. Third, the payouts and primes are pretty awesome (and in cash i may add...)! I've raced all year as a Cat 3 and finally chose to upgrade a week or so before this race. I wanted to get a few Pro/1/2 races under my belt while i still had decent fitness and the desire to race my road bike (which is rapidly waning). I monitored the registrations on USA cycling which is a typical habit of mine to see who all is showing up on race day. I was impressed to see around 45 people signed up in pre-reg, but even more surprised to see the 60 or so guys that lined up at the start. This race would be my longest crit by far at 90 minutes in duration so i was anxious to see how my legs would hold up to the relentless accelerations. Prior to the race i decided to sit in with the pack and not follow any breaks that might occur. While i always want to place highly i also realized this is a higher caliber of talent and at the very least did not want to get dropped.

Keeping in step with the field

The first few laps went by smoothly as no one seemed terribly interested in the food prime that was up for grabs. As the laps ticked by though i could feel the presence of Bissell and Einstein pushing the pace ever higher. As always, the attacks started coming and the accompanying surges in the field. At some points there would be a single file line the length of a city block and at other times the pack would be 5 or 6 wide. I focused on keeping a smooth rhythm through all of the surges and making sure i didn't over compensate for every little jump. My legs felt pretty solid and it wasn't a problem keeping up with the pace in general. I started to get antsy waiting for the lap counter to start ticking down and finally around 15 to go the official started counting down.
The field must have been antsy too because i began to notice more aggressive tactics and maneuvers while teams were preparing for the final run in. While people were jostling i worked hard to keep my place in the pack and not get relegated to the rear of the peloton, and then it happened... On the last turn of the course before the finishing stretch of lap 13 i got pushed upright by a surging pack trying to take the outer line. At first i thought i could save it, but once my wheel caught the groove between the pavement and curb i knew it was curtains for me. I focused my attention on the curb as i lost control trying to protect my face from hitting. I went over the bars and in a flurry of limbs, carbon and spokes my chest hit the curb and my bike got catapulted by my legs over my body. I heard the tire get shunned from the rim on impact as it was marked by a loud boom. I rolled over the curb and up onto the grass where i immediately jumped upright. In one fell swoop i grabbed my bike and began running down the road towards the pit. I could feel the pain in my chest and legs from where i had done battle with the curb.
The front wheel was completely toasted and the mechanic began replacing it at once. I was afraid for what i might find under my jersey as the bib strap caused pain in my chest. I tried to calm myself, drink some water and not stare at the wounds on my legs. My bike was given a hesitant ok and after one lap i was lined up on the right hand side of the road waiting to get launched back into the field. The officials held my bike TT style and wished me the best of luck. I managed to latch on as they came through on lap 11 and worked hard to get my quads to push the pedals with the giant knots from the crash. I tried not to loose my edge which often happens after a crash, and forced my will to stay near the front of the group. The pace became intense with just a few short laps to go. My Garmin was chirping every two minutes to tell me that one mile had already zoomed by. In the last stretch near the lake i gave it my all and picked up a few spots. Once we rounded the turn i leapt from the saddle and went into sprint mode. I gained a few positions there and could see the leaders as they crossed.

Wondering if i still have my left nipple...

The adrenaline ran high post-race and i hardly noticed my battered body. I did a cool down lap and congratulated those that surrounded me on a race well done. I rode up to some friends and stopped at the far end of the course to get off the bike. I chatted with a few folks, including Ben Whitehead who informed me that my crash was spectacular and he was shocked to see my figure back in the pack afterwards. We was on my wheel when it happened and was thankful the bike flung clear of him as opposed to blocking his path. With all that being said i finished 15th, and managed to collect a bit of the cash that was forked out to the top 20. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly enough to replaced a wheel and pay for a gallon of Neosporin.
I was happy to see many teammates out racing in their respective categories, and those not racing that were there just to support and cheer. Every time i went by my family or the Freewheeler tent i could hear them urging me on, and for that i give thanks!
Beat up bike and rider

The guys at Freewheeler Bike Shop have their work cut out for them!

Here's the Strava link of the race

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mud, Dust and good times at Ore to Shore

A good friend of mine, Joe Perry, and i headed up to Marquette early Friday morning. We wanted to setup camp at Van Riper State park and head into Marquette to pickup packets prior to the race on Saturday. The weather was pleasant driving up, and we made good time to camp. After setting up the tents, we unloaded the bikes and ventured north from camp following the Peshekee river on a rough and tumble road. It felt good to breathe the cool north country air and stretch the legs out. The sights were enjoyable as well, with the river meandering close to the road for most of our ride.

