Iron Hill Challenge XC
by Jessica Buch • June 28, 2022
Mid Atlantic Super Series
Iron Hill Challenge XC
Iron Hill Park Newark, DE
May 22nd, 2022
Iron Hill challenge is precisely that, a challenge, and the weather made sure to get in on the party too. Arriving around 7:30 am, it was already hot and humid, sweat beading off you just unloading your bike. The course is about 6.5 miles long and demanding, with lots of rocks and constant pedaling. Each lap racks up just over 700 ft of elevation—a proper traditional Mid Atlantic Super Series course. Snaking (We’ll return to this reference in a moment) around Delaware’s Highest Hill is some excellent singletrack trails peppered with plenty of tech.
The prolog takes you up a short section of stone road before sending you off into the woods. We lined up at the start, nine of us in Women’s Cat 1 Pro Elite. The start was an all-out sprint for the woods, and we stayed together pretty close through the first section of skinny single track before some space started growing between us. The next few miles are all action as you climb up and down the hill working your way around each side. There is no shortage of logs and rock runoff dams through big boulder fields and over wooden bridges before finally getting a little break on one of the park’s fire roads on the backside. Then it’s back up the hill again towards the timing tent. You know you’ve almost completed your first lap when you pop onto the disc golf course. Another opportunity to catch a slight recovery or a chance to make up some time on a smooth surface. Whichever you decide, you’re not done working yet! The most technical feature is still to come. The final boulder garden is tricky and steep, requiring precision line choice and excellent bike control. There is even a friendly photographer there to capture your attempt. As I approach this monster of a feature, another type of terror slithers onto the trail right in front of me, and I run it over. SNAKE!! I scream as I ride right off the side of the course into the brush. A giant black snake was also looking to send it to the rock garden. Collecting myself as quickly as possible, I was too shaken up even to attempt the rocks and instead laughed about my encounter with the hecklers at the top and continued. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who ran into or over a reptilian racer that day.
Considering the heat and the snakes, it wasn’t a bad day. I finished in 7th with a time of 2:18:11, plenty of room for improvement—another fantastic MASS race in the books.