Blue Mountain Chain Stretcher
by Kevin Ryan • September 08, 2022
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. The cross-country riding is excellent, but there are also some giant rock rollers and drops. If you’re willing to hike-a-bike up to the top of either Blue Mountain or Mount Spitzenberg (both within the park), there are trails suitable for downhill bikes as well.
The cross-country race at Blue Mountain is called the Chain Stretcher and is one of several races in the New York State Series. I first did the race in 2017; 2022 is my second time around. The race was on a Sunday and the preceding week before the race saw little or no precipitation which made for a dry and dusty but excellent racecourse.
I have done a fair bit of riding to date but definitely not enough to warrant racing in expert class. I entered in sport class as I figured it would be more my speed and that there would be plenty of competition. The 2022 course is also a great one in my opinion. A lap is about six miles long and contains the SIS (I’ve been told an acronym for “Snakes in Space”) and Rambler trails, both of which are very fun singletrack trails well-suited for racing. Category 3, 2, and 1 racers did 1, 2, and 3 laps, respectively.
On the start line there perhaps 25 people in my age class lined up. I have not raced since last year’s 12 Hours of Bradbury so I was not sure how I would stack up. I therefore started towards the middle-rear of the pack so as not to get in anyone’s way. When the race started, I did not get anything close to the holeshot, and the beginning of this year’s course had plenty of double track for people to sort themselves out. I jockeyed with several other racers until we came to some rocky, technical climbs which enabled me to pass a rider or two before heading into the singletrack.
From then on it seemed I had a race buddy for the remainder of the race. I did most of the first lap with a racer using me as a pacemaker. As it turns out he has some bad heart valves, and his doctor told him to keep his heart rate under a certain threshold – yikes! I asked him to do me a favor and survive the race, which he did without issue.
During the race I pushed hard but rode somewhat conservatively, as I was flying out to Bentonville, AR, the next day to spend the week visiting a friend and mountain biking in the Ozarks. 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.
I rode okay for this race but made one key mistake – I thought one water bottle would suffice. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I was not in danger of dehydration, but I was thirsty for the entire race. Constantly inhaling dust did not help either. I shall not make that mistake again.
I did not have a great race this year but that’s all on me (it was not the course, other racers, or anything like that). I ended up coming in seventh place out of ten racers in my class. Not a great result, and I look forward to riding stronger in future iterations of the race.