Team Colin tries an O-Cup.
It’s officially summer, and I am officially an O-Cup racer! Yup, Team Colin hit the O-Cup circuit on the weekend, and it was awesome. It was also my first time riding at Albion Hills. Double Awesome.
Okay, full disclosure. I didn’t hit the official O-Cup circuit, I raced in the beginner Citizen category, with no points, no call up, and no official status. But it was the same distance as the Sport category. And the same distance as the Single Speed category. Although it wasn’t as long as the Expert and Elite categories. But it was longer than the Squirt, Peewee, Minime, Cadet, and Junior categories. Boy, they sure have a lot of categories at O-Cup races.
I’ve wanted to race an O-Cup since my first year, but a few things held me back. I’ve compiled them into a comprehensive, officially sanctioned, Top Ten List.
Top Ten Dumb Reasons Why Team Colin Never Raced An O-Cup
- There was always a scheduling conflict (which is dumb because riding a bike is always more important than most other things).
- The Citizen category races are usually only 16km. “Pfft” I thought. 16km wasn’t really worth the long drive and family/work logistics (which is dumb because, well, see #1).
- I was worried they would be too competitive, and the Team Colin Fun Vibe would get scratched (which is dumb because the Team Colin Fun Vibe is Teflon coated and totally indestructible).
- I was worried I wouldn’t fit in (but I never do—at 250 pounds, covered in spandex, I never do—and I’m totally cool with that).
- There are a billion O-Cup categories, and I didn’t know whether to race Citizen, Sport, or Single Speed (which is dumb because I got to the registration booth at 9:50 AM, and the Citizen race started at 10:00, so the decision was made for me).
- I thought O-Cup races would be waaay more technical than my comfort level because I always saw pictures of The Boneshaker at Hardwood O Cup races and they scared the hell out of me (which is dumb because, regardless of my placing, I can totally kick ass on any trail feature).
- There are a billion categories, but there is no Clydesdale category. Not having the category didn’t bother me, but I assumed the lack of the category, amidst every other conceivable category, meant that my kind wasn’t really wanted (which is dumb, because so what).
- I’d heard that O-Cup races lacked the heart and camaraderie that I love at Dan Marshall’s XC Marathon races, and my heart is the only thing that keeps me riding (which is dumb because, again, so what).
- I was just plain scared (which is dumb because–wait this one is actually real).
- Again, I was just plain scared (which is dumb because pfft, I’m over it)
You could say I had a bias against the races. Oh, I was a bit scared too.
But it turns out I was wrong about pretty much everything. Except for the being scared part. That’s always real.
The race was fun, there was a great vibe, and I had an awesome time, from registration until long after the race.
The morning of the race, I was worried about everything. And then the race started, and it all fell into place. Except that I realized I hadn’t been on my geared bike since the beginning of May. Damn, when is the best time to shift gears…
Who cares, it was a Sunday morning, and I was racing my bike. Boom.
So while I was racing, I compiled another exhaustive, officially sanctioned, Top Ten List.
Top Ten Reasons To Race The Next O-Cup
- Great camaraderie and spirit.
- Awesome course.
- Ten dollar O-Cup t shirt.
- The guy who was cheering us on at the top of the Green Monster, on the Rooty Climb, and at the “1K To Go” sign.
That is all, There is no need for more reasons.
It’s as simple as that.
Race Report: Albion Endur-O-Cup, July 12, 2016
The race started with a quick shot across the grass, up some double track, and immediately into the single track, which was sweet. I should have come to Albion Hills sooner. It was awesome. Rooty. Rocky. Twisty. Switchbacky. The double track that connected the trails was a blast too. “Man, this place is awesome”, I thought.
I passed a dozen or so riders at a decent speed, and had the legs to push ahead, I stayed on my bike and didn’t have to dismount for any climbs, and I had lots of energy. But I kept waiting for it. The infamous “Green Monster”. There were a few short bursts and I wondered if one of them was the nasty climb, but I figured there would be no wondering when I actually hit it.
