Archive for June, 2009

Mountain Bike Racing and Poaching Campsites: the Racer’s Life on the Road

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

An article on cash free camping at Backcountry.com posed an interesting question: is it worse to poach a reserved campsite after midnight, or is it worse to reserve a campsite and never show up?
This is relevant to me after hiding in the woods at the recent Bump N Grind.
I showed up at the state park where the race was being held only to find out the campground was full, but I talked my way in because there’s usually a spot or two open that nobody wants.
I was in luck: there was one spot left.
But when I got to the actual site there was a reserved card placed on my patch of ground. In this particular campground the tent sites are located in clusters of four to seven sites arranged around a single parking area.
I started to go back to the gate to straighten things out but then thought better of it. I’d been checked in by a half-stoned teenager who probably got it wrong: the camp was full. And the mean looking old lady with no social graces he was working with would probably boot me out if I went back.
So I saw what was obviously a tent pad located right next door to my paid site with no number. I went ahead and set up there, and sweated out a night wondering if the ranger was going to kick me out.
There strange thing was that those sites remained reserved all weekend and even changed ownership a few times. Yet two actual spots were never camped in the entire time. As a matter of fact, there were pleny of open spots all over the campground for the three days I was there.
I understand if you get going late and can’t make it to your destination. But reserve a site for a whole weekend and then don’t show up? And the campground, does it bother them at all to claim it full when there’s at least 10 percent vacancy?
As for my two cents I think it’s a far shittier thing to reserve a site and leave someone who needs it stranded than it is to poach a site that no one is using.

Bump N Grind 15: Strackacobra Survives Blood Rock and the Mid-Season Blahs

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Survive is about all you can do in the middle of a long mountain bike racing season.
Training started way back in October. The first race was in February at the 12 Hours of Santos and the season won’t end until the U.S. Cup Finals in Las Vegas in September. And then we jump right back into the Florida State Series that starts in the fall.
So it was bound to happen. Call it a lack of motivation or just the mid-season blahs, but we positively stunk up the first few miles of the Bump N Grind in Birmingham, Alabama. We couldn’t find speed if we were looking under the hood of a hemi Charger.
It got better, and everything clicked into place by the time we hit the first flat jeep road. We really started passing people at that point and then continued a torrid pace through the singletrack, up the long climb, and then positively railed the descent past Blood Rock and down the mountain.
But we dug a hole too deep and finished with the same placement as last year, and with a slightly slower time. It’s frustrating, but most times it’s all you need to get motivated again, put on a clean cycling jersey and hit the trails like a fury.
Bump N Grind XV
Bump N Grind just gets better every year. The “Bump” is the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers and they put on the one “can’t miss” race in the Southeast. The course is excellent and start times are notoriously punctual. The volunteers all act like professionals, and the riders are taken care of with good directions and neutral water on the course, and food and music afterward. There’s also plenty of great swag.
The Trail and Blood Rock
The race trail for the sport and expert classes is a 17-mile loop consisting of mostly singletrack with a long climb up a scree-filled jeep road and a crazy fast technical descent. The descent is highlighted by “Blood Rock”, a series of short rocky stair steps that twist from side to side. If you stand at the bottom the line is really easy to see. But when you’re flying downhill in hot pursuit of the next rider, mistakes are easy to make and thus there were a few riders that needed patched. After Blood Rock it still takes awhile to get to the bottom, and since it’s all singletrack, it’s wickedly, deliciously fun.
Pro XCT
We hung around to watch the women’s Pro XCT race before we had to clear out and get on the road home. Both groups of pros had a 6.3 mile course with multiple laps, missing the Blood Rock section but getting most of the descent.
The cyclocross champ Katie Compton was racing for Sho-Air, and the Luna Chicks were there, and the dreamy Willow Koerber as well. Ah, Willow.
The ladies group turned the first lap in 20 minutes. That’s fast.
Eating While in Birmingham
Taziki’s Greek Fare on Don Baker Parkway is this years winner. We found the place last year after Birmingham riders raved about the Chicken Penne Pasta, a heaping plate of cycling calories marinated in balsamic vinaigrette. It was just as good this year, and the baklava was like pure cycling rocket fuel.
Cyclists Suck Salt and America’s Worst Hamburger.
It was good that Taziki’s was so good because Milo’s was soooo bad.
Milo’s is supposed to have one of the best hamburgers in Birmingham. While the texture was very good and the cheese was melted just right, Milo’s may serve the worst hamburger in America.
When we were kids we used to go down to the convenience store and get these hamburgers prepackaged in plastic and then heated in a microwave. They were disgusting but edible and we were kids eating on the curb and thought it was haute cuisine.
Milo’s was worse. I would say it was like eating dog food, but I’ve never had dog food, and for all I know Alpo might be tasty and thus better than Milo’s.
Even the fries were bad. Like the burger they were cooked just right with a wonderful texture, but they were coated in a neon orange powder that made them look like giant cheetos. This coating was pure brine so eating them was like eating a neon colored salt lick. Let me tell you something, when a cyclist who just finished a race tells you something is too salty, it’s too salty. Cyclists have been known to order a large McDonald’s fries after a race just to suck the salt off each individual fry. When your fries are too salty for that customer, when you put your fries in an aquarium and even a dolphin can’t swim in it, you need to dial back the sodium chloride.