This past Sunday was the first Island Cup Cross Country Mountain Bike race of the year, and would also be my first mountain bike race. While I had grown up riding mountain bikes, I had gotten away from it over the years as Rowing through High School and University consumed my time. I recently got a new bike (Trek Fuel ex8 from Oak Bay Bikes ), hoping to spend more time training on the trails away from cars, and I thought it would be fun to give racing a shot.
The race took place on Cobble Hill, just over the Malahat. I had never been there before, but just off the island highway you can find a park with pump track, jump lines, and a little but steep mountain with fantastic singletrack all over it. The race course consisted of a long singletrack climb followed by a great section of flowy natural singletrack that took you about halfway down the hill, a short fireroad climb, more singletrack descending, and then a bit of transitional singletrack to the start of the course. As this was my first race, I lined up with the Intermediate class.
The start of the race was actually just off the race course, and was a 100m straight fireroad that turned left into a wall of an access road, after which you turned right onto the course proper. Justin from OBB offered my a first row spot, and I took the holeshot got to the top of the steep fireroad climb first, and got to work on the singletrack. As for the rest of the race, I wish there was more of a story, but I must have gapped everyone on the first climb and never saw another Intermediate rider for the remainder of the 72 minute race. Obviously, road legs help on the mountain bike as well. This is one of the great things about mountain bike racing - whether you are off the front or off the back, you can still have fun crushing the climbs and ripping the descent.
The day ended with a barbecue and podium presentations, as well as trading stories with fellow racers. My impressions of the race, and mountain biking in general, was very positive. Everyone was welcoming and friendly to beginners, and in stark contrast to road racing (which can be a bit of a boy's club), the number of women and children I saw racing was really inspiring. If you have been thinking of trying some knobby tires, I would heartily recommend it. Between VCL's and some larger road races this summer, I'll definitely be looking to do more of it myself.
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