On June 26th some of us got to spend a wonderful weekend in the Methow and enjoyed some great weather. 80 degrees, mostly sunning, a breeze. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the mosquitoes and the 5100′ of climbing we did at the Methow Cycle & Sport Mountain Challenge, stop #3 at of the Indie Series. The mosquitoes were not just at the race course but in Mazama too. The climbing though, it was all in the first 3.7 miles of the race.
The race is normally held near the Suntop Resort but after a long process of working with the Loup Loup Ski area, the Methow Valley Ranger District and Methow Valley Sport Trails Association the race moved to the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. I was taken back to the days of traveling to resorts like Mt. Snow, Sunapee, and Sugarloaf back in New England. Loup Loup is much smaller but just as challenging.
The race loop started at 4343′ at the parking lot and headed UP. Okay there were some flat spots along the way to the top but not many. The second flat/rest spot on the climb came at mile 2.3, after about 750′ of climbing. It was a slightly downhill fire road. With a sharp right turn the course continued to climbed to the summit of Bear Mtn topping out at 5456′ at mile 3.8. Once at the summit you made a steep descent to a fire road. The road was slightly downhill like the one before and you could big ring it at top speed. (at the bottom of this descent to the road is where the beginners turned off).
After a quick spin on the fire road you turned left into single track at mile 6. Within moments it was into a 50′ bog with thick black mud. It was much faster to run this section than ride. Once out of that it was a side hill descent with small burners (climbs) to another fire road. This descent is loose at times and you need to be on your game. Between the speed and conditions one could get into trouble fast. Just ask Hot Carl.
This ride road section was much longer than the first and had as much up as down. None of it was hard but it was tiring after suffering through the first 4 miles of climbing. At the end of this fire road you started the last climb at mile 8.5. The climb was much shorter at .8 miles. The other bonus was this climb was double track so mentally it wasn’t as tough.
Cresting this climb saw you entering a loose gravel downhill fire road for 2.3 miles. It wasn’t without its surprises though. There were a few sharp turns that forced you to shift back down due to the speed you lost and there were also some off camber loose rocky hair pins that needed to be respected. Mile 11.8 was the lowest point on the course and this happened to be at the base of the ski area. From there it was a short climb back to the start/finish rounding out a 12.6 mile loop.
The lucky expert racers did this twice, while the sport did one lap. The beginner had a short lap of about 8.4 miles. One should note that all of the single track during the first 3.7 miles was brand new. So it was rough and narrow. This was an added challenge to an already tough course.
Personally my race we well. I knew to start slower than I thought I should since the climb was going to hurt. Oh boy did it hurt. I haven’t ridden on the tip of my saddle that much in a while. As we left the line I was already in the back due to a last minute run to the port-a-john.
As we left the first single track I figured there were a few riders still behind me. Nope, just my own dust, which there was a lot of. I didn’t worry since I had the whole field in front of me. I just locked my sights on the rider in front of me and slowly brought them back one at a time. By the time I reached the summit of Bear Mtn. I think I had passed at least 4-6 riders. At the time I had no idea how many of us started (19 I believe).
The whole time up the climb my left hip really hurt. Then one of my knees started to pain me. I don’t recall which one but it went away. I was so focused on keeping my front end going the direction I wanted to go that I didn’t have the mental strength to think about aches and pains.
I would pick off a few more riders before the lap was through but as I entered my second lap it looked like I was going to be alone for most of it. I did finally get sight of a rider in front of me. Around the time I hit the last single track section of climbing I had 4 riders in front of me. I passed two and just caught on with the other. I followed this rider almost all the way through the next single track section. He had to get off for one of the burners that caught him in too high of a gear.
Soon after on the up and down fire road I caught my last rider of the day. As I went by I thought I’d drop him since him told me he was cramping. Unfortunately he asked what age group I was in and the race was on. He, Arnie drafted off me until the last climb where he said good bye since he wasn’t climbing well. He thanked me for the draft too. Just then he screamed bloody murder with a bad cramp. I put on the gas as much as I could knowing he was a better descender than me. I needed to get a big enough gap for the last 2.3 mile down hill. Arnie fought hard and didn’t give up. Even though I had a gap he was able to get on my rear wheel as we crossed the entrance road. He drafted off me all the way. As we approached the last little kicker I waited to attack and when I did Arnie answered and made the pass. He got me by a second at the line. He told me after if I had gone a bit sooner he would have cracked.
I ended up 8th out of 16 finishers but my old teammate Shannon was missing from the results. I was happy with the race but totally spent afterwards.
I hope to have a Google Maps or Earth link up soon so you can see the course that way.
Get out there!