Written by Kevin Ryan Friday, 09 June 2017 00:00
Blue Mountain Reservation, a 1,538-acre park in Peekskill, New York is my favorite place to ride. With miles of excellent singletrack, the park is situated in the rolling hills of the Hudson River valley, and is where I started mountain biking. One can have a great time riding cross country in the park but there are also some giant rock rollers and drop-offs. If you’re willing to hike-a-bike up to the top of either Blue Mountain or Mount Spitzenberg (both within the park), a downhill bike can be great fun as well.
The cross country race at Blue Mountain is called the Chain Stretcher. It’s the first race in the New York State Series. I’ve known about the race for years, but this was my first time participating. The race was on a Sunday and it poured all day the preceding Friday, as well as the Saturday evening before the race. Fortunately, due to the topography and soils, though, the park drains pretty quickly. (Everyone got muddy on race day, however. It doesn’t dry that quickly.)
I entered in sport class as I figured that there would be plenty of competition in my field. On the start line there were 25 people in my age class lined up. As the race is only 14 miles, I made sure I started at the front of the pack. I did not want to lose precious minutes stuck behind riders slower than myself. When the race started, I did not get the holeshot, but was perhaps six or seven people back from the front on the first climb. I passed a few folks on this climb and some passed me. When turning on the first section of singletrack I managed to get past a few people who screwed up on rock/log sections. After that I was the third in a line of three guys for a little while. The guy in the lead eventually pulled away. I got a bit frustrated with the guy in front of me. He did not let me pass despite dabbing several times with me on his wheel. Eventually he screwed up in a wide enough section of track where I managed to pass him and pull away.
From there on I had the course to myself for the rest of the race. I pushed hard but rode somewhat conservatively, as I did not want to cause a mechanical issue. Usually when riding at Blue it’s not about the speed, but rather clearing obstacles and stunts. It was interesting riding these familiar trails solely for speed, which necessitated some line changes, mainly avoiding many of the fun rock rollers.
After passing the rider I mentioned above, I did not pass anyone nor did anyone catch up to me. Upon crossing the finish line I learned that only two guys were in front of me. Third place is okay but I look forward to giving it another go next year.
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