We got this nice little write-up of the Bearjaw race from Thom F.
Anyone who has done a relay race knows the unique atmosphere in the transition area. You have a bunch of racers anxiously awaiting their teammate’s arrival where race numbers are blasted over amplifiers & each person is hoping to catch a first glance confirmation of their partner approaching. It’s kind of tense & you pass the slow moving time chatting with others or looking at the race data as you assess lap times and constantly guess on the arrival time of your mate.
Occasionally there is an arriving racer & his accompanying number being announced over the speakers repeatedly to an empty response from a no-show teammate. Everyone’s head starts scanning the area & the racer is left standing there pissed & confused that his mate isn’t relieving him. The mood of the transition area turns to shaking heads and disapproving tones, its frowned upon heavily. Then some jackass comes running into the transition area and apologizes to the response of his buddy pushing him on to the course to make up for lost time. I never wanted to be “that guy”…. the jackass.
On September 8th Flagstaff had its first 12hr mountain bike race named “Bear Jaw Groove” presented by ADESII adventures. As a local I had not ridden the course because it was far from town & just established for the race recently. The buzz amongst entrants who pre-rode it was mostly positive. The elevation was estimated at 800ft per 9-mile lap of half fire road and half singletrack.
I paired up with my Form Cycles teammate Tim & we planned to try 2 laps each rider’s turn and see how that went. Our guess was 50 minutes or less per lap. Tim, being the morning bird, always gets stuck doing the first lap at these events. The starts are always a cluster fuck of riders, crashes, dust, cold temps & stiff legs trying to get the gap. Off Tim went & I rounded up gear and tried to squeeze out one more bathroom break. I did the math in my head & figured out a safe time to arrive in the transition area.
As the leaders came through for the first lap I noted the times & quickly saw Tim approach at a close to estimated pre-race guess. Better kit up & lube that chain….one more port-a-potty date? …where is my left arm warmer?….one more cup of coffee…shit, race # is in the car…sunblock?….hmmmmm, a little more air in that rear tire….. “Dude!!! Tim just went by!!!!!”. I threw my shoes & helmet on & could hear the announcer calling my name & number. As I scrambled up through the crowd towards Tim I could see his expression & shaking head. Not cool, you are that guy.
The course started gradually climbing up a 3-mile dirt road and hit some good sustained pitches. As I pedaled up I was pretty pissed at myself & filled my head with damage control planning. My teammate ripped out a hard effort & I squandered a portion of that by leaving him high & dry. I didn’t even have my number plate on. I laughed at the possibility of me screwing up our overall race placement due to the 45 seconds I surrendered. The course was much better than I expected, we had swooping big turn singletrack over small power climbs that transitioned to some pretty steep dirt road climbs. The Ponderosa pines & beautiful old growth aspen groves yielded nice scenery as well. I would definitely recommend riding this area & doing this event in 2013.
At the 4th hour it appeared that we were in contention with 1st place men’s duo against Mike & Jason from Over The Edge Bike Shop. Two great guys that can rip singletrack proficiently. Either one dropped me on the descents when the downhill got hairy. As the day went on we would gain or lose a minute to team Over The Edge (OTE). It was back & forth each time check & it was going to be a classic nail biter. I think we all had a lousy lap, & mine was a cramp-laden effort that almost sidelined me. Thank god for 20oz of pickle juice under a shade tree during my rest period. By the 11th hour and final lap we had 49 seconds to make up to beat team OTE. As mike & I waited for our teammates, we both confessed to being totally thrashed and not looking forward to this final lap. The last lap for us had to be a throw down attempt on both our behalves, 1st place depended on it.
Yup, 49 goddamn seconds of poetic justice to make up.
Jason was first to fly in to hand off the lap to Mike. As Mike tore up the road & I waited for Tim impatiently and quickly noted Mike disappearing over the horizon. Then Tim came hauling up & slammed the baton in my hand. I drilled it as hard as I could up the sustained climb & stalked the road ahead for Mike. I had to make contact with him before the descent.
After an eternity I finally got a visual on Mike with less than a mile remaining of the climb. He seemed to dangle 50 yards away forever & I couldn’t close it down fast enough. Eventually I got within 10 yards but we were cresting to an immediate singletrack descent. Not good. Sure enough, Mike effortlessly floated away through the downhill. I lost view of him quickly & demoralization soon followed.
I was alone for a long time & took big risks to try and catch him. As I hit an open field I saw Mike with his bike laid over attempting to fill a puncture with air as Stans squirted everywhere. I stopped, asked what he needed and he replied that he was good & that I should go. I didn’t want to win that way but I also wasn’t bummed.
As I rode off I knew I couldn’t take anything for granted. The way things were going for me that day I figured we would sprint through the finish line. There was about 3 miles left & I had to get there as fast as possible. Just then Mike flew by me and yelled “Back on it!!!” I replied, “You fucker!!!”
He blew his first two lines through the singletrack turns & unclipped once to stay upright. I fought onto his wheel & tried to figure if & when I could get around him. It wasn’t happening, he was too fast. I stared at his back tire & it looked firm. I scrambled for a plan as real estate was quickly disappearing.
I noted that he was losing ground on the short power climbs & I jumped him on the next one. I almost blew up on the effort but was able to get a gap. I punched it and felt my legs boiling over. When I glanced back Mike seemed to be losing ground. This was it, last chance, gotta hold pace.
As the last ½ mile approached I dared to look over my shoulder & he was not there. I repeatedly looked back until I crossed the line. Soon after, Mike rolled up with a saggy rear tire. It was an incredible race & one of the best days on the bike. I’m still humbled by the stiff competition and the beauty of what bicycle racing can show you.
See you there next year!