Written by John Sumner Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:00
Circumburke is a race I have wanted to enter for a while now and 2017 was the year for me. I hadn’t ridden KT in a solid decade and was amazed at how the place has grown to become a mountain bike paradise for riders of all abilities. I had been told that the 2016 race was a mudfest of epic proportions, but this was not the case in 2017, when 500+ riders from all over New England lined up ready to have a fun day on the trails under overcast skies and unseasonably warm temperatures that hovered in the mid-70s.
I had read some previous Bikeman Circumburke race reports and I gathered being on the front line would be a smart move as we followed a truck for about half a mile before entering single track and a rock garden. I can only imagine the single file roll/carry your bike disaster that was awaiting those in the back of the pack. Fortunately, I was in the top 20 through this section and it stayed this way for most of the first half of my ride. I knew I was doing well as the usual suspects including Bikeman's Yohsuke Takakura and the ultimate Woman's winner Hallie Blunck were playing cat and mouse with me.
The trails were a mix of fields, short climbs, rewarding fast enduro sections, carriage roads with water bars, and the occasional gravel road. The Kona Hei Hei Race Light was an absolute dream paired with Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. It was amazing how stable that bike is in all terrain including the long fast enduro downhill segments!
I wound up in no man’s land midway through the race and was feeling good despite a minor stomach bug the morning of this race. My strategy was to ignore the five aid stations so I on-boarded three water bottles, including two in my kit pocket that shared the space with a spare inner tube, CO2 pump, multi-tool, food and tire irons. This proved not to be the best plan as excruciating lower back pain dogged me for the second half of the race to the point I jettisoned one water bottle and had to flex my back and climb the hills with one hand on the bars to stretch things out which definitely slowed me down a bit.
The final stretch of the ride was spent descending most of Burke Mountain Ski area on a downhill trail with perfectly laid out brims, tabletops, jumps, drops and rollers. At the end I sprinted over the line to an overall finish at 36th place out of 368 with a time of 2:56. I came out loving the area and the trails were so well laid out that not knowing the line didn't really matter. Next time I’ll definitely ride with less 'aid' on my back and more on my bike or left back in my car.
For anyone reading this in years to come wondering if it is worth it:
Training? You will climb over 4100 feet in 27 miles, be prepared!
Worth it? Yes
Pre- ride? Not necessary
Sprint in the first 100 yards of the first two starting rows? Yes
Circumburke (27 miles)? Yes
Circumburke (50 miles)? If you are crazy
Fun factor? 95 out of 100
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