25th Annual Pando Classic

Pando Ski Area is only open a few times a year for mountain biking, and I had never been out there to ride, let alone race. So Marty and I took the opportunity to pre-ride the race route on Saturday afternoon so I could get in a few laps and understand what the course was going to be like for Sunday. I felt really good on the pre-ride, we got in a few laps before it started to rain.

Race day was no different. The 25th Annual Pando Classic. They tout it as the longest running MTB race in the U.S. I felt pretty good. Excited to be in another race (been since July). Weather was perfect for mountain biking...chilly, breezy, but sunny.

The short 4.3 mile course starts at the bottom of one of the ski hills. You have to ride up the hill, then back down the side to some wide single track and cross-country ski paths. Mix in some fast, long decents and more technical riding and more inclines and there you have it. Sport class was 4 laps, which meant 4 times up the hill, plus a bonus fifth time....because the finish was at the top of the hill. Brutal.

When the 30-39 division took off, I felt good and kept pace about half-way in the pack up the hill. I had enough power at that point to be standing and pounding the pedals all the way up. Let me say, I'm a terrible starter and for me to make any headway during the race by passing people later just doesn't happen. So unfortunately, my races seem to be determined by how well I start. And since I'm not a good starter...well, let's just say I need to work on that. Rocketing your heart-rate from resting to 173bpm can be a troubling thing for your body to deal with. I was out of breath for almost the entire first lap which I'm sure put me near 3/4 the way back in my division. I just couldn't calm myself down. I got passed by all the other Rapid Wheelmen that lap (who started 2-5 minutes behind me). My goal was to not let that happen again.

Honestly, out of all the laps, the first was the toughest. Because I couldn't catch my breath almost the entire way, I had a terrible pain in my side that didn't subside until half-way through lap two. By then I had caught my breath and was feeling better. I wasn't flying by any means, but felt good.

At one point, almost done with lap two, I got passed by about 4 "elite/expert" single-speeders - absolutely flying. Dear Lord! Amazing. I also stopped at one point on lap 2 to help out a Founder's rider, I could tell he was older and not in my division. (Besides, how could I not stop to help a Founder's guy? "Maybe he had extra beers", I thought.) He had busted his chain and as I passed I asked if he needed a chain tool. He said no, he already tried and was just going to walk to the finish. I said "I got quick links". He said "sure!" So I stopped for 30 seconds to dig one out, handed it off and away I went. I hope it worked for him and was able to get in a few more laps.

The course is weird that it has ski hills, long, winding cross-country ski paths mixed in with some pretty technical twisty up and down single track sections riddled with roots. Oh, and the downhills...ahh, the freaking downhills. Long, steady, FAST. I could use more of those. The more confident I was getting in those areas, the less I was using my brakes and letting it flow. There were a few spots where riders would get hung up climbing sharp inclines, I made it up all of those without faltering, except for one on the last lap. "Riding the Ridge" I think was a new section this year and there was this, I'll say, hole in the ground, you had to ride through. It was probably about 8-10' deep by just as long. You had to ride down into it and hope you had enough momentum to get up the other side. The bottom of this pit-thing was just long enough to suck your front wheel in. It was the sharpest down-up I've ever decended into. There were a lot of spectators there, I suppose because it was a site of lots of carnage throughout the day. Lap 1, I fell off the side of it - out of momentum. I caught myself without falling completely over, but racking my thigh on my handlebar. (nice bruise today) Lap 2 - I made it through by holding on to a tree on the left. By lap 3 I was nearly by myself and walked down it for the last two times. That was easier and I knew I was losing my "piloting" skills by then, so this was also the safer alternative. At least I wasn't weak enough like some other riders, hiking through the woods to avoid that section all together.

Lap 4 was about survival for me. "Just keep turning the pedals" I kept saying. Within about a half mile (I think. Mr Garmin hasn't been recording correct mileage for me lately.) after walking down that pit-hole-rim-crusher-thing my left quad started to lock up. Cramps. Great. So I continued to pedal. It was painful, but I was near the end and couldn't give up now. My last time up the ski hill was slow, but I kept cranking away aiming for the finish line. Once at the top, I dismounted, but could not stand up. the cramps were too bad. I had to lay down immediately, Patti rubbed out the worst (left quad) and it eventually subsided.

All I wanted was less than a 2 hour finish time, and that's what I got: 1:58:25. Fifteenth out of twenty-one. Good practice for Iceman, I guess - I have more riding and endurance to put myself through in order to feel good about that race. I have 2 events left to do in the coming month leading up to that, plus some special training rides, so I should be good to go by then.

I never race to win - at least against anyone else. At this point, riding once or twice a week is not going to earn me any real "wins", so I race for "fun" even though most people don't understand the "fun" in climbing a ski hill 5 times so you can get cramps, not be able to stand up afterward, "earn" bruises and sweat until your face is salty and you're delirious.



Thanks to Marty and my family for coming out to cheer me on. (Thanks for the pics too Marty!) I had a blast and were glad they did too! Oh, and to the Rapid Wheelmen waiting for me on the last hill climb (Scofield, Daigle, Kowalczyk), thanks for waiting for me. I'm usually the last to finish all these events and miss all the who-haa at the finish, although someday I hope to be as good of riders as you. I may have flipped you off when you were trying to fake me out by saying someone was challenging me to the finish, but you weren't fooling me...you bastards. HA

Game face on at the start. In fact, I didn't even know Marty was standing right there.

This is the downhill after climbing the ski hill.
Coming down fast, you can see I'm already aiming for the turn.
It was rough and getting sandy there from the Expert race just before.

This is my favorite. It makes me look like I'm going super fast.

A sharp incline where there was a frequent jam-up of riders. In pain.

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