Team Giant Report, Bump n Grind from Alabama Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Bump n’ Grind
I like going new places. Filling in the gaps on the map so to speak. The Deep South has somehow survived to this date as one of those grey areas. I have to admit that I didn’t know exactly where Birmingham was within Alabama, or, to be honest, exactly where Alabama was in relation to Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas… No disrespect intended, I just haven’t driven through there in my treks across the country. Must have too much northerner in me. Fortunately, we had a fantastic southern couple to show us the ropes once we landed. Regional Giant Rep Will Hibberts and his wife Ashley volunteered to put us up for the weekend. We all jumped at the chance to not stay at a hotel and eat out at chain restaurants but didn’t realize the treatment we were getting ourselves into. They have a beautiful home and Ashley stocked it with enough food to feed, well, a bike team, for the weekend. She also prepared a beautiful pre-race dinner on Saturday night. Mmmm, Ahi. The weather was even beautiful. No rain and not THAT hot.
Will and his riding buddy Jim took us out on a tour of Oak Mountain State Park to shed some light on exactly why every Southern MTB rider calls this their favorite race. The seventeen-mile loop around which most folks do two laps is exactly what a “Mountain Bike” race should be. Racing around something you’d go ride anyway, which is exactly what we did. The boys were nervous about keeping up but they shredded, Jim knew all the secret shortcut lines and would whoop in approval whenever we found one on our own. Our stoke for the big loop was dampened a bit by the fact that, in the name of spectator involvement and UCI regulations, the Pros were slated to do a 5.8 mile loop closer to the start finish. This took in plenty of super fun sidehill singletrack and techy climbs but also took in a fair bit of pavement. I insist that you can race MTBs on any surface, but a mile paved drag to the finish, downhill, is a bit much… All the regulars were bummed to not see what kind of lap times the big guns would post on the Blood Rock loop but we’d try to give them a show anyway…
Turns out Carl and I didn’t provide much of a show until the finish sprints we both contested. He for 13th and I for 7th. We both uncharacteristically won our little battles. I did it with less style over Troy Wells that Carl over his four sprint-ees. While they all braked for the high-speed double left into the home straight Carl kept accelerating and ran it wide onto the perfectly bermed grass, passing everyone at half again their velocity and taking it home with a gap jump over the timing mats. Well played. If either of us had been able to get out of our own way on the paved sections of the course to maintain contact with the (imperative to be in) lead group, we could have used our kick for the win, or at least a respectable position, but we’re MOUNTAIN BIKERS, goddamn it, and we’ll get drop dead (or get dropped) before we’ll try super hard to keep up with a bunch of guys who think racing aggressively on pavement is appropriate. Until the bitter end that is, then we’ll sprint for basically no reason. Kelli is a girl, so she’s way smarter, she rode hard the whole race and got to stand on the “Podium,” as a reward. Lucky.
I like the south, people were FIRED UP on bike racing and Giant bikes, the food was great and we got to go swimming in the reservoir after each day’s riding or racing. Hopefully we come back next year and get a crack at the proper race course, I’ve got an inkling that some locals might have concerningly fast lap times…
Sitting on the deck is nice. Even more so when you're offsetting the nerdiness of discussing your Zoot Recovery Tights by eating barbecued shrimp.
We played Gran Turismo 5 every night for rally practice. We're not very good…
Ryan and I should have trained on the road together more in Bend this month, then we mightn’t have gotten dropped on this one…
Carl looks fast in the woods, doesn’t he?