Written by Eric Olds Friday, 07 August 2015 15:03
Carrabassett Valley, ME
The Carrabassett Challenge offers three distances, 15K, 50K, and 100K with plenty of support in the form of food and beverage along the way making it well worth the entry fee. This was the third year I’ve done the long version of the Carrabassett Challenge and the course just keeps getting better. Back in 2011, their first year, the course was only 50 miles and required two laps around the Touring Center, which was just being developed for mountain biking at the time. Two years later, in 2013, the course was extended to a full 100 KM (~63 miles) including many newly built sections of single track at the Touring Center, but requiring a long hike-a-bike up the ski slopes on Sugarloaf Mountain which was less than fun. This year, the course included more single track, only a small (100% rideable) trip to the ski mountain, and a descent down the amazing Oak Knoll trail in the last few miles of the race.
Another new feature of this year’s race was rain. I’ve been lucky so far and it’s always been dry, and not too hot. This year I was hoping for a nice hot race, since I don’t seem to be as affected by the heat as some people (very selfish of me, I know), but instead we were greeted by rain with temps in the high fifties at race time. This didn’t make for a nice time lining up for roll call, but it only took me about two minutes after the start to get up to a comfortable temperature and it stayed wet and cool for the whole race. On the negative side, the rain made for some slippery sections, but on the plus side it was easy to stay hydrated.
I made the decision the week before to go with my Panaracer Driver tires anticipating a dry race. In the wet conditions there were a couple of sections that were a little more slippery than I would have liked, but overall they handled pretty well in the wet conditions. And, their low weight and rolling resistance really paid off on the longer dirt road sections and the big climb up to Oak Knoll at the end of the race. These will definitely be my tire of choice for any race that isn’t a complete mud bog.
I placed better than I thought I would, coming in third overall in sport, since I hadn’t really been training for a long ride like I have in past years. Part of this might be getting more experience with endurance races and the Carrabassett Challenge in particular. I knew most of the course and had it broken down into three sections. The first part was the singletrack at the Touring Center where I kept up a decent pace but never pushed too hard and focused on just riding smooth. I didn’t try to chase anybody down here and was sitting in 6th by the end of it. Next was the backcountry loop to the mile 40 aid station with a couple of long dirt road and wide open singletrack sections. My plan here was to put in some harder efforts and maybe catch anybody that was starting to fade. I caught one sport rider here but he slipped away again while I was refueling at the aid station. The last 20 miles I was feeling good and went all out and managed to move into third by the end of the climb up Oak Knoll. I knew the last rider I passed up the climb, Dave, was going to be faster than me on the Oak Knoll descent so I made an extra effort to open a gap on the climb. It worked and I was able to hold on easily for third, even with a bit of a crash at the bottom of the descent.
I felt strong and energized coming into the finish, but by podium time I could barely stay upright and it took a gallon of coffee to make the drive back home to the coast. I guess that means I left it all on the course, which is always satisfying no matter what place I finish in.
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