Written by Kevin Ballou Wednesday, 09 August 2017 00:00
The Churney Gurney race takes place on the fantastic trails at the Gurney Lane Recreation Area in Queensbury NY and it is the third race in the New York State MTB series. It was just added to the series this year. It's also the only race in the series close enough to home that I actually know the trails. Going into the race I was sitting 3rd in points for the series. My goal this year is to place in the series, a good race here and I'd be on my way to at least a 3 spot overall with 2 more races to go.
My race started well. I got a decent hole shot and was sitting 3rd as we converged from a wide meadow to the narrow singletrack. The trails at Gurney are mostly machine built twisty flow trails, I guess what is now considered a MTB park. Within 30 seconds into the tight twistiness I hugged a tree a wee bit tight and nailed my shoulder and head into it. It didn't knock me down but just swung my bike around and caused my one shoe to unclip (I found out later I had broken my helmet). Needless to say, the dab allowed the first 2 guys get a jump on me and everyone else behind me.
My knowledge of the course paid off though and by mid lap I had caught the second place guy (Yohsuke also from Bikeman/Naylor). However, I had another racer breathing down my neck (Steve Ellinghaus from NSVS/TiTS Racing), and even though I knew the most of the best lines on the course I could tell he had the legs. I eased up late on the first lap and let him go in hopes that he would make a mistake or miss a fast line. No such luck, I could see him in spots on the next lap but not after that.
There is a spot on the course where you come down a hill to a hairpin turn at the base then climb right back up, I clocked it at a minute from the bottom to the top. This was a great place to gauge gap times. On my second lap, comfortable in 3rd I saw Yohsuke and Brad Stratton from CRCA/Veselka come down the hill as I was going up, "arghh less than a minute gap!" I thought.
Third and final lap I saw the guys in my rear view on several occasions but as far as I could tell they weren't closing. This is the toughest part of racing, when you have to balance racing hard enough not to lose a gap but not too hard that you make a mistake or heaven forbid, cause a mechanical. I thought to myself , "Just be fluid, no mistakes." I did not look back until I passed the hairpin and could assess the gap. I never saw them, so I eased up a bit and tried to enjoy the last downhill stretch to the finish. Yohsuke and Brad came sprinting to the finish a little over a minute after me for the 4th and 5th spots. Overall I am happy with a third place, it solidly keeps me in 3rd for total points and not out of the running for a higher spot on the series podium.