Monday, May 5, 2014

Florida Cup Mountain Bike Championship - Loyce E Harpe Park - Lakeland, FL

Florida Cup Mountain Bike Championship

Women Pro/Expert - 2nd place

It is always fun to race in Lakeland even after it did downpour on the park for two days straight prior to the race and during the pre-ride. Trails were slick and soft but still very rideable.

Shelly and I after the start
The three lap course was just enough to tired us out and separate the field.

Well-deserved win for Shelly who is one of strongest riders the state had to date.

I had long lasting head to head friendly battle for the second place with Amy who is a seasoned, strong and skilled rider. It was a pleasure to race in such a good company.

It was also a first Mountain Bike Race on my new bike with all the amazing components on it and I think I can safely say my Sonia did an awesome job!

Congratulations to everyone who did come out and raced with us! 

But here is the full story: This will be the third week in a row of me racing. You would ask if I am getting a little tired by now. Oh yeah, I’m tired, but we concluded (me and my husband) to go for one more race.

Hopefully I will be able to relax a little pretty soon but for now I had the next challenge ahead of me.

I have my "I am working hard" face on!

Thankfully Lakeland is just a short three hour drive (oh yeah, by now we are seasoned travelers and a few hours in a car will not scare us away!).  Plus, I really like a lot riding on those trails, they are fast, interesting, with sudden here and there more demanding hilly sections. Those parts are really fun and not to be taken for granted, they are high up, narrow and are filled with tons of surprises with sudden rock gardens, roots, step-ups, drops and turns. It is truly biking on the edge and often you hope you will not end up in the phosphorescent green swampy water.

Only issue was the weather. The front that was going through the area was pretty bad and would not leave the race site for two long days of downpours… But as I remember the trails here were pretty sandy and figured would absorb the rain pretty well, assuming it was going to eventually stop.

Weather gurus stated that Sunday will be sunny and beautiful so we packed our bags relying on that and hoping they were going to be right.

Into small dip, still in pain.

Half way through our drive the sky turned grey and it started to rain. Thankfully by the time we got to the park there was a little window of no rain and we got out quickly on a small preview of the course. The trails were wet but intact, just some wet roots and standing water paddles were scattered throughout the course. For everything we remember the race setup seemed faster than to what we had at the previous race. Middle part of the track was flat and very unmemorable but the beginning and the end sections were fun. And exactly when we were approaching the final mile and the most demanding section it started to rain. It didn’t take long for the trails suddenly to turn to slippery pile of whitish clay and climbing here and tackling the roots and rock gardens was more challenging now. Determined however to see the whole setup we finished the whole 6.5 miles and rushed now in the full rain to the bike wash. Oh the mud and sand was just everywhere from our clothing to bikes and later the whole car.

After a warm shower and getting into some fresh dry clothes we went for a nice dinner.

In the morning as the weather man predicted the sky was almost perfectly blue, it was a little cooler which is always good, but quite muggy from all the moisture.

It only looks like I'm relaxed and alone. Trust me I'm not, this is my "cool "face while I'm being chased!

The turnout of racers was not what I expected but I found out that I was going to have some serious racing company. It was not anymore about the number but the quality of riders and we definitely had that today.

And here is Amy, always on my wheel!
I approached the race start with zero stress and a positive attitude. After the gun went off we sprinted through the gate and tried to get the best position before heading into the trails. Shelly as always had an amazing start and was able to get ahead right in time to lead to the trail system. I was able to get right behind her and Amy was right after. Shelly from the start was so fast that it was very difficult to stay close and keep an eye on her. I had her in sight but she was getting away pretty quickly. Those first miles are always tough and instantly you feel it in your legs and you breathe as deep and hard as you possibly can. It’s a test of fitness, strong mind and tolerance for suffering. We were zigzagging now in the fast trails and Amy was right on my wheel. I loved the more technical parts of the course and they were mostly run in this race the opposite way. And even though they were the energy suckers it was still a pleasure to ride them. No matter how fast I flew through the technical or how hard I pushed on the straight away Amy was always on my tail. At some point when riding on the narrow single track on the edge of the water we did come out quickly to the open and Amy with few riders was let’s say some 15 seconds back with some other riders.

Makes you wonder if I can hide here form her. :-)

There were no markings and next single track was approaching quickly on the left, it was a narrow, twisty and lasted for a little while. While ducking the small trees I noticed a whole train of riders going on the side of me on the open fire road just outside of where I was riding. When I got out of there I barely managed to keep my position and the whole gap between us was completely gone now. So it was both of us again.

We concluded the first lap in this matter, just until Amy was able to sprint out to the shoot for a quarter mile dirt road stretch, I bet thankfully to those road conditioned legs.  I went through the shoot just a few seconds back and sprinted for the next lap and was trying to get into the trails first once again.

