Team Stampede! caught wind of SSAP back in early February through Eric’s cousin Brett and reg’d on a whim as it was filling up fast. At the time, Eric didn’t have a functioning MTB, and had never ridden a SS-MTB before. Thankfully there were a few months to prepare and he was able to piece together a race-rig with a few weeks to spare.
Once race weekend arrived, we made the 4 hour trek down from Boston on Saturday morning, aiming to arrive with enough time to check in at the hotel and pre-ride the course. We were staying close by in Montgomery and made our first stop at race-host Dark Horse Cycles. They’re all super nice folks and have a beautiful shop that was conveniently located directly across the street from the entrance to all the great trails in Stewart State Forest. After picking up our numbers and checking in at the hotel, it was time for a pre-ride.
Eric - The last time I had ridden a MTB was on vacation in Wyoming…about 7 months ago, so there was a little bit of a break-in period required. Unfortunately, the course launched us straight into a twisting/tight section of fairly technical single track right off the start…it was then I realized that I had thrown myself into the deep end and it was time to sink or swim. Unfortunately, It didn’t get any easier from there, as we hit several huge rock faces that I would have never thought a bike could get over…until Ted showed me what was what, and I eventually conquered all but a couple that were just a little outside my abilities.
The pre-ride went well and while we knew a win wasn’t in our future, we set the goal of avoiding the dreaded (or in some cases prized) DFL. We set a time goal of under 3 hours for ourselves and called it a day.
For dinner, a cursory yelp search for “french fries and beer” led us to a place called Copperfield’s in Montgomery, NY. Sporting an impressive draft list and an expansive variety of appetizers, we immediately ordered their “train wreck” fries and began the carboload…
After pillaging the Super 8’s continental breakfast, we loaded up the Jeep and rolled over to the start, arriving with about 20 minutes to spare. Parking was scarce but we had an ace-in-the-hole, Erin! Our copilot and team nurse dropped us off and took the wheel to park while we pretended to warm up and greeted some friends. The “El Pelon!” yelling guy (Tyler) was there, so he got a high five, then we made our way to the front. I met a few women riding absolutely beautiful Engin Cycles single speeds and had to chat them up as I [Ted] briefly worked for Engin framebuilder Drew Guldalian at his bike shop several years back.
Open Men were first to go, followed by Open Women, then our Sport North group of about 90 riders went off two minutes later. The first 2 miles of the day were on a gravel fire road that quickly became one big dust cloud. It was nice to get a chance to spin my legs and warm up before hitting the single track. Nothing makes you mash the pedals like a fine layer of grit on your teeth.
Ted - The race started with 2 miles of fire road followed by 2 miles of single-track to spread the field out. After that, two 12-mile laps of the wonderfully laid out and well marked course. I got to do some friendly heckling with a couple of the Team Awesome guys and rode a bunch of the course with folks about my skill and fitness level that were supportive and having a blast like me. Eric stuck with me for the first half a lap or so then began experiencing what would be a day full of mechanicals…
Eric - It only took about 1/3 of a lap before I was very suddenly (and rudely) introduced to the ground, sliding out around a fairly routine turn. I hopped up and dusted myself off, only to discover my cockpit twisted to the side and my knee slowly starting to ooze blood. I straightened everything out and carried on, the sharp pain in my knee lasted for another 10 minutes before it eased into a dull soreness that would last for the rest of the race.
Next up, dropped chain. Sweet. It was on the following descent that I felt my rear wheel start to shift strangely underneath me. I stopped to check it out, thinking it was out of true or I had broken a spoke (it was a 12 year old wheel, after all). It was neither. The tire had maybe 20psi in it, my tube was leaking air, awesome. I pumped it back up to around 35psi with an inspired mini-pump sesh and continued on. 10 minutes later, the squish returned and I stopped again, this time at a race marshall’s car. I used his floor pump to get things back up to 50psi and carried on.
Sure enough, 15 minutes later, almost all the air was gone and I had had enough, I had to stop and change the tube. Tube changed, I got enough air into the tire to get me to the next marshall’d turn, where I borrowed yet another floor pump to inflate it the rest of the way. A couple choice words from the 2nd dude that helped me out:
Dude: “Whoa! Voodoo 26er! Old schoooool, you probably want like 30psi in there right?”
Me: “No, probably more like 45-50…in case the tube keeps leaking”
Dude: “Oh shit! Theres a tube in there?! Wild!!!”
Tube changed and tire inflated, I was finally back on track with a full lap to go. I managed to only fall one more time on another B.S. slide-out and went mechanical free for the remainder of the race!
Despite the setbacks, Eric came in at 68/87 finishers in our Sport North group (101/136 combined, and had a pretty good knee gash as a trophy).
Battling some wicked bad cramps and a slipping seatpost, Ted finished 50/87 in Sport North and 76/136 combined, hot damn!
We capped the race with a few hot dogs and a couple tasty brews from High and Mighty, which we made sure to share with the head organizer during the podiums/merch-giveaway. He was stoked, obviously.
The race was fantastic, both in terrain and organization, and we will definitely be back next year…hopefully better prepared and with a larger crew!