Race Report By Brandon Andrews:
The first WORS Series race of the year, my first WORS Series race ever. It was interesting. There were a number of expectations and concerns coming into this race that I was a bit worried about. I have raced a number of XC races in the past in Georgia and apart of the SERC series. However I still haven't found my place in the confusion of categories. At one time reading the "description" of categories I thought I might be a 2, since I am not a beginner mountain biker. However I was quickly put in my place. :) Smaller local races I would actually do ok in, since they did not have the draw of faster competitors in each division. For the WORS Series and the change to Wisconsin I wanted to just keep my standing in USA Cycling as a 3. If I did really well in the first few races I would of course bump up. If I crushed it I would bump up immediately. Laura had no choice. She was upgraded to a 1 last year before we moved from Georgia and so she is required to race in with the Pro/Elite Class. Fitness is another concern of mine. I spend more time traveling and working than actually on a bike, joys of working for a bike company. A few weeks ago I went for a gravel ride, see earlier post, and started to cramp way too early. Since we are now living in Wisconsin, negative temperatures and snow has kept us from riding through the winter. This is officially one of the worst starts physically to a race season I have ever had. Laura too has be traveling, but she is always faster than me. So before we even raced or drove the 2 hours to go, I had my reservations of the trip.
Laura, Shimano (the pug) and I packed the car and headed up to Iola for the race. The drive was great seeing areas where green has started to cover the field where once everything was white. The weather was perfect. We got to the course and pinned the numbers. I went first racing as a Cat 3 Citizen racer in the 30-34 group. I lined up next to a guy who said he had only been Mountain biking for a little while. He was previously a runner, I told him he had nothing to worry about if he was a runner. His fitness would carry him through the day. He ended up 3rd in our age group, beating me by 2 seconds. The start of the race was on fire road/grass paths. I assume this is the place that people cross country ski. The younger age groups had already had a few minute start on us. I was positioned about 4th or so in the group of our age. We hit single track an started to really move. Since we were only doing 2 laps on the 5 mile course positioning was key. However in areas of slight technical or even up hill became bottle necks with the riders who were in front due to age groups being released a minute apart. I tried to pass when reasonable but still just tried to keep my cool and not over exert the first lap. There were a few spots where I had to dismount run and show off my Cyclocross skills getting back on the bike. The course was very easy for the citizen races. There were really only two steep climbs that I was able to ride up both, passing a few walkers. My first lap I realized that the arm warms and knee warmers that I was wearing were not doing any good. Second lap I started to move with another rider in a different age group, he and I worked around riders and moved together really well. I would get a bit of energy and pass him on some of the steeper climbs. Thankfully these were not the long climbs like in Clemson or North Georgia. I could power through and then relax on the downhill.
Last half of the lap I saw the "runner" who was in my group. I figured I should go ahead and catch him and pass him. This ended up being a bit more difficult to do. Due to the number of younger riders on the course who were ahead passing became almost impossible. Some of the kids around the age of 11 or so I would see him pass someone, then I would get closer to him. I was right with him when I miss shifted and dropped the chain. Dummy move on my part. I quickly hopped off and realigned my chain with the right gears then took off again. Knowing I needed to make up a bit of time I went over hard, hit one rooty section on the uphill with way too much speed and wrecked. Picking myself off the dirt thinking that shouldn't have happened, I searched for my Garmin, found it and again was in chase mode. This is when it really got interesting. Before the finish there really was only two areas to pass before the line itself. There was a climb to an open area that had space then the course switched to a straight section that was through the trees and bumpy, passing here would be difficult, but for about a second after that section you could pass before going into the last tree section. The timing would have to be critical. Right before the climb I saw him move past two riders. This meant I started the single track climb with the two in front of me, one was a young girl about 12 probably riding for her first time in a race, the other was someone who was just following her, he wasn't even in the race. I am all about the kids racing and having fun too, I loved cheering them on as I passed the kids. Or coaching them as I was behind them. This was a bit painful though. I sat behind the two of them and asked once if I could pass, the guy told me after the climb. It took longer than expected. I just sat there staying quite, I did not want to ruin her race or give her any anxiety. At the top of the hill she stopped just short of the top causing the guy behind her to staggered back, I had to do some quick maneuvering to go around both and back on course. I pressed on as fast as possible to catch my nemesis runner friend. As I hit the long bumpy tree section I saw him past the last turn before the final tree section. That was my last chance to get a good pass in. He had caught two other riders in another group. As we made the last exit out of the trees I tried to stand up and catch him but there was no room before the finish. I ended up 4th in the age group and 41st out of about 140 finishers. Missed the podium by that much.
Laura is a Cat1 racer and she is very excited to be in that field, although sometimes she doesn't express it. The Elite group does 4 laps totaling about 20+ miles. The weather started to get a bit warmer and two sections were added to the course for their race. Another long climb followed by off camber downhill to a steep short climb and more off camber fun. She knows that she will be training more to compete in these races. Today was just to evaluate where she was at. The first lap she looked good and was sitting in front of two girls. As the laps continued she worked hard to just stay within contact. Being again that she is new to the Elite/Pro field she did fantastic. She ended up 4th in her age group and 8th overall in the Pro/Elite group. While she raced Shimano and I took a few photos of her racing and took some quick naps on the grass. It was such a great day. Laura is still reminding me daily that it helped that I only raced for 10 miles instead of 20+, I don't think she will let me live that down.
We are looking forward to more racing in Wisconsin, although we will miss the next few weeks, but be back for CamRock! WORS #3 in June.
-Brandon Andrews (with insight by Laura Andrews and Shimano the Pug)
For more info on the WORS series check out this site-
Some of the photos posted here are used with permission by: Extreme Photography Unlimited
Others are shot by myself, www.bdandrews.com