Thursday, April 21, 2016

Austin Rattler 2016

Mountain bike racing is not pretty, I have pictures to prove it. 

Yours Truly At the Finish

My goal: Travel to Rocky Hill Ranch, race hard and secure a slot in the Leadville 100 MTB this coming August. Others had similar ambitions, LOTS of others. If my aging chicken legs, didn't produce the finish time necessary for a Leadville coin, plan B had me vying for spot via qualifier lottery. 

My friend Dathan Atchison invited me to carpool down with his family. The trip was enjoyable, and the drive time passed quickly. We traveled on Thursday, for a Saturday race. 

Friday we made the quick trip from our hotel in Bastrop, out to Smithville for packet pick-up and to pre-ride the course with Dave Wiens and other racers. I'm an unabashed Dave Wiens fanboy. He's a Topeak Ergon team member, a two-time US National Mountainbike Champion, multiple worldcup winner, member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and rounding out his resume are SIX consecutive Leadville 100 MTB wins! 

But the accolades are not why I'm a fan. Dave will ride the course with you, offering valuable insight to everyone from the first time racer, to the seasoned pro. He's genuine and humble, the world needs more of that. Oh, and by the way, Saturday, he won the Austin Rattler. When Dave speaks, listen.

Wiens on the course at Austin Rattler 2016

With a feel for the course under our belts, Dathan and I called it quits after 8-10 miles. We'd have our fill on Saturday.


Saturday morning the weather looking promising with only a 20% chance of afternoon showers. The field at Rocky Hill Ranch was large, 575 in the 100k race alone. 

The 100k Starting Line

With the traditional shot gun blast by race director Josh Colley, we're off to the races. The first lap of (3) bypasses the immediate single track in favor a double track climb to break up the field prior to entering the single. The pace is aggressive, and I'm working hard to maintain my solid position as mid-pack fodder. The course offers variety to suite every rider's taste. Dusty double track, open cow path single (which felt like babyhead cobbles), some of the tightest wooded single I've ridden to-date, and straight up gravel road.

The ONLY time I was clean during the race.

I'm focused and riding solid. I finish the first lap with +13 mph average. There's plenty of opportunities to drink and eat on this course. I'm sharing the Atchison family support crew, they kept me fueled and got me in-and-out in stellar fashion! 

My lap number 2 was solid, albeit at a bit slower pace. (11.4 mph avg.) It was nice having a good idea as to what was coming up next on the course. Lap number 3 was different. It started sprinkling rain about 5 miles from the finish. At 4 miles to go, the sprinkles turned to a deluge. What had previously been sweet berms was now muddy, greasy face plant material. I backed off my pace in the muddy sections and finished the race in 5hr:18m:59s. 

With this being the first Leadville qualifier of 2016, the field was tough. My finish time did not merit a Leadville coin. I was left to the luck of the draw during the lottery portion of the racers that finished under the cutoff time. It was not my lucky day. I plan to head to Leadville in July to compete in the Silver Rush 50. My goal for Silver Rush, same as before, race hard and secure a Leadville 100 MTB position. 

 "I Never Lose. I Either Win
Or Learn."
~ Nelson Mandela

Dathan went on to rock the Rattler with a phenomenal 4:28:28. A time worthy of Leadville entry on performance virtue. Dathan, well done brother! Congratulations, you're heading to the race across the sky!

Dathan Atchison on the 2016 Austin Rattler Course

 This weekend, April 23-24, I'm off to Grinnell Iowa for a bike ride with friends.

'Til we ride again.