Race Report: Grand Prix Erik Tonkin #5 (Ninkrossi)

Published 2013-09-29

Photo: Matt Haughey

Short version

Remote venue, ideal conditions, my best race ever. 6th of 56

Long version

Remote venue

Prior to, eh, about a month ago, I thought this race was up the Willamette Valley somewhere. (I guess because Ninkasi is a Eugene brewery?)

Anyway, this race is at the Washougal MX park which is in the SW Washington Outback, basically. With the looming apocalyptic weather, Jenny and the kids declined to attend so I drove a no-fooling hour solo to this race in the hills outside Washougal.

Despite which, this is a beautiful setting (on a hillside in a heavily-forested canyon) and all the necessities (waffles, free beer!) were close at hand. I don’t even think there was a kiddie race though. The weather was bad.

Ideal conditions

Crappy. Rain coming sideways, slippery mud, hillsides (i.e. three long climbs), barriers at the top of a fricking climb. That genius-slash-ridiculous Ninkasi logo carved on the hillside. A venue you can scope from a single vantage point. Amazing.

I ♥ the rain and mud. To be fair the rain was light during my race but the conditions were sloppy and slippery. On every descent I felt myself at the edge of chaos, more skating than steering. Yet somehow, never ate mud. I ran really low (for me) pressure, probably around 35psi. Never pinch-flatted (obvs) but held my breath on every big bump.

Climbs are good for me. The course starts and ends at the steepest climb and hallelujah. I staged in the middle to back third but the first climb smeared out the field so there was almost none of the elbows-out positioning that always freaks me out. On every climb I ate about a zillion places and, other than a dropped chain on Lap 2, never lost them again. Other than the barriers (and that dropped chain) I was never once off my bike. I dabbed a lot but then, I dab a lot.

The back half climb is brilliant. It applies exactly the kind of suffering that wilts other C riders. Long enough to defy a sprint-grade climb. Technical. Lots of picking a careful line. Perfect for a bike with a nearly 1:1 bottom gear (i.e. mine.)

I ended the race on a full-out sprint up the first/last climb. #422 caught me on the long descent with superior handling. We turned onto the climb and I discovered a surprising well of glycogen. I did the whole hill on a standing sprint and beat him by a length or more. I finished with nothing left in my legs. One of those races where I turn off the course and flop into the mud.

Also: free beer.

My best race ever

Well, not statistically. That would be Rainier last year, where I placed in the 93rd percentile. But sixth place nets me 20 series points and 2 or 3 OBRA points. I never get points. I don’t feel in danger of a mandatory upgrade but that would be lovely.

Other thoughts

This year my motto is “in it for the race, not for the place,” and thus far I’m having more fun. I’m not racing with a HRM, which was kind of useless data anyway (“huh, 200bpm for 45min again”). I’ve done nada training, my bike weighs a ton, I don’t even pretend to warm up. My sample size is pretty small (n = 3) but so far my slack attitude is netting about the usual results.

Addendum: Video from 2012:

Gives a good sense of the venue, anyway.

Ninkrossi Cyclocross Race 2012 from kent johnston on Vimeo.

Addendum 2: Photos courtesy of Hot Foot Photo