Written by David Keppler Sunday, 20 November 2016 00:00
This year was the first year that my schedule allowed me to race the Casco Bay CX race in Portland, Maine. The race is put on by Bikeman.com, and takes place on the esplanade right on the water. I arrived on Saturday to help set up the course, and turned the experience into a mini-vacation by also spending time in the great city of Portland.
Saturday was a rainy, cold day but the weather cleared overnight and, fortunately, the race course was not nearly as wet and slippery as expected. Sunday morning was sunny and seasonably cool, with strong gusty winds. The course has a great view of Casco Bay and cuts in and out of the woods along the waterfront park. This was my first time racing in the Masters 40+ category and I was excited to try my legs out on the course. The start was crowded and in high spirits as we waited in anticipation for the starting whistle.
Once the starting whistle sounded we sped off and, fortunately, there were no accidents as our sizable group powered along the esplanade to the traffic circle about a third of a mile up. Here, the group thinned out a bit, but the field was still crowded as we whipped around the circle onto the sidewalk to take the first sharp, downhill left onto the trails. The first corner at the base of the hill was a sharp right and numerous riders, including myself, took it a bit wide and had to pull back onto the trail. The single track through the woods was fast and positioned us for a quick right turn to run up a set of steps onto the paved path. Quickly back onto the bike for another sharp left-right turn into the woods. The course then spit us out into a clearing with some off-camber back and forth turns for variety. Into the woods again around a sharp right-left combination and down a steep hill with loose substrate. This section caused trouble for numerous riders: the hill had a sharp right at its bottom which led to a short incline to the base of an imposing run-up. The run-up was wide, steep, and slippery with mud and loose vegetation that became more of an impediment as the race went on and legs became heavier. The enthusiastic spectators definitely helped to get the riders up the slope.
At the top of the run-up we sped past the pit and public garden, shimmied along the steep, off-camber section, and finally plummeted down into the lower field. The sharp left and ride back up part of the aforementioned hill became rideable quickly as the main line was worn in by numerous riders.
We then circled around the lower field, and raced back up towards the baseball diamond, with enough turns to keep us working hard. The sharp turns and quick sprints sent us along the back of the baseball diamond and over the barriers. We then worked our way back around the pit area. A left turn brought us down to a lower trail along the water. Here the second run-up loomed almost as large as the first. The second run/ride-up had less vegetation, but was actually a bit harder to negotiate as the grass got more greasy with each lap. Finally, the start line came around again, and the race continued.
I found the Masters race to be technical, fast, and very educational, with one of the most challenging and entertaining courses that I have raced on. I don’t remember the last time I’ve ridden so many off-camber sections in one race. I completed five laps. I didn’t crash and had no technical issues (which is pretty much par for the course for my Kona Major Jake).
Bikeman.com, as always, puts on a fabulous event and it was great to race with so many fellow Bikeman.com team members. The crowd was very supportive and energetic, even for those of us bringing up the rear. Special thanks to all the volunteers that helped make the race possible. I would highly recommend this race to anyone who can make the trip up. Turn it into a weekend visit and spend some time in Portland. It’s a great city with delicious food and very friendly people. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.
(Special thanks to Jennifer Battis for the use of some of her pictures in this report. www.jenniferbattis.com).
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