NORBA #2 - Sugar Mountain, USA, June 10-11, 2006
The second stop of the 2006 NORBA circuit took me to a new venue, tucked in the hills of western North Carolina: Sugar Mountain. As I live in Utah, the idea of skiing at a venue this far south and at only 5300 feet of elevation seemed odd to me, but there is a reason that this place is called Sugar Mountain (sugary snow). The new NORBA stop meant a new race course - this one was interesting, with lots of double track and paved climbing, and then some east coast descending. Watch out for the rocks and roots.
It was difficult to get good cell phone signal in this remote region, and wireless internet was impossible, so here is a summary of the race weekend:
Thursday: Get to the venue and wash the vehicles in the rain. Setup the tech area and get bikes ready to go. The girls rode in the wet as there was some rain about. Tyre choice was key and we ended up changing all the tyres to some real knobby tread designs. Most of the race wheels still had minimally treaded tires still on from Fontana. Bike wash Thursday night took until the sun went down with all the mud.
Friday: Drier skies and quickly drying ground lead to another day for changing tyres near non stop. Conditions were changing faster than we could change rubber. I got to race the expert STXC on Friday night after a long day on my feet; I felt like crap in the warm-up but got a good start and had some stick till the end. Observers said that I had the long string of snot/spit streaming from my face for most of the race, a good sign that I was going full gas. It was great to hear the voices all round the course cheering my name or team affiliation. I am most appreciative.
Saturday: Race day. More tyre changes and setup extra wheels for two tech zones. The tech zones are a great help to the riders, but I dread having to deal with mid-race problems. A sage mechanic once said something like, you work on the bikes before and after the race, not during. Sure enough Kathy Sherwin had a little dirt nap during her second lap and came through the tech zone with a clod of dirt in her helmet and her bars twisted 20 degrees to the left. The rest of the bike was fine and after a few seconds to straighten the bars and check the bolts, she was back underway. I cannot say that I cherish the sight of a wounded rider coming through the tech zone looking for you, but in this case the damage was minimal, the fix quick and the rest of the race went well for her.
Kelli Emmett had a great ride for us and stood on the podium at the end of the day. She is in great form and looks to the top step soon.
Sunday: STXC = Pure pain. Luna put on a textbook display of strength in numbers and took 1st-4th spots. I was feeling a little sick today, but I dug deep and motored through the work day. We had to be out of the condo by 4:00pm, so we did the most efficient teardown of the tech area yet this year.
None other than Tom Danielson was in the feedzone feeding his wife during the XC. Kinda funny to see him handing up bottles on a climb rather than quickly snatching them up on the ascent.
World cup podium dude JHK was seen sporting some new Avid Ultimate brake levers and calipers in a bright copper finish. The design and materials used in these new Avids cut weight by a huge amount. Look for the production versions (not in the copper finish) this fall.
Tyres were the story of the weekend. That, and the changing weather. The combination of a fast climb and technical descent made tyre choice crucial. Add some rain and I think that we wore out some tyre levers changing rubber. It really was that crazy.
Some of the nice folks at Dickies clothing came out to film me working on the Ford cycling team bikes on Friday. I have worn their clothes for a long time now while working on bikes and they have a contest for the American Worker of the Year. I entered and as it turns out, I am a finalist for the award. I will know more about this soon and will pass it along. I am honoured to even be considered, it was an interesting day, with spotlights and all.
The best part of my weekend was a couple of encounters with a reader of this website. Glenn Kalnins reads my stuff on Cyclingnews.com and he lives in Columbus, Georgia where he rides road and mountain bikes. He drove up to North C Carolina for this NORBA national and after his race he came by the Ford trailer. As I have encouraged readers to do many times on Cyclingnews.com, he took the opportunity to come by and introduce himself. I really enjoy meeting people from all over who share a passion for the sport. Glenn really loves bikes and that shows through from the first words that we exchanged.
We talked for a while on Saturday and then he came back on Sunday and he met the girls and got some posters and photos signed. Talking with Glenn really was the highlight of my weekend; it reminded me of the great opportunity that I have to spend time surrounded with people that are dedicated and passionate about cycling. I am fortunate for the opportunity to travel to beautiful places, work in the outdoors and get to ride my bike at the end of the day. The work is hard, the days are long, but I am truly one of the lucky ones. Thanks Glenn for coming by, your enthusiasm reaffirmed my love and appreciation for what I do.
NORBA moves on this next weekend to the legendary Mt Snow venue. All the rocks, roots and tight trees that you can get on the east coast. Then they cover the entire mountain with automatic transmission fluid to make it extra slick. Just joking, it only seems that way at Mt Snow. I have to head off and buy some mosquito repellent for the coming weekend, I will check in next week.
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