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Hanson Hills 2021

by Michael Green • July 19, 2021

With a year of virtually no racing I was eager to get started earlier than normal this year. Reflecting on the past, I decided to race some long races this year and the opener was the Hanson Hills 50 mountain bike race - I'll be racing singlespeed. It's been a while since I've raced this rig so I rebuilt my Kona Big Unit with a 2:1 34x17 gear ratio, stiff Carver 29'er wheels, a Stages powermeter to keep myself in control and new Schwalbe Racing Ray/Thunder Burt combo. The rig was sweet.

The race started was a bang. A couple of mile roll out on local roads meant fighting and sprinting for position before we entered the single track. The singlespeeds were all spinning like crazy to keep up: I entered the singletrack in fourth position with third just ahead. It was crowded to start with people shouting and panicking that the race was getting away from them ahead - 'we have 50 miles to go!..come on folks'. Amazingly, I remained patient and let the race evolve with the knowledge that so far I was riding easy. Eventually it opened up more and more with some short double track sections yet this is where my race took a turn for the worse - literally. Following wheels is the name of the game to some degree, unless they take a wrong turn, yes, that's how my race unfolded, eight minutes of going the wrong way. A sandy hill was so steep that I figured the other singlespeeders would also get off and run. As I ran up the hill looking down I noted no footprints in the sand and only a few tire tracks. I shouted to those around me and behind, we turned around (at least most of us) and backtracked. It was poorly marked, but a HUGE error on my part. Now my race had started.

We were literally at the back of the race, and I started work on my overtaking skills. A little bit mad at myself, a lack of patience and I was storming ahead. Seriously, I lost count of how many I was overtaking: many at first and as the race progressed they became fewer and fewer, males, females, hardtails, full suspension, singlespeed, I saw them all. I'd been working on my cornering recently and I was dropping others and gaining ground by not braking - it was fun. At the half way lap I still hadn't seen the singlespeeders in the top three, but I knew I still had a long way to go.

I pressed ahead and with about eight miles to go I started to cramp a little - you know the feeling, a little twinge here, another in the quad there and the feeling that one swift move will mean total "lock up'. I tried to spin it off and back off a little yet this 50 miler also had 5000 feet of climbing - the reason it was called Hanson HILLS. I could smell the finish and was eager to be done. As I rolled in the finish area I could see 3rd place ahead of me but I was never going to catch him, but I did try, you never know what might happen, he might cramp up as well??

I'd set a goal of top three and so fourth on the day wasn't a bad outing especially as I was the first rider over 50 to finish so would have won my age group. I made up a bunch of ground and actually had a ton of fun. A strong cup of coffee and a pastry at the end was all the reward I needed and a lot of 'woulda, coulda, shoulda". On to the next one - maybe I should download the route onto my headunit next time?!

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