Written by Andrew Farrell Tuesday, 10 October 2017 00:00
The VT50 is the first real race I entered when I first got into mountain biking. It was a lot to bite off back in 2009, made all the more difficult by the 1-2" of rain we enjoyed the night before that fateful day. I would end up spending nearly 8 hours on the course, and required months of therapy and counseling to recover from the thorough thrashing I received.
Fast forward to 2017- course conditions were dry and fast, with temps climbing into the 90's by mid afternoon. Though the 6 am start is always a rude awakening, this year it appeared to be a blessing as temps were in the 60's- no cold weather gear required as in most years.
The race consists of nearly 8000' of climbing, most of it front loaded in the first 2/3 of the 50 miles. You are either going up or down at the VT50- very little flat spinning to speak of. In hindsight I should have secured a better starting position- deep in the pack I was forced to hike a bike in the early uphill single and doubletrack logjam.
My plan had been to refill bottles as needed for the first 30 miles at which point I would pick up a small hydration pack at the mile 31 drop bag zone. Entering an aid station at mile 29ish according to my Garmin, I scanned the area for drop bags, seeing none. Not wanting to lose my group I foolishly proceeded on, realizing my error in the next several miles as my supplies ran low. I hit the next aid station nearly 5 miles later, refueled, and got back in the game. Former Bikeman teammate Ben Norris and I met up around mile 36, suffering from cramps at roughly the same time. Catching a good wheel like that and working together over the next 10 miles made the time fly. The twisty, buff singletrack that characterizes the last 15 miles or so didn't hurt either, and despite intermittent cramps I managed to keep my position and pace. Around mile 45 the cramps hit again, though less severely, and though I lost Ben I didn't lose too much ground. Crossing the line with a time of 4:50, I was elated to shave 20 min from PR, not to mention being off the course before the real heat set in.
What would I do differently? Starting position for sure, mind the feed zones more carefully, training more as always... What I wouldn't change is the bike- for those of you who haven't drunk the Hei Hei Kool-Aid yet I can't recommend this bike enough. Whatever your riding style, whether more xc or trail, this thing absolutely rips. Many thanks to Kona, Stages, Schwalbe and of course all the folks at Bikeman for all the support.
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