Four Team Belgianwerkx members (and one honorary junior member) headed up to Iola, Wisconsin for the first Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) mountain bike race of the season on May 15. Here’s what they had to say about the experience!
This past weekend was the series opener for the WORS in Iola, WI. This was my first time doing this particular WORS race so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out that the course was not very technical at all. Some racers were disappointed in the lack of technical features, stating that it felt almost more like a cyclocross course (and the weather didn’t help!). Although I have grown to like and enjoy more technical trails, I still perform better on less technical courses so I did not complain.
Overall I have been feeling pretty good on road and trail rides lately. The only WORS race I did last year didn’t go so well AND I have a lot more mountain biking under my belt now compared to last year at this time, so I had high hopes of placing well in the Sport category.
My race was fairly uneventful. My start was not my best. There is a lot of climbing in the first part of the course, and I just didn’t have my climbing legs. I was able to pass a few girls after the initial climb, but the lead girls already had a huge gap. I did my best to stay on the gas and stay fast and smooth through the single track. It took me most of a lap to recover from all the climbing at the start though and really feel “fast”, then it was time to climb again. I finished 6th in my age group and 7th overall. It was a fun course for me though and I will definitely do that race again.
Some highlights from the weekend were watching my friend’s/teammate’s 7-year-old nephew do his first race. I got to take him on a pre-ride lap of the Junior course on Saturday and it was so awesome to see how much fun he had in both the pre-ride and in the race itself. At one point in the pre-ride he asked, “so this is mountain biking?” Priceless.
After winning my age group in the Citizen category last year, I moved up to the Sport class. Since I wasn’t used to races of this length, I took it a bit easier than I think I could’ve gone, but I wanted to be sure I didn’t blow up. Most of the race went well, was feeling pretty good and had a pace going I was comfortable with. Unfortunately, I made a mistake on the last lap, pushed the front end a bit too much in a sandy turn and ended up crashing. I lost over a minute getting the bike operational again, so I tried to do my best to catch up the last few minutes, but ended up 10th/13th for my age group, and 75th/162 for Sport men overall. I’m OK with the mid-pack overall finish for my first Sport race, but I know I have plenty of work to do this season if I want to do well in the series!
Colleen Malloy & Teddy Chose
Soigneur & Junior Racer
While I’ve retired from my very brief stint as racer, I’ve settled quite well into my role as a recreational rider and my more serious counterpart’s race day soigneur. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what being a soignuer entailed, but Nicki assures me that it’s totally normal for one person to set up a portable shelter on par with Everest basecamp, pin numbers, manage schedules, cook for a crowd, act as a photog and occasionally pinch hit as team medic. I’m skeptical, but I’m just rolling with it.
So when I had a request to add another racer to my charge, I couldn’t resist. Especially as that racer was my nephew Ted – race age 8. Despite never having actually been mountain biking, he made the brave choice to test his road and bike park skills at the WORS season opener – the Iola Bump and Jump.
Ted and his dad Nick joined our crew for a chilly campout the night before, and teammate Jess helped soothe Ted’s nerves with a little practice session the night before. “We’ll just go out for 15 minutes or so,” Jess assured us, so more than an hour later as the sun started to set and a light snow began to dust the ground, we were thrilled to see the pair roll back in after a full lap pre-ride with giant grins on their faces.
In the morning, our first-time racer came to the line hoping to do his best and have fun. I think my nerves matched Ted’s as we waited in staging next to Kid’s kitted out in gear more impressive than my own. “Just don’t let him come in last,” I pleaded to the Nordic gods looking down on the ski resort turned racing venue.
I wasn’t planning on racing the WORS season opener in Iola, but my 7-year-old nephew Teddy decided to race his first mountain bike race ever there, so I figured if Teddy is racing, I better race too!
We headed up the day before to pre-ride and set up camp. Making it a whole weekend excursion really makes the whole event more fun than just a race. Granted, it was really cold and a few snowflakes even made an appearance in the late afternoon after we were done pre-riding the course. But we brought ALL THE GEAR so we stayed warm in our camp shelter huddled around the propane heater.
The course really wasn’t technical with long sections of cross-country ski track, the notable feature for me was some considerable climbing on the first part of the lap (of which I was supposed to do 4 laps in my race on Sunday). I was sorta “meh” on the excitement level of the course, but I was there to race, so I was looking forward to putting some effort down the next day.
Luckily Sunday’s weather shaped up dramatically by the time it was time for my race to start at 1:30. I had a hilariously bad start – totally couldn’t get clipped in for the first few pedal strokes. Whoops! So I was chasing in last place entering the first part of the lap. There were only 7 women in my race, so it wasn’t like I had a ton of ground to make up. After the opening sequence of a few combinations of climbs and downhills, the course dumps you into the ski jumping basin where I was able to pass a few women and slot into 4th place before we really got into the single track. I sat in 4th for the first lap, just making sure not to give too much too soon (which I was prone to last year), then partially thru the 2nd lap I made a pass to get into third place and stayed there the rest of the day. I was very happy with my performance after having absolutely no expectations since it’s so early in the year and I don’t actually train for MTB racing (since my focus is cyclocross).
While I might not go back to Iola next year, it is a fantastic course for someone just getting into racing because of it’s non-technical nature. And this just further reinforced how much fun a WORS race weekend is – they put on a great event for the whole family (5k trail run on Sunday morning plus loads of kids races) all while camping with great friends!