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Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge (50K) 2023

by Anders Larson • July 18, 2023

Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge

My “big race” of the year was the CBC - meaning I kind of planned a bit of training around it. I had done the race back in 2017 and actually won my age group. I did not have the same confidence this year as I’m 59 in the 50+ category. Regardless, I was excited to do a single, 30 mile lap and push it as hard as I could.

Anyone in New England knows that the weather has not been kind to us mountain bikers this summer. All week leading up to the race had rain almost daily, with t-storms thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, we were met with partly cloudy/sunny skies for race day.

Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge

Despite all my planning, when I went to the start line about 15 minutes before the start time, it was already crowded and I was stuck about 75% back in the bunch. Lucky for me the first mile or so was wide open gravel roads so I was able to move up without over cooking it. My teammate Ryan Rumsey and I planned on hanging together. We lost each other in the start but he caught me about 15 minutes in.

The course was in pretty good shape despite the many inches of rain the region had received over the previous weeks. There were some good mud holes here and there, but overall it was quite fast. A few points of note - the Oak Hill “wall” was incredibly steep and took a lot out of me - I had to lay off the gas for a while after that sufferfest. This is when Ryan and I departed ways (me going backwards). Another feature was the rail trail climb - several miles of gradual uphill. I didn’t like this part in the pre-ride, but during the race it was a nice chance to fuel up and take a break from concentrating on picking the right line.

Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge

Overall, I was able to ride a solid race - carefully watched my heart rate and judged what I had in the tank to finish strong with the understanding I did about as good as I could have. I am quite pleased with my 4th place finish (out of 47 racers age 50+). Gear wise, my 2023 Kona Hei Hei CR is working great. With its 120mm travel front and rear it seems the perfect race bike for the typical New England courses. Having 2 bottle cages is also great - with my hydration pack and pockets full of food meant I did not need to stop at any aid stations. I do think that somewhere in my future electronic shifting might be needed. My right thumb was pretty sore and tired by the end of the race from shifting. It isn’t getting any better as I get older, either. Lastly, some big thanks to for their continued support with great gear and technical help.

Salsa La Cruz, 650B Conversion
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