Written by Kevin Ryan Tuesday, 07 November 2017 00:00
If you’ve been diligently reading my race reports – and I know you have – then you already know that I take any opportunity to return to my home state of New York to race. Bikeman teammates Scott Burrill, Warren Gerow, and Dereck Treadwell were suitably convinced by last year’s Erie 80 that they, too, decided it was once again worth the trip to Port Jervis, NY. For those unfamiliar, Port Jervis is a small town situated on the Delaware River at the junction of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The race takes place in the woods surrounding the town’s reservoir, which is gorgeous, mature, hilly hardwood forest. The area had been off-limits to mountain bikers until 2016, but miles of singletrack have been built since then. The trails have a different character from what we’re used to in most of Maine. In this portion of NY, there’s plenty of loose shale and rock gardens to compensate for the dearth of (wet) roots that we have in the Pine Tree State.
I’ve had a couple of first place wins during my racing career thus far, though it has always been as part of a team at the 12 Hours of Bradbury. My other podium finishes have been either 2nd or 3rd. I figured this was my chance for a solo first place finish at a race that is not my home turf. Last year I raced in the open class and came in sixth out of 19 racers. Knowing that Warren and Tread were racing open meant that I did not have much of a chance at the podium this year, so I decided to race sport class and give myself a chance to win.
The race course was two 25-mile laps, consisting almost entirely of great singletrack within two decent climbs up dirt roads. There were no steep, endless climbs (like in the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge) to suck the life out of you - rather, it was the long sections of often technical singletrack that wore down racers.
I got a good spot at the start line, not far from the front. For the duration of the race, though, and particularly in the beginning, I was careful not to let my heart rate spike too high. This is difficult to do at the beginning of a race, but it pays off in the form of not going into the “black place” later on.
I stayed with a pack of riders for several miles of the first lap. I kept ending up behind one guy who I passed early on, but who promptly got in front of me the first opportunity he got. As he was going at good pace, I stayed on his wheel until we got to the second climb in the course. He was pretty much cooked by then, and after passing him I did not see him for the rest of the race. After that, I largely rode by myself, passing people here and there, and occasionally getting passed. Last year I somehow made it through the race without a single mechanical issue. This was not the case this year, and a stupid little rock in the middle of a trail put a pinhole in my tire around mile 35. Luckily, a tire plug and a shot of CO2 did the trick, and I was back in business after only a few minutes. By mile 40, I still had some gas in the tank, so I stepped up the intensity for the last ten miles. I managed to pass one or two racers who passed by me when I was plugging my tire, which was pleasing.
This race begins and ends in town. The first few miles the pack of racers are led out by a police car, and on the way back, traffic cones and signs are set up at intersections. The singletrack dumps out in a parking area, and racers take the road back to the finish line. When I came out to this section for the second lap, I was surprised to see nobody there to direct racers or even a sign. It’s pretty obvious that you need to go down the road, but I was tired and had “race brain”, so a few racers caught up with me. I also unintentionally cut off another rider who was charging out of the singletrack onto the road. The angry racer, a few other riders, and I all hammered down the road as fast as we could. As it turns out, none of these racers were in sport class, and I ended up coming in first place with a solid lead - a satisfying end to my 2017 season.
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