Archive for May, 2009

The Humiliation 100, a.k.a. The Hammerhead 100 Mountain Bike Race

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Never again. Never ever ever again.
It was called the Hammerhead 100. A mountain bike race in central Florida in May. Fifty or 100 mile option. It should have been called the Humiliation 100.
Sunstroke. Dust inhalation. My cycling jersey soaked with 50 gallons of sweat, I gallon for each miserable mile I rode. The humidity was so high it was like breathing through wet gauze. It was already 84 degrees at 8 in the morning.
I wrecked in the first three miles. Face planted into the soft dirt. That wasn’t the end of it. As the day went on it was like being baked slowly to death while having your private parts beaten to mush.
At some point I started sympathizing with every country song ever written. Lost my job, lost my dog, lost my truck, low down deep dark depression, excessive misery. “Doom, despair and agony on me.”
Garth Brooks sang about having friends in low places. Hell, I didn’t even have friends. I could have used a friend. You know, to hand up a water bottle, or a stretcher, or something.
At least when the Wicked Witch of the West was melting she had flying monkeys. I could have used a flying monkey. I don’t know what for but I would have at least made sure the sonofabitch brought Gatorade.
Then it was over. And there were meatball subs and chocolate cake. And what else can you ask for but fast calories when there are bruises on top of the bruises and you don’t have a friend?

The Tanasi Mountain Bike Mudbath at U.S. Cup #1/SERC #5: riders do their spring washing at the Ocoee Whitewater Center.

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Like shooting a gun out of moving car, racing a mountain bike in the mud is a guilty pleasure.
Sure, it’s hard on drive trains, riders and trails. But if you only do it once in awhile it doesn’t hurt anything.
Even your local bike shop benefits, because they get to replace your brakes, cassette and chain. Think about it this way, by racing in the mud you’re providing jobs in this hard-pressed economy. Plus it’s crazy fun.
This weekend’s inaugural U.S. Cup East race at the Tanasi Trails/Ocoee Whitewater Center in Ducktown, Tennessee, was blessed with copious amounts of rain. Home to one of the East’s fastest XC downhills, the Thunder Rock Express, the slick mud made an already challenging course even more demanding.

Start of U.S. Cup 1 / SERC #5 at Tanasi Trails, Ocoee Whitewater Center near Ducktown, Tennessee

Start of U.S. Cup 1 / SERC #5 at Tanasi Trails, Ocoee Whitewater Center near Ducktown, Tennessee

The race started with a 3-mile climb to the top on a combination of singletrack and fire roads laced with steep pitches, roots, and rocky shale. The first section of downhill started with fire road then quickly turned to the fast and technical Thunder Rock Express.
Thunder Rock tests a rider’s ability to handle speed, turns and rocks even in fair weather. Riders are admonished before the race, “there’s a place where you’re going to want to catch air…don’t do it…you’ll fly off the side of the mountain.” And then they add, as an afterthought, “when you come up to it it’s marked with tape.”
With the rain it made the downhill even more crazy. The bikes railed the corners just as nimbly as they do in dry weather, but slick mud and roots created more drift. Riders who thought they nailed a corner went wide-eyed as the bike kept sliding out towards the edge of the trail, catching at the last second. Strackacobra’s El Jefe had his Stumpjumper sideways just to make a fast corner.
There may have been sponsored athletes at the race, but we aren’t sure from where because everybody was wearing the common brown uniform of mud from head to toe afterwards.
The Kenda riders became “KE(mud),” the cool “XXIX” Gary Fisher Logo simply became (mud), and the Strackacobra “Preserve Your Nuts” logo was left with only a few peanuts visible.
Afterwards it looked like a scene from “Little House on the Prairie” with everyone down at the river doing their washing. Bikes were doused, cycling jerseys were stripped, and I personally used a Park Tools gear cleaning brush to wipe the mud off my Pearl Izumis.
And still we’ll spend hours at the laundromat rubbing Tide into piles of wet mountain bike clothing.
Washing up at Tanasi after U.S. Cup 1

Washing up at Tanasi after U.S. Cup 1

As a nod to the weather and trail preservation the sinewy River Loop section was cut out of the race, dropping the trail length from 11 miles to 8 (leaving in only the trails that were pure ascending or pure descending). The event was part of the Southeast Regional Championship Series (SERC) as well as U.S. Cup, and Goneriding did their usual great job putting the race on.
A scorpion? In Tennessee?
Perhaps even more surprising than the wet weather at the race was the scorpion I found on my tent as I was packing up. I’ve never seen a scorpion in the wild before and to me it looked like a really pissed-off crawdad. I was convinced the Texans across the campground brought it all the way from Amarillo and put it on my tent. But after searching the internet, it turns out scorpions really do live in Tennessee. They’re pretty rare, too, which means I’ll come back next year.
Eats on the way up: the Vortex in Atlanta.
On the way I up from Strackacobra HQ in Florida I stopped at the Vortex Grill for what is considered Atlanta’s best burger. I got the classic burger and it was good eats as advertised. It’s a massive thing and about double the size of a regular burger anywhere else, smothered with cheese and enough to fill you up. Served with a choice of sides and a diet Coke the meal came to under $10.
There are two Vortex locations in Atlanta, I went to the midtown location on Peachtree Street NE between 7th and 8th Streets. Parking was tight but I found a meter around the corner on 7th. I stopped at the Little Five Points location first but some slack ass in a lawn chair wanted $4 for parking…in the restaurant’s own parking lot. Plus as soon as I stopped some locals rolled up in a Monte Carlo and offered a brand new plasma TV for $600. There was way too much action going on in Little Five Points for my liking, especially with an expensive racing bike I didn’t want to leave out of sight.