Monday, October 22, 2012

Korea Mountain Bike Grand Prix

Last Sunday I raced in the Korea Mountain Bike Grand Prix in Pyeong Chang (host of the 2018 Winter Olympics).  The course was 60km with 20 on the road and I was feeling good and hoping to perform well.  The race stayed together on the road for the first ten Km before hitting the huge first climb which had several sections of over 30% grade.  I did my best to stay conservative and not blow up on the climb which resulted in the leader of my age group getting a gap on my group.  At the top there were 10 of us riding together and driving it over the rolling forest roads.  On the first big downhill I was at the back of the group and ended up losing a little bit of time from getting caught behind people. However after a 5km section of road I caught back up with my group which contained 2 other riders from my age group.  I was starting to feel good so I went to the front of the group and managed to drop everyone however on the next long down hill I dropped my chain and ended up twisting it a little bit.  So for the rest of the race it was skipping and I had to ride conservatively to avoid breaking it and maintain my second place.  I ended up riding with 2 riders from another age group to take second in mine.
It was bitter sweet though because it turned out that the winner of my age group only finished 50 seconds ahead of me!  I hadn't seen him since the first climb but because of my chain wasn't able to chase very fast.  On the other hand though I was extremely thankful not to have broken my chain (especially since I didn't have a chain tool!).  This was definitely on of the best mountain bike race courses I had done in Korea this year and I was happy to be feeling good.
My bike is in the shop right now getting several things fixed (including a new chain) and should be ready for 3 weeks of racing starting this Sunday with a big race in Dong Ducheon (north of Seoul).  The race organizer is bringing Gunn Rita Dahle and Jose Hermida in to participate so that should be pretty cool.

Monday, October 8, 2012

YongPyong and Dangjin Race Reports

Sorry for not posting on here in a while.  School has been really busy lately but I've still been getting out to some races. 

2 weeks ago I raced in the YongPyong Resort mountain bike festival.  The race was out in PyongChang and will host the downhill at the 2018 winter Olympics.  Saturday morning I had an individual XC race that consisted of 4 laps of a 4km course that was pretty difficult.  It started out with a huge steep muddy climb then switch backed down the ski hill before another short climb and downhill to the finish.  I started out well and was with the leaders of my age group but I faded hard after the first lap and ended up finishing last in my age group but that was still good enough for 4th!  I got a nice pair of Schwalbe mountain bike tires for my efforts.  I wasn't feeling good in teh race because the previous day I didn't get to ride at all.  Generally when I don't ride at all the day before a race I end up racing like crud. 
However on Sunday there was a good chance to redeem myself with a 5 man team relay.  The course was a shortened version of the XC course at just under 3km with just the big climb and downhill.  There were 6 teams of 5 in the race.  We sent our slowest 2 riders off first and ended up in 3rd for the first 2 legs but our 3rd leg rider Ji Haeng(our strongest mtb rider) managed to pull us even with the 1st place team by the end of his leg.  I was the 4th rider and started right with the another team with 3rd place just a few seconds behind us.  Luckily a race like this (super short and hard) is pretty well suited to me and I was able to open up a gap on the climb and further open it on the downhill.  Going into our last leg Kang Yeon Deok only had to keep the gap to finish it off.  We won 1.5 million won(about $1,500) for our efforts.  That was my first mtb relay ever but I hope they have more next year. 

After a 2 week break from racing I raced one of my favorite races in Korea yesterday.  The Dangjin MTB road race.  Its held on a 40km course thats primarily flat but with a few short climbs, single track sections and long dirt road sections to keep it interesting.  The lead group always forms on the only major climb of the race so  I made sure I was at the front for it.  Its a gravel up hill and single track downhill and I started on my teammate Ji Haeng's wheel.  He attacked up the climb and I followed him and at the bottom of the downhill we had a 10 meter or so gap to the next rider.  We started rotating on the long flat road along the seashore to try and distance ourselves but within the next 4km or so we were joined by 6 other riders.  Luckily for me there was only one other rider in my age group and he was my teammate HwanGeol so I didn't need to worry too much.  But there was also a team competition based on age group placings and JiHaeng had 2 other riders from his group to contend with.  I wanted to help him win his group so we could score maximum points.  We worked well together and then we hit a long hard dirt road section.  I decided to attack to try and drop some of the guys from JiHaeng's age group but only succeeded in getting rid of one of them.  I knew it would come down to a sprint which JiHaeng led out.  However with 200m to go a car suddenly pulled out in front of our group.  Everyone got around it but JiHaeng had to slam on his brakes and got passed by the other rider from his age group.  HwanGeol was also ahead of me at the time but I was happy to finish second.  We ended up finishing 3rd in team comp with the points we scored which got us enough money to have a delicous lunch of duck meat.  I got 80kg of rice for finishing second and my teammate HwanGeol got 100kg for getting first in our age group. 

I really like the Dangjin race because it combines the tactics of road racing with the skills needed for mtb racing.  I always think it makes for a fun and dynamic race.  Up for this weekend is the Korea Mountain Bike Grand Prix.  Its a 60km mtb race and looks like it will have some pretty fast riders in it.  I'm feeling
pretty good so I'm hoping I can pull off a top 3 result in my age group. 

Here is a picture of my team on the podium after the relay race at YongPyong.