It didn’t work and I was at this time on the wheel, tracking the progress and hanging there until I got my first opportunity on the first grassy opening. I have to say Amy is an amazing person to have by my side and really a “good game” and very kind competitor and when I announced that I will be passing she let me go by with no hesitance. Now we were flying fast in the open and were reaching the too steep to get on wall ride and first fun and hilly section. No matter what we were inseparable, no matter what the course would throw at us, or on the melancholic dark, muddy, flat and not memorable mid-section, to the steep climbs, wet root beds and slippery and exhausting Baby Beast trail with tough and steep climb, or whoever was passing us, we somehow were always together. This time I made sure I didn’t miss the open dirt road and said to Amy few times “it is here yet, or here, or here?”  But I rode it perfectly this time but on the final lap I saw a whole group of riders making the same mistake as I did on my first lap.

Nope, still there! It's our painful, almost never-ending battle!
Also somewhere there when maneuvering in between small tight turns in between small trees with water on my left there was a bird “Limpkin” right on my path and he was massive and at some point I screamed “out of my way LIMPKIN!” and he was just running on my path, flapping his wings and screaming loud “AHH, AHH”. Thankfully he left the trail unharmed and when on the next lap I still could hear him in the same spot, but now he was off the trail and on the edge of the water. It was funny because right after yelling at the bird the trail opened up and there was some cheer group standing by and they just gave me this look “Who the heck was she yelling at?!”.

Here is my little and LOUD Screaming and path crossing LIMPKIN. Isn't he cute?

And once again after the final climb section trail spilled us on the orange deep clay and slimy road shoulder and into the shoot one after the other. We both got a fresh bottle handoff and we were off. I was leading through the shoot this time and the moment I started the third lap I was on the gas. This was a time to put an extra gear on and see what happens. Right from the start I started creating a small gap which with time grew slightly bigger. Now the balance between riding fast, pushing, not making mistakes or trashing the bike on the slimy sections was the key. It’s all about the good decisions and often also good luck.
I might be getting some distance now...

I felt awesome on the trespasses up on the hills and was full of doubt on the boring flat sections which didn’t feel fast at all and I would hate to get caught on something that uninteresting and uninspiring as tiny wet roots and swooshy and soft single track. But after that I still had all the technical and slippery trails and was just set to ride them smoothly and don’t get stuck and don’t make any mistakes. After all the hills and climbing up to the top of the final trail I was happy to slide my bike down to the final little grassy trail which spilled me to the red clay road. This is when I decided to grab a small sip from my bottle for the final stretch to the finish and got into the clay just the moment I was putting the bottle away. Not fast enough I ended up riding in some deep goo one handed and was putting the bottle in the bottle cage totally sideways and just gave up and let it drop.

The race is over!

Thankfully right in same spot was Christie Burnett taking photos and I asked her to hold on to my bottle if she could. And I pushed on the final section to the finish and didn’t see Amy in site. To my surprise I was able to gain on her two full minutes on this final lap and Shelly who was leading the whole race and was not visible to us for most of it finished long ahead with a nice four minute gap.

Today's Ladies Podium: Myself, Shelly and Amy. We all worked really hard today!

It was a good race and sure I didn’t get a State Championship title but Shelly that did definitely did deserve it. I can’t even describe the honor to race someone that was a Pro racer and one of the strongest riders in the state when I was completely green and just was getting into the sport and had no clue at all about what I was doing. All I knew was how outstanding those women were, strong and badass and how much I loved to ride my bike and how much I wanted to be good in it. Now standing not only on the start line but also on the podium with such great riders is a treat and great complement to the fact that anything in life is possible as long as you put your heart and soul into it.

Sending "Hello" to KMC!
Of course my life is easier, my bike is faster and my body is stronger thanks to all my amazing support:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!


  1. Great report, Beata! How'd your Epic do on those wet/slippery roots? Also, what was your tire choice? I'm headed back east this Summer with my Epic and have been wondering what the best traction solution will be...

    Do you by chance use a TrainerRoad mountain bike training plan or any of the workouts? I love hearing about REAL success like yours from people who follow our plans :)

    -Trevor from TrainerRoad

    1. Hi Trevor,

      Thank you for nice comment.

      The Epic did awesome on this terrain and I had even more grip and ground control that I had on my HT.

      Just two weeks ago we rode in Alabama, Oak Mountain and the Epic just was amazingly fast and quick to respond and left no place for any doubt that all terrain can be tackled with finesse and confidence at speed. Riding it (well her, Sonia) was simply a blast!

      The tire choice were Rocket Ron front and Racing Ralph back just because of numerous rocks that I will encounter in Alabama but also because of wet conditions in Lakeland. Otherwise you could use Thunder Burt on the rear but this probably would be applicable only for racing.

      I was excited to see TrainerRoad come out with Mountain Biking training plans and yes of course I’m using the workouts from it and also other favorites that I have been using for a while now. I would not be where I am if not for those fun and tough workouts! Thank you!

      I hope you enjoy riding on the East Coast!