Written by Kevin Ryan Thursday, 01 December 2016 17:43
It would be a shame to break in a brand new bike by riding in the mud for 50 miles. So, when Warren Gerow and Scott Burrill and I saw the forecast for the Circumberzerk in East Burke, VT, we bailed. We still wanted to do one more endurance race (and I wanted to get acquainted with my new Kona Hei Hei DL), so instead, we opted for the Erie 80 race in Port Jervis, NY situated on the Delaware River at the junction of NY, NJ, and PA. Bikeman teammate Dereck Treadwell joined in for this one as well.
The race takes place in the woods surrounding the town’s reservoir system. The land surrounding the reservoir is absolutely gorgeous mature, hilly, hardwood forest which, in my humble opinion, makes for excellent mountain biking. These woods have been off-limits to mountain bikers until this past March. Since then, miles of singletrack have been built, and the ultimate goal is for a 30+ mile trail system.
It was 32 degrees at the start of the race, but temperatures were going to climb to around 60. I don’t mind riding in the heat, but I can’t stand sweating due to too many layers. I also did not want to stop to strip layers. I therefore started the race in bib shorts, fingerless gloves, and a short-sleeved jersey with only a light underlayer. My lack of clothing got more than a few comments on the start line. It turns out the fingerless gloves were my only wardrobe mistake, and for the first few miles, I could barely feel my brake levers. Once the blood started flowing, I stayed comfortable for the rest of the day. It pays to start cold!
The race course began on an access road before dropping into some quality singletrack. The singletrack led to the top of a hill which offered fantastic views of Port Jervis and the Delaware River. Over all, the course consisted mostly of sections of great singletrack interspersed with old woods roads, not unlike the Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge. In stark contrast to the Carrabassett, there were no steep, endless climbs to suck the life out of you. Rather, it was the long sections of often technical singletrack that wore down racers. Not only physically, but mentally – there were a handful of rock sections with sharp points just waiting to pop a tire. More than a handful of people flatted in these sections, some more than once. I was one of the lucky ones, and did not pop a tire or have any other mechanical issues. I ended up coming in sixth out of the nineteen people who raced the 50 mile open class.
Recall that the race start/finish line was in town, which worked out fantastically. Turns out there was an excellent pizza shop several doors down from the line. Three slices of NY pizza after fifty miles of sugar water and shot blocks never tasted so good! Between the sweet singletrack, police escort at the race start, great pizza, and the fact that the Mayor of Port Jervis himself was out the day before the race clearing trails with a leaf blower, this is one mountain biking destination to keep your eye on.
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