Dragon's Back Mountain Bike Race
April 11, 1999

What a day. It started out really badly. I didn't sleep very well because my roommate was having a rowdy gathering of friends. Then I woke up to the sound of thunder and rain. I wasn't even sure if the race was going to take place, but nonetheless decided to go. You can never be too sure. A friend and classmate of mine, Robin Laqui, was going along as well to compete in his first mountain bike race.

It was a hectic and muddy trek to get to the starting line. The Dragon's Back race is located in the Jefferson National Forest, outside of Roanoke, Virginia. Once again my friend Matt loaned me his Cannondale for the race. At the start I took off faster than I'd planned. It was too hard to ride behind other people because of the muddy spray.

The course essentially consisted of a few miles of fire roads, a 2.5 mile single-track climb that was very narrow and rocky, a steep decent, a high speed singe-track section and then a fire road back to the finish line.

By the time we arrived at the first climb I was in second place. There were a lot of people from various classes slowly making their way up. Since it was so wet and rocky, in most places it was faster to walk the bike than ride it. It's quite strange to pass someone while walking your bike. But that's what I did and by the top of the mountain I was well in front with clear road ahead of me.

The rain had abated before the start of the race but there was considerable fog and moisture. My visor was covered with mud and fogging up as well. The downhill descent was very narrow and fast, with lots of switchbacks. There was also water flowing down parts of the trail, enough so that it sounded like a flowing stream. With a good cushion between myself and the next competitor I decided to be conservative and not risk crashing.

Still, when I got to the bottom I was worried about being caught. First place is a difficult position to get to and to maintain. So I pushed hard when I felt the risks were low. This way I could afford to be a bit cautious in the other sections. Of course this doesn't mean everything was perfect. I did fall once going up the mountain while walking the bike. Also, there were problems with the gears occasionally not shifting right.

But for the most part everything was great. At the end I did finally manage to win. The third time was the charm. Over the course of an hour and 23 minutes I managed to keep my lead over the next guy by about 5 minutes. Not bad for such miserable conditions and a lousy start to the day.

On top of that Robin managed to finish 3rd in his very first mountain bike race and I got some more bike parts for Matt as a prize. So we were quite satisfied with our results today.