Most of the time, at work, I write about government and politics. Once a week I get to write about bicycles, for my weekly cycling column, which is published every Tuesday.
Here is this week's column, in which I write about this weekend's national-level mountain bike race, to be held at the Windham Mountain ski area. I'll be attending the race to cover it for Velo News, and obviously I'm pretty excited about that. Although my report will likely only wind up on the Web, this is the first time that the magazine is trusting me to cover a national-level event, that will feature some members of the 2008 Olympic mountain bike team. There will be plenty of dispatches from the race this weekend. Here's a preview.
Pros descend on Windham
WINDHAM — Last week we went to France, this week, we’re going to the dirt. In my road-centric world, I sometimes forget there is a whole world of cyclists out there who like to ride beyond pavement’s edge. This column is for you.
Adam Craig, a 2008 Olympian will be among the all-star cast turning out to race the East Coast Nationals, to be held at Windham Mountain this weekend.
Craig, who races for the Giant Mountain Bike team, will join top level competitors Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz, from the Subaru-Gary Fischer team, as well teammate Carl Decker.
Local pro mountain bike racer Mike Mooradian of Team SPIN, one of only two New York-based pros, is expected to start the event as well. In addition, two professional road racers, Justine Lindine, of Mapelcrest, and usually racing for Target Training, and Andy Guptil, who usually races for the Colavita/Sutter Home professional road team, are both expected to ride fat tires this weekend, ditching their usual team apparel in favor of a local shop’s jersey.
The event, which includes races in five mountain biking disciplines for amateurs and professional athletes, begins on Friday and continues throughout the weekend. The first-year event, held just a week before the national championships at Mt. Snow, in Vermont, is part of the National Mountain Bike Series, the premier calendar for domestic racing.
“NMBS has a huge following. It’s one of the oldest series in the United States. The best riders need to be there to complete and all the amateur and recreational racers want to be there as well,” said Nick Bove, one of the event’s promoters, and the owner of Windham Mountain Outfitters, a cycling and snow sports shop located near the mountain. Lindine and Guptil will both wear Windham Mountain Outfitter’s jerseys this weekend.
He added that the position on the calendar, one week before the national championships, made it feasible for some athletes to make the trip from the west coast. Bove said promoters expected between 800 and 1,000 racers to compete in men’s and women’s cross country and short track races, as well as the gravity-powered downhill, super-D, and dual slalom races.
With all of the events finishing within viewing distance of the mountain’s base, spectators will be able to watch numerous events all at one spot. Spectators who pay to get onto the mountain will be treated to an unusual feature: over-under passes, where racers on the cross-country course will cross bridges constructed over the downhill course. Bove said that a crew of volunteer built the overpasses, as well as about 30 bridges that range from two to ten feet wide.
“These are enormous structures with a lot of engineering. It adds an element of character to the race,” he said, adding that while some bridges exist only to enhance the quality of the race, others were put in place to protect wetlands from erosion.
Events official begin with training session on Thursday, but the real action is reserved for the weekend.
On Saturday, the pro men and women’s cross country races will send racers climbing a circuitous path up the ski slopes, and then back down. Competitors at different levels will complete different numbers of laps.
Following the conclusion of that race, pro and semi-pro racers will take to the gravity course for the dual-slalom race.
Dual-slalom, or DS, is similar to a gated ski race, but with jumps, berms, and stutter bumps added to enhance the race. Bove said that this event, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, will be one of the most spectator friendly races.
Sunday begins with the women’s downhill final at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, and continues with the men’s contest. Downhill is similar to a downhill ski race: riders start at the top of the mountain, and race to the bottom, competing for the fastest time, while negotiating various obstacles along the way. The afternoon continues with the short-track race on Sunday afternoon, in which racers compete on a short circuit, in a spectator-friendly venue.
The weekend wraps up with a super-D race on Sunday afternoon. Similar to the downhill course, the super-D integrates uphill elements, and requires racers to pick their equipment carefully. The prime viewing spot will be at the lodge at Windham Mountain, and amateur events will be spread throughout the weekend.
For more information, visit http://www.windhammountainbike.com/