Race Report by David Hardwick, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Photo: Dan Williams
I didn’t get a chance to try any of the races at Rim Nordic last year because of scheduling conflicts, so when I saw I was free to hit Round #2 of the 2016 Rim Nordic Enduro 5-race series I jumped at the opportunity. My teammate Dan hit me up the weekend before and mentioned he was going to go up and do some recon on the course changes for the upcoming race. I told him as long as we can through it a detour to Exploration trail when we were finished that I was totally in. So the weekend before the race I met up with Dan and another teammate, Sam, to go check out the race stages. It was a great day of riding, laughing, learning and teaching. We all learned something new and Dan and I traded race lines to try and get a step up on the competition.
Okay, now to the meat of the story. Saturday morning is here way to early but it’s race day and I’m feeling excited. I know Dan is going to be waiting for me at the shop so we can carpool up to the mountains. There’s a little extra pep in my step this morning. We meet up at 7am, move his bike and gear to my Subaru and it’s time to get moving. We arrived at Rim Nordic about 8:30 or so, allowing some time for socializing and me time to get registered. We met up with a few other teammates and chatted about the changes from Round #1 and how we were feeling about our prospects for the day’s race.
About 9:30 the organizers called out to gather us for the racer meeting. After reviewing the stages and some general rules, it was good luck to everyone: race clean, stay upright and everyone have a fun day. Little did I know that fun was going to be the name of the game this day. The organizers of the Rim Nordic Enduro series allow self or group shuttling, but for Stage One everyone has to pedal up together. When we got to the top they had already started sending riders on course. After we caught our breath, Dan and I lined up to begin the first of five timed stages for the day.
Now I’m a Downhill guy, so normally any chance to jump on a shuttle I’d be all over it. Today was a different type of day for me though. With a big race for the California Enduro Series coming up next weekend, I knew I could use the extra training and pedal spins at elevation. Dan agreed, we would be pedaling all the transfers together.
Stage One is pretty short at just over a half mile and around 2 minutes long, but it’s got a couple tricky features and some punchy climbs that you need to be prepared for. It’s also got some pretty pedally sections that you could easily pump down, but you know the fastest guys are going to be sprinting everywhere so it you want to be the fastest you’d better get on the gas too! Four of the five stages finish at the same location with a 75 yard slight uphill sprint to the line. I crossed the finish knowing I put down a solid time on this first short stage and began coughing and wheezing with my first asthma attack of the day.
We got to the top of Stage Two and there were only a couple other races lined up. The atmosphere at this race is something totally new and refreshing to me. It has a rather small turnout and a lot of local racers that are all familiar with each other. There are no designated start times; if you’re ready to, you get to go, it’s that simple. All the racers chat with each other and sort themselves. I didn’t hear a single person complain all day. Dan had started first on Stage 1 so we agreed it was only logical that I start first on Stage 2. This stage was pretty straightforward; a fireroad sprint leading into single track and a couple tricky turns, but otherwise just keep smashing the pedals.
Another climb up the transfer and it was time to start Stage Three, the most gravity fed stage, which to me equals the most fun of the day. I’ve ridden this stage years ago when they held a downhill race at Rim Nordic so I was hoping to do well. The stage starts with two quick jumps and a rocket downhill that drops some elevation in a hurry and gives you a sense of what to expect in the next few minutes. Some of the other jumps on course you have to decide is it best to squash it, send it or even prejump and try to pump the backside for some additional speed. Before you know it the fun is over and you take that last deep breath and prepare for the metallic taste in your mouth after sprinting hard to the finish line.
I think everyone was on a high after the first three stages but the fun was about to be tested. Stage Four was the longest of the day and the transfer to get to it was also the longest of the day. On our way up I called to Dan and asked him why everyone we know isn't at this race? The format and relaxed atmosphere is so much fun I don’t know why this race series isn’t crazy packed. We discussed this with a few of our fellow racers on the longer pedal to Stage Four and they all shake their heads with no explanation. I’m not sure of the length but Stage Four was just over 8 minutes of heart pounding, blood tasting, wish you could just die feeling. It starts out fun enough with fun single track turns and some quick rock sections but it quickly turns in a cross country pedalfest. Somewhere around the half way point there’s a 100 foot climb with a 160 degree uphill turn that really test your willingness to stay out of the saddle and keep turning the pedals. The climb doesn’t really end it just fades away to flat single track and you have to use every ounce of will to get yourself back up to speed. Once you’ve done that, you have to prepare yourself for another dozen or so short uphill sprints before the trail starts pointing downhill again. Somewhere in that dozen little climbs I experienced something I never have on a race stage before, a second wind. I started feeling like I was in control again, not just going through the motions after becoming exhausted but looking ahead being prepared and sprinting up the hills with everything I had. Finally the trail turned downhill and I could use that to focus and make sure that I wasn’t going to make any mistakes that would waste all that hard work. Finally I could see the finish line, grab three more gears and smash as hard as I can. Done!
After collecting myself, Dan and I started the grind up to the final Stage Five. We knew after out preride last weekend that at this point in the day this was going to hurt, but there was some relief to be had since stage 5 is the last and shortest of the day at just under 2 minutes. Once we stopped whining about stage 4 we started having fun again. We discussed again why so few people are out enjoying such a beautiful day and a fun set of trails to ride on with your friends and teammates. After we caught our collective breaths we looked at each other and remembered that we had been trading places all day. This is Stage Five and there are no more, so who is going to go first? We both offered to go first, then we both offered to go second. I think our brains were a bit wobbly. Finally we decided on Rock/Paper/Scissors. We tied the first and I won the second. Then we both looked at each other and asked, “Well what does that mean?” Here’s the lesson kids. Make sure you set the rules before you play the game. Finally we decided I got to choose so I politely suggested than Dan go first. Less than three minutes later we were both at the finish area trying to catch our breath and congratulating each other on a great race of racing.
After a quick change it was time for lunch provide by the organizers! Yeah, you pay for it in your registration but still, how cool is that? We collect with the rest of our teammates Peter, Nathan, and Dylan to discuss the day and eagerly await the final results posting. Everyone on the team achieved a podium position! After all the excitement I have a little buzzkill. I was the only person in my age category, but I knew that was a likely scenario about half way through the day. But I knew that I still had to race my hardest and I could compare my times to the times of my teammates and friends to see if my training has prepared me for the hard-fought competition of the upcoming California Enduro Series. I feel it has and I’m ready to take on that challenge this coming weekend.
Thanks for reading my story and I hope you all get out and support the racing at Rim Nordic for the rest of the season!! Lastly a huge thanks to all my sponsors that keep me rolling: The Path Bike Shop for keeping me well supplied and my bikes in good working order, Kenda Tires and Sta-Tru Wheels for literally keeping me rolling. ODI Grips help me keep a handle on things while IXS Sports keeps me safe when everything else gets out of control. Race Face for helping me keep the bike pointed in the right direction & Royal racing for keeping me looking sharp during all my hard days of training.