A good time was had by all at Saturday’s Ashland Mountain Challenge 12-mile Super-D race, on a track so sweet, it deserves to be moved to the top of your must-do race tick list. Starting at Mt. Ashland Ski Resort, the course has a little bit of everything as it drops 3,000 feet down to the valley floor, ending in on the edge of town in Lithia Park.
I was fortunate enough to meet up with several members of the Sturdy Bitch race team, based in Seattle. These girls totally rip it, so it was super fun to hop on their practice laps. We took two practice runs, which was honestly more than enough. I don’t think the legs could’ve taken another!
We came down slowly the first run to suss out the course. The first two miles is a fast fire road with plenty of texture to keep you on your toes, and a couple of hairpins that require an occasional speed check. Shooting down into a saddle and road intersection, you start a non-technical climb on an old two-track just long enough to make you want to take a break at the top before a traversy-flowy section with lots of pedaling. Mental note: save energy for this one. It’s kind of brutal! Another mental note: tune your crappy shifting, Val, because you’ll need your gears.
More pedally fun through the trees and the only real rock garden on the course later, and you’re back on a two track and onto a long and fast fire road section. I honestly wanted a bigger gear in the front for a good bit of it. After crossing a gravel road and shooting through a sketchy parking lot with a fire pit and a bunch of burned out rusty junk square in the center, some real fun begins! Nice singletrack with tons of switchbacks and some pumpy jumpy stuff spits you out onto yet another two track where you climb for just a second and then hit this river-trail-like section that traverses through the trees, with some nice steep exposure and a few little climbs.
The next section was the last climb of the track and OMG, mental note: definitely save some juice for this one! A few little out of the saddle, bursty moves were mandatory on this part, and more than once I found myself begging for mercy. Once on the other side of the ridge, some super-rutted switchbacks took us down to a road crossing, for a short climb to the final descent. Fast, fast, fast! A wider two-track to start, with multiple lines through rutted out section leads to the last singletrack of the run. Lots of little hits on the trail, some steep switchbacks, and you’re spit out onto one final two-track for a traverse just long enough to trick you into thinking you’re done, before the last semi-steep pitch sets you up to come in hot to the finish.
Our second practice run was faster, with a few breaks. We all figured out that we shouldn’t hammer up that first climb because you’ll be juiced for the rest of the race. We also learned that some of the course marking was just confusing enough to mess with your line, so we took some time to figure out the best flow through a couple of the awkward transitions. Great first rides on Mt. Ashland, followed by a fun evening at the Standing Stone Brewery.
Race Day. The Pros went off at 8:00 am. We had so much time before we had to be up there, I managed to write a couple of blog posts and visit the Farmer’s Market before readying gear and heading to the top with the Sturdy Bitches. We were all a little nervous, never having ridden the course all the way through without stopping; tired legs from the day before were also a little nerve-wracking.
At the top, I realized that I forgot to tune my shifting—typical! I am working on this learning to wrench on my own bike stuff; clearly it’s not going too well. So I fiddled with the barrel adjuster and made it marginally better, passable, I hoped. We ran into a mutual friend, Heidi Suchard at the top, and all of us made our way to the start gate, except for Marie, who just decided to go early. They were letting people go whenever they wanted, so we lined up and off we went, one minute intervals.
I’ll spare the play-by-play, but I truly couldn’t have been happier with my run. I passed two girls and played leap frog with Susan of the Sturdy Bitches who was two riders ahead of me. I know my climbing could have been faster, and I had a few awkward moments and near misses, but all-in-all, I felt the flow and was in the zone. Since this was only my 4th ever real race, I was really psyched to get to experience what that felt like.
I ended up finishing 5th in my class, combined Cat. 1 / 2 Women, 35+, in a field of 20 racers. I am definitely happy with that! No major malfunctions for me, Heidi, or the Sturdy Bitches, and we all kept the rubber side down. Success! Results here.
This was the Hermosa Harlots first race sponsored by Harlot Clothing Co., but our kits didn’t arrive in time for this event, so we’ll sport the sweet threads at the upcoming Super-D in Bend. Also, Five Ten has just come on board with shoe support, but I didn’t have those yet either. I did, however, race in my trusty first generation Women’s Karvers. After three years of hard shredding, they’ve certainly seen better days, but they’re still hooking me up and keeping me on my pedals.
Next up: Bend Super-D in two weeks. Train, train, train. It’s a pedally one! But first, a pit stop in Black Rock tomorrow with Jess and Keith!