I hadn’t planned on doing another race. Graduate school gets quite busy in September with the return of an entire campus, conferences, teaching a lab, and that general feeling that the slow pace of summer is gone. However, after my first ride on Sumas late this summer, I knew I must ride here again and consequently took my boyfriend there the following weekend. The trails are so unlike the North Shore, a welcome change at time. Smooth, flowy, fast, and long! Then when the Sumas Smackdown race was announced and my calendar looked totally devoid of friends to ride with, I registered.
I had planned on taking my 6 and 6 all-mountain bike, which I was super-comfortable on and absolutely love to ride. The course consists of a big logging road climb and that bike would just mince it to pieces. Then when headed down, I knew I’d be confident and could push myself. Alas…… A 100+ day riding season isn’t kind to the bike parts and my rear shock was totally blown a week before the race. In no way would it be rebuilt for the Smackdown so we grabbed the dropper post and flat pedals and put them on my little hardtail. The project bike. Where every piece is slowly getting replaced. I hadn’t ridden it in a long time… In the following week leading up the race, I forced myself to get out on the hardtail and again get used to its feel and handling. I complained while riding it up and down Burke and Burnaby. I still frowned at climbing it up Seymour but the down made up for it. I fell in love again with the little bike on Fromme, after a decent climb and a fantastic down on Expresso. Race ready, I’d say!
On the morning of September 23, I headed east, across the widest bridge in the world, and into the Valley. I got there with plenty of time so relaxed, ate, pedaled around on the bike a bit, got my plate, and chatted with fellow early birds.Â The course consisted of a whopping 18 km which included Knob Gobbler, Emma Peel, No Time Out, and the all-time favourite Squidline. A first lap was deemed a “warm-up” before the big 6 km climb up the road and then the Super D down Knob Gobbler and Squidline, finishing off with (I think) a brand-new section of trail in the clearcut. The race started promptly at 10 am and all 36 of us lined up in the small parking lot. It was a different crowd than the other races I’d been to. Much more lycra… Fast, light-looking bikes. And yep, by the first turn in the initial climb, the pack had jetted off and myself plus a few others remained at the back. We swapped a few words about the start of the race and eventually dispersed along the first lap.
The first lap has a short climb, and then cuts into Squidline for a bit. From there it connects to Emma Peel and No Time Out. Once back on the road, cheering marshals pointed me uphill and I started the big road climb. I started to miss my all-mountain bike. I felt a bit more battered from riding the hardtail and I honestly wished for the ten-speed and plush rear. The climb felt like it took ages; much longer than when I had ridden it in August. I reached the top and dove into Knob Gobbler. Down we go!!! For the most part anyway. The awesome thing about this mountain is that there is so much single track back to the parking lot from Knob Gobbler. Knob Gobbler is over quickly and I soon found myself on the dirt roller coaster, aka Squidline. Focused, I kept the bike rolling, clenching through the pain of tired arms and legs, remembering to stay loose on the bike and move it under me. Closer to the finish line… I pinned it on the straight track to the parking lot only to be surprised by the yellow tape blocking the exit. I have to go right? Up that hill?! A marshal waves from the top of the hill. His bright pink boots stand out against a backdrop of sky and cut-down trees. Alright… up again we go. The steepest climb dropped me at the top of the clear cut, where brand-new looking single track started. A swoopy, gentle down with new wooden structures and very loose dirt led me finally to the finish line at the parking lot.
I had completed the 18 km course in 2 hours, 5 minutes and am very proud of that. I joined other racers, all of which were very pleasant and easy going, and enjoyed the ensuing barbecue. I placed fourth in the Women’s Open, received a wooden medal, and joined the other ladies on the podium. A very fun way to end the event! I am super glad I raced the Smackdown, happy to be comfortable on a hardtail again, and proud to be a Muddbunnie racer. Thank you, FVMBA, for putting on this fantastic event! And a big thank you to all the Muddbunnies Race Team sponsors! That was one tasty beer at the end!
PS: For those looking for a fast, smooth ride or for those not-so-keen on the gnar of the North Shore, Sumas is enjoyable for all, on any kind of bike. Check it out before the monsoon season is back and support the amazing trail-builders and the FVMBA for making it all happen!