Misty Mountain Hop Bike Race
September 27, 1998
What a weekend! I had a pretty nice time these last few days, as opposed to last weekend when I spent every waking hour doing homework. On Saturday I got to drive the Formula SAE car again. It had been a while since the last time, and it was a blast. It was also the most violent vehicle/course combination I've ever driven. Aware of my need to be well the next day, I did not push too hard (i.e. I didn't spin). My times were pretty good and quite consistent. But I did get knocked around a little, resulting in some bruises and blisters on various parts of my hands and legs. Nothing big though.
It happened to everyone who drove the car. In fact my friend Rob actually had cuts on his back (we're talking blood) just from driving this car a few weeks prior. While it is true that this car's ergonomics were far from ideal, people who've not driven these cannot understand just how forceful they can be.
The next morning I woke up early to get to the bike race. I did my usual breakfast, warm up ride, and then had a plate of pasta. But I was a touch sore from the day before. This time though, I was bright enough to buy a pair of biking gloves to avoid the suffering of the last race. Things were going to be different.
On the starting line I was joined by my friends Eric Holmberg and Bryan Morrison, along with 14 other riders (17 total). The Misty Mountain Hop race takes place each year at a resort called Mountain Lake, about 4,000 feet above sea level . It's where the movie 'Dirty Dancing' was filmed. The scenery is terrific.
The race is part of the Virginia State Championship and sanctioned by NORBA, so the competition was much tougher than at the Rowdy Dawg race. And I didn't feel as good (see above) as last time. When we started, everyone took off while I was a bit more conservative, only keeping the leaders in sight. Gradually, as we began to climb (1,500 ft. total), I passed more and more people.
Eventually I caught up to the two out front. One began to fade and dropped back. So I thought that was it. But this course was tough. There were more and more hills, and I began to have problems leaving the other guy behind. We talked and I found out that there was, in fact, one other guy ahead somewhere way down the road. I didn't believe him because I thought I had my eye on everyone. So I concentrated on staying in position to eventually pull away from him.
For a long time, I would stay behind him on the downhill single tracks, and then get held up going up the hills. So finally I took him going into a downhill section, keeping him behind me. Then I got to the next climb first and never looked back.
At one point, I came down this really steep hill and saw a huge vertical rock that was like a curb (almost a foot wide, at least 8 inches high). I was able to hop over it, but there were rocks after. The front wheel bounced around a bit and suddenly stopped. Naturally I had my over-the-handlebar trip. I can't seem to get through a race without going over the bars at least once. Fortunately, including this time, I have always landed on my feet. So I picked the bike up and kept going without getting a single scratch. I have no idea how this happens.
Other than fading brakes (I could smell them), the rest of the race was uneventful. When I got to the line, I found out it was true: There was one other bike ahead of me. Over the course of 9.25 miles, I finished about 2 and a half minutes behind the winner with a time of 1:00:22. Second place doesn't feel very good when you thought you might have won and could have ridden a little bit harder. I hope it never feels good. I only want to win.
Still, it sure beats getting the wrong directions like last time. And I got some prizes, mostly bike parts. So I gave them to Matt, my friend who generously loaned me his bike.
I didn't get hurt. The gloves helped tremendously, and somehow my right knee was not hitting the pump this time. Everything (almost!) went according to plan .
I also got to ride down much of the seven mile road that descends from the top of the mountain down to the bottom. It was a great feeling to coast down all those twisty curves. So this was a pretty good weekend. I wonder how the next race (whenever that is) will turn out. Will the third time be the charm?