Aaron’s Win – Look Back and Lessons Learned
From Chip: Aaron Hugen is a both roadie (Cat 3) and MTB’r (Cat 2) and a generous advisor / volunteer to pedal Racing. I could fill a book with what he’s taught me. He also won at Ridgeline and at my request, has given us this great write-up on the occasion…
After more than 3 years of mountain bike hiatus, the 2015 Ridgeline Rampage was my return to MTB racing. It brought back all those once forgotten memories of getting up before the sun and trying to conduct a mental equipment check while simultaneously driving with a cup of caffeinated goodness. So refreshing was the venue; bustling with vendors, free t-shirts, and outrageous race fees (well worth it), but certainly lacking a few more Porta-potties. The vast majority of competitors just love riding bikes, and they love that you love riding bikes. The road racing scene is very different, but that’s a write-up for another day…
Race look back:
During morning warm up, which consisted of repeat intervals up the neigborhood road to the pits, I ran into Chad, who gave me pointers about the course and the importance for getting to the single track first. Thank you Chad. At the start, grouped with all experts 19-39, I did just that with three goals in mind. First, get to the single track first, check. Second, push the pace so hard that you demoralize any competitor, check. Third, get far enough ahead that people either write you off or forget you’re out there, check. The course was in pristine shape, which allowed racers to navigate turns without drama and make needed corrections without fuss. And, it allowed me to hold a high pace without knowing the course. I raced the first two laps like a criterium road race, pushing it hard out of every corner and never letting up on the flats. Before long, after passing the single speeders and last of the pro women, I was alone, and spectators gave me too much confidence rolling through the pits, claiming I had a sizeable lead. This is where we come to…
First and foremost, never stop pushing. It’s not a road race where you can see your competitors behind with a brief glance behind your shoulder. In a mountain bike race, you never know who’s coming after you. They can be one switchback behind or several miles…I need a race radio, is that allowed? Anyway, after lap three, I was overconfident, as my lap times suggest. 41, 42, 42, 45, 46. Fatigue was not the cause of laps four and five. Legs felt good, lungs still functioning correctly, lower back, well, it was hanging in there. I dialled it back, and it nearly cost me the race. Coming into the final undulations before the finish line, I’m riding a nice pace behind some lapped riders, enjoying some food, when I hear someone yelling at everyone to get out of the way. I remember thinking “how rude”, just give us a little more heads up and we will let you pass. Turns out, it was a competitor in my category, nearly beating me by half a wheel in the final 20 feet. He literally couldn’t get around the one other gentleman to nip me at the end. NEVER STOP PUSHING
Lastly, and not as important, is passing. You can be polite and aggressive. I’m great with “polite” but certainly not aggressive with my passing, and this can have serious time implications. My typical passing jargon included, “when you get a chance, I’d like to pass on the left, but I’m in no rush”. People love it, but this is also great for eating up precious seconds. If there is room, let them know what side you are passing on and do it quickly, do not hesitate. This is something I need to work on, as it is foreign in road bike racing. Lapping people in a road race is typically an anomaly.
With 3 hours and 40 min of racing, I could highlight much more, but as the great Inigo Montoya says, “No, there is too much. Let me sum up”. With that I say, it’s good to be back, and a special thank you all those that raced, all those who volunteered, and my dear wife Kristin, who always had a bottle ready.