Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge (25k) 2023
by Andy Trueworthy • July 28, 2023
Date: July 15, 2023
Event: 25k Men’s 30-49
Venue: Sugarloaf Outdoor Center | Carrabassett Valley, ME
I am not an XC racer. Most of my saddle time these days is dedicated to gravity riding; casual ascents with focused descents. This race was decidedly NOT was I am used to, but that’s not a bad thing. This course in this format humbled me and I am glad that raced it. It’s been a while since I last pushed my personal limits. Like PUSHED. This was one such occasion!
I arrived at 0700, four full hours ahead of my scheduled start time. This was in part because I wanted to park near the venue and part because I wanted to experience the mass start of the 100k and 50k races, really feel the energy and excitement of those taking-on the big challenges of the day. I made sure to keep an eye out for other Team Bikeman members and generally just tried to cast stoke. Team Bikeman had a presence!
Leading up to the 25k start I spent some time warm up riding and tweaking my suspension for the day ahead. Finally, at 10:45 25k racers were allowed to line up at the gate. I took the opportunity to find my way to the front row and settle next to some younger racers (who quickly out-paced me once the race began). After a safety brief the race started. I had a good jump off the line, plenty enough to beat the field to the bottleneck 500 yards later.
The climbs came quickly. Lots of mud, lots of wet, lots of grease. The going was slow and I immediately started the heavy breathing. I am used to resting once my heart rate reaches threshold for a few minutes, but I could not allow myself to rest in the XC format; “stopping doesn’t win the race” I told myself and onward I pushed. It wasn’t until mile 3 when other riders probably in my age began creeping up from behind. I encouraged each to pass knowing that pushing harder wasn’t an option for me.
At mile 5 a lengthy downhill began and I progressed up to what I later learned to be 2nd place. By smashing through mud puddles and taking the roundabout lines, I regained all of what had been lost during the climb and there I remained until mile 8. At mile 8 the course left the Narrow Gauge pathway and started it’s climb back up into the mountainside trails. My legs were tired and I was sucking wind. I had to allow the riders behind to pass, there was no more push for me. I was in survival mode. I had neglected to look back during the race to this point and learned that I had been pulling 4 riders for a few miles. No big deal. Losing some positions was inevitable. I knew that going-in. Now I just had to run MY race at MY pace, whatever that would come to mean.
On the steepest climbs I jogged. Realizing my saddle height should have been higher for the event, but refusing to stop for adjustments, I pushed on. Steadily. At one point around mile 10 I caught back up to the leaders who were stopped and discussing if we were still on course or not. I took the liberty to gain first place here for just a minute or two. As soon as the large roots and climbing reappeared, back to the rear of the pack I conceded.
Fearing my pace was very slow, I began looking back regularly in full expectation of seeing riders come-up from behind, but it never happened. No matter how slow I thought I climbed or descended there were no riders behind me. Somewhere around miles 12-13 I lost the course. The leaders were nowhere to in sight and I was concerned I might end up disqualified for going off course. I knew I had to get back to Par 3 trail to end the race, so I made my way back to the Outdoor Center, riding single-track where possible. Eventually I found my way back to Par 3.
Gassed. Winded. I kept grinding. Crank after crank. Bump after bump. Finally, as exhausted as I felt, I dug deep and sprinted through the finish line. Stoked! I found out later that the leaders finished the race in 13.25-13.5 miles. My little detour netted a total race length of 15.01 miles. Despite the mix-up I estimate only losing only 2 or 3 positions en route to my Top 10 finish. I am pleased with the results and my overall performance on the day. It was tough. Riding at threshold to max heart rate for 90 minutes was a different experience and one I am grateful for. I will be back next year. No question about it. Thank you BIKEMAN.COM for your support!
Final: 1:30:30 | 8th of 27