Posing for posterity near the Peshekee river

Since my first time attending Ore to Shore in 2011 I've been itching to get back and race it again. Much has changed over the two years since my first time there, and it showed on this years edition. In 2011 i raced the hard rock on a single speed 26er, mid-pack start position, medium fitness and very little experience. Jump forward two years and I'm on a decked out carbon 29er 1x10, lined up behind the preferred start gate, much better fitness and feeling like a veteran. It's also nice to come into a race you've done before knowing what to expect, what the trail/terrain is like, and how the conditions will come into play. The weather this year couldn't have been more perfect, and the rain that was had in the area days before had done a good job of tamping down the nefarious iron riddled dust and loose dirt. The rain also did a nice job of stocking some healthy mud puddles and keeping the grassy areas slick.
The roll out was pretty much standard practice with one small pile-up near the front around a turn on the pavement. Per usual, people were drilling it to get into position and move as far up as possible. Once things left the road the dust began to rise and then sure enough, pile-up in the first large puddle. I managed to skirt around without having to dismount and was on my way. I slowly moved up to where i wanted to be, and just when i started settling in i felt a slight nudge from behind and before i knew it i was on the deck. The slick grass had gotten the best of me and racers were flying by as i was trying to collect my bottles. I wasn't down long, but i managed to go down at the base of the first large climb which was unfortunate. The adrenaline served me well in gaining the summit, and once i again i was able to settle in to a good pace and eventually form a group of a few strong guys to work with.
The ATV trails and two tracks rolled by uneventfully, and soon enough the power lines came into sight. For those that have done this race, you know what I'm talking about... For those that don't, just know that a climb titled "misery hill" is included in this section. The hike a bike went by painfully, and soon we were over the top negotiating some of the fine rocky terrain that Marquette is so well known for. The group more or less stayed together through the road section, and myself and Ryan Kennedy worked well keeping the pace nice and high. Some may see this section as a nice respite from getting work done, but i see it as an opportunity to hammer out a hefty pace and draw some time back.
It was pleasant racing with the familiar faces i had been battling throughout the season both on and off the road. Aaron McCready offered up kind words when i had slipped from the pack and later regained the group.I feel like breaking the silence while in a pack does a good job of distracting from the suffering that is taking place. As we got farther into the race, some began to drift backwards as they say and eventually our group was down to 4 near the finish. I took the opportunity to attack through a long sandy downhill and hammer through the conifers and up Kirby Hill. My pursuant were reluctant to let me go easy though, and soon they rejoined me on the trail. Things were heating up, and just when i was feeling in control with 3 miles to go down i went. I was coming around a slow rider from a short race and came in too hot on a soft turn. The two guys that were behind me managed to blow by and create a gap. Quickly i regained the bike and pulled them in with 2 miles to go. The rest of the way was just a battle of wills, and no one was willing to coast in. An attack was thrown with a quarter mile to go that i just didn't have the legs for. I sprinted my heart out, but came up shy at the line.
I was thrilled however to see the clock read 2 hours 35 minutes and change. My hope was to finish top 20 and withing 10 minutes of the winning time, and I'm happy to say i finished 17th and approximately 9 minutes behind numero uno! Joe had a strong race and posted a solid time for his first Ore to Shore showing. He managed an awesome finish, catching up to some of my Freewheeler racing teammates, and did so in spite of being stuck behind a train early on! I stayed near the finish to congratulate many of the folks i see often and to chat with my teammates about their respective races.
Finish line relief is one of the best feelings!
Here's a link to my race Strava if that sort of thing interests you

Joe looking relieved and satisfied with his race!

The remainder of Saturday was spent getting the car, cleaning bikes, cleaning off the iron rich dirt and getting some grub. We managed to score an awesome camping spot in Christmas which is just west of Munising. We put our tents down less than 20 feet from the lake, setup folding chairs on the beach and regaled each other with the events of the race. I always enjoy a good race, but it's that much better when you have good company! As always, i have to give props to my awesome sponsor, Freewheeler bike shop out of Grand Rapids, without those guys hooking me up on all the gear, nutrition and kit i need it wouldn't have been the same race. Special shout out to Curt and Jason for always keeping up with my many demands, and to my teammates and their families for the cheers, support and camaraderie that make these races so memorable!

View from Saturday night's campsite of Grand Island