The Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series, or WEMS, is the off-road alternative to WORS, with races lasting from 3 hours to 12 hours for teams and individuals. The intermediate to advanced trails at Alpine Valley are relatively new; 2017 is only the fourth year WEMS has held a race at the venue since the current trail system has been developed. Race organizers opened a new section of trail special to the event this year. Thanks Adam for your report!
Let me start by saying that this was my first MTB race so I wasn’t expecting much. My friends have told me that mountain bike racing is very different than road racing but how different could it be? Turns out, very different.
The race was at Alpine Valley and it was part of the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series. There are three different lengths that you can race, 3, 6 or 9 hours. Needless to say, I chose the 3 hour race. I looked up last year’s winner and it said that he completed 4 laps in three hours so my goal was to do three. I have been doing a lot of crit racing and casual MTB riding so I figured I could hang on as long as possible and just see what happened.
One thing I didn’t account for was the elevation change. It wasn’t until the pre-race safety talk that I found out there is over 1000 feet of climbing per lap of the race. Fantastic. The race started with a LaMans style run to your bike and then a hammerfest to get