There was no wondering. The Green Monster is a wall.
If the moto cross trail at the Humbler was a country song, the Green Monster at the Endur-O-Cup was a punk song: crude, rough, and very very angry. And instead of being the cheating boyfriend like I was at the Humbler, now I was the Queen. We were in a recession, there were mass layoffs, and the hill was going to stick it to me and my bourgeois, jet setting, friends, in the worst way possible.
So I moved forward in my seat, found a gear, gritted my teeth, and turned my pedals round and round.
And. It. Was. Awesome. Sure, it took me a few minutes afterward to regain my composure. Sure my lungs screamed at me. Sure my legs screamed louder. But I came to race my mountain bike, and the Green Monster answered the call.
Okay, I’m not sure what happened for the remainder of the race because I spent a good portion of it recovering from the climb, but I remember some more sweet single track, a few punchy climbs, a bunch more sweet single track, and lots and lots of even sweeter single track.
Even though I rode my bike through an active heart attack, my pacing couldn’t have been better. And it couldn’t have been worse. I didn’t warm up, so I knew it would affect my start, but after the first 15 minutes I was fine. At least I thought I was fine. I don’t have an actual GPS built into my head, but I felt that my pace, speed, and output should have put me further along in the race, but I kept looking at my GPS, and it showed lots of race still to ride. And then something happened.
My GPS said 15k (or so). There was a rider ahead of me, and I figured I would catch him some time in the next 10k, but there wasn’t 10k. There was about 1,000 metres..
When the race was finished, I had logged 16.4k, which meant that when I had actually finished half of the race, my GPS told me I was only 8k in. And when my GPS told me I was 10k from the finish, and I thought I had plenty of time to catch up to the rider, there was actually a sign that that said “1K To Go” What the hell?
So instead of being able to pace myself based on the distance of the race, and adjusting my pace accordingly, I had no idea where I was, and how far to the end (well, I had an idea, but it was the wrong idea), and when I needed to push. Spoiler alert: I should have been pushing harder. A lot harder.
Basically, my GPS was upset with me and refused to perform its’ primary function. Bastard GPS.
Also, since I’ve been riding my single speed so frequently, It was almost like I had forgotten how to gear. I had that stark realization immediately after we hit the first bit of single track. Spoiler alert: I was in the wrong gear. All the time.
The final kilometre of the race bombed through the grassy knolls of Albion Hills. I sprinted to catch up to the rider ahead, but couldn’t make it. He crossed the line about 2 seconds before me.
And so, my first O-Cup was in the books. It wasn’t a stellar performance, but it wasn’t horrible either. 1:34. 24k. Or maybe it was 16.4k. Whatever.
And to top it off, my family—the original Team Colin—came to cheer me on. I got to see and hear my wife and kids at the feed zone, and at the finish line. Boom Boom Boom. We went to see the Cheltenham Badlands after the race.
I picked up a tip too. While riding up the Green Monster, I moved around on my seat to try and mitigate some nasty back pain and capitalize on some leverage, and I developed a posture for climbs that is going to be way nicer on my back. Sweet.
And to think, all this time I was biased by a bunch of stupid ideas about O-Cup races. What a dummy.
There are two more O Cup races this season: Elliot Lake (which I can’t do), and Hardwood Hills (which I can, because riding a bike is always more important than most other things).
A Final Thought: Throughout the race, something kept tugging at the back of my mind. Where did all of the racers come from? I had never seen the same size crowds at any of Dan Marshall’s Substance Projects races. Sure, his courses are a bit longer, but anyone who can ride the Endur-O-Cup at race pace, can make a few adjustments and ride Dan’s races. It’d be pretty sweet to see some of the crowd do an XC Marathon race. Different pace. Different categories. Same awesomeness. Oh, and a BBQ too!