Race Report submitted by Mark Schoenfeld.
I decided I was going to do a few more bike races this year. In anticipation, I bought a new road bike and quit the softball team. Leaving the softball team was easier than I thought. I’m sure they’ve been trying for a while to think of ways to tell me I’m just not the ballplayer I used to be, so the news of my departure was taken a little too well I thought.
Helenduro Part I
My first Helenduro. The race route was to start at the Mt. Helena Ridge Trailhead at the top of Grizzly Gulch, ride the Ridge Trail to Show Me the Horse, down Show Me the Horse, then up Dump Gulch to the top of Mt. Helena and the last section going down the Hogback to the Dumpout Trail and Dump Gulch.
I ended up riding with the Cat 3 riders from the start. They sent us out in 30 second intervals. The ride up to the ridge is never easy especially the first 200 yards and last 50 yards. Although this was a time allotment section I pushed up the hill hoping to gain some much needed time bonus for being one of the fastest up the mountain. I passed several people including a couple guys pushing their monster downhill rigs to the top. I was finally in a race where I had one of the lighter bikes. In fact, my Giant Trance X2 was a perfect bike for this race—just enough travel to eat the bigger hits, but nimble enough to grind up the hills. So, while I passed the two pushing their bikes up, I had a feeling they’d be on my heels on the way down.
I got down the ridge and Show Me the Horse pretty fast, not super fast, but at a decent clip. As I was in the bottom flatter section towards the end before the road my tire caught something, a rock or a root, I’m still not exactly sure, but it was enough to flatten my tire. I jumped off my bike and ran the last hundred yards or so through the finish of the timed section. I threw a new tube on and got going again. The climb up Dump Gulch was uneventful except that I passed the same two guys pushing their big squish bikes up the hill again. They hadn’t passed me until I stopped to fix my flat.
The down portion after hitting the top of Mt. Helena had several step downs, loose rock and rock gardens to navigate. I dropped my seat way down and pointed the bike towards the bottom. I didn’t crash in the first section which was goal number one. I was cruising, feeling good, and I guess I got a little careless. I went over the top of a sharp rock that hit my back tire just right and ended my day. I only had one extra tube and had used it on my first flat. I had to walk/jog all the way down to the Dump Gulch finish. It’s one thing to finish slow, it’s another thing to have to walk your bike across the finish line.
Had I not flatted the second time, I would have been up towards the top of the cat 3s and upper middle of the pack with the cat 2s. As it is, I had to walk my bike all the way back to The Garage. I really enjoyed the event and will probably do it again next year with more tubes in my pack. I’ll always be in the middle of the pack in these races because the key is to get down the mountain fast. I find the older I get with a wife and kids that depend on me being able to go to work the next day, I can’t just bomb the downhills like I used to (or think I used to).
I arrived at Homestake Lodge for the first time and was glad to see teammates Russ Gates and Jesus Salazar there ready to race. The course was a 7.5 mile loop with a little bit of everything—several short steep climbs, sand, mud, water and buff smooth singletrack. I thought the course was a nice mix of leg burning ascents and fast flowy singletrack. There were even a few places to put some air between the tires and the trail.
The cat 2 racers were doing two laps. I lined up next to Jesus and behind Russ. The Team looked strong lined up there at the beginning.. My thought was that I would try to stay on Russ’ wheel as long as I could, which would lead me to a fast start. That lasted until the second hill or so and my heart started beating out of my chest. I fell off and I didn’t see Russ again until I crossed the finish line where he had been waiting for a while. Seriously, the guy already had his shoes changed and probably lunch before I rolled in.
Anyway, after I lost Russ a young gal passed me looking strong. I was a little bummed she was already caught up and rolling by me. The ladies started a minute or two (hopefully not three) back and a couple miles in she was already on me. So I jumped behind her and gave chase. I was able to stick with her for a mile or two and finally decided it was time to pass her and move into the lead of our mini race. On the downs I was clearly faster, so at the next hill I sped up and called out, “passing on your left.” I didn’t hear her laugh, but she may have. We were both traveling at a high rate of speed and at the bottom of the hill was a water crossing. I had no idea there was water at the bottom. I hadn’t made it this far in my warm-ups and I couldn’t see in front of her. So, just as I went off the single track and around to pass, she went through the water and I went ankle deep in the swamp. It sort of felt like an old episode of the Dukes of Hazzard. Just as the sheriff and Boss Hog were about to catch them Duke boys something would always happen and the cops would end up in the water or crashing and the General Lee would roll on. She rolled on.
I splashed out of the mud and got going again. It was a fast part of the course and before I knew it I had caught back up to her. I trailed again until we got to a sketchy rock outcropping. She climbed off her bike and I was able to ride through it and get by her. We started climbing again, her strength, and it wasn’t long before I was eating dust again.
As we neared the end of the first lap I decided it was time to refuel and pulled out the Hammer Gel. Apparently, I can’t ride fast and eat that gooey stuff at the same time. She pulled away and I never did see her again.
The second lap I was on my own for the most part. One guy pulled in behind me on one of the downs. I knew he was there and pumped it up on the next climb and he disappeared. I rode a hard second lap and finished in a decent time. I was happy with the effort.
I didn’t stick around long; I had some projects waiting for me at home. So I packed up, stopped in Butte for a sandwich and a shake (I deserved it after that fine race), and went back to Helena. A couple of days later I looked up the results and couldn’t find my name. Even though I came through the lap and the finish all alone they somehow missed me. What the? I sent an email, they said there was plenty of time to double-check the results after the race. True, but I guess I figured the race official and race director watched me roll through the finish line so I had no need to make sure I made the list. Oh well, I was middle of the pack and had a good time.
The Bohart Bash was kind of my big race this year. It’s held outside of Bozeman near the Bridger Bowl ski area. Bohart is one of my favorites because this is where I first raced a mountain bike several years ago. Being my first race I had some things to learn. First thing I learned was that I had no idea which category to enter. Yeah, I was both a first-timer and a beginner to racing, but this wasn’t my first time on my bike. Plus, if I was driving all the way to Bozeman I was going to do the 15 miles. I felt like I was clearly a Sport Cat 2 racer. The second thing I learned was I wasn’t a Sport Cat 2 racer.
The race was 3 laps and midway through the second lap I ran out of gas, bonked, hit the wall, all of the above. I didn’t get off and walk, but as slow as I was going at some points I might as well have been out for a stroll. Eventually I made it to the finish and out of nowhere some guy came swooping in and challenged me for dead last. As you can see in the photo below it was close. He got me by half a bike length.
This year I’ve ridden more and trained harder. I felt like I was ready for Bohart. Teammate Jesus Salazar was there as were fellow Helenans Scott Herzig and the Beckners. In the past, Helena has been well represented. I’ve raced here with Dexter, Joe Hamilton, Frank Gonzales, the Proctors, Melinda and Deb Morrell and we usually make a good showing.
The start is a Le Mans start (not sure on the spelling, we had a running start to get to our bikes, we did not practice our breathing technique). The course has several segments where you wind in and out of the pine trees and over roots. It’s not particularly difficult and can be a fast part of the course. There are also a few well placed hills that are deceptively tough. They’re in the sun and suck the energy from your legs.
I had a good first lap passing several people and not getting passed once. Actually, as we veered off the road at the beginning and onto the single track things got tight and crowded. One gal decided she wasn’t going to wait to get by anybody. She jumped off her bike, threw it over her shoulder like a cross race and ran by me and some others. She made it a few spots in front, but I was able to get by her about half a mile later.
I felt strong in that second lap and caught another Bozeman racer. He was good on the downhill but slowed down in the trees. I passed him just before we went into a twisty tree-lined shady section. I think he was a little miffed I slipped in right in front of him. Whatever. He just rode too slow in the technical areas. I pulled away and thought the guy was off for good, but he showed up again on the downhill just as we made the turn from the second lap and started the third. As we again entered the trees I pulled in front. This time I put my head down and really hammered it for a mile or so. When we came out of the trees the dude was gone. It felt good to be the one dropping some riders. I’ve been on the other end of that way too many times.
I finished fast and stopped my Garmin at 1:22. A new PR at Bohart! I was sure to double-check the results and made sure I was on the list this time. I finished fourth in my age group 19-39 and about sixth overall in the cat 2 race. I won a huge bottle of Hammer gel. I’m going to have to start eating that stuff for breakfast to get through the bottle.
Landon Beckner smoked the field and won the cat 1 race. His dad won the masters division and Scott Herzig took third in the cat 1.
My girls were able to ride in the kids race around the infield by the start line and despite their bikes they did well. It was a fun day at Bohart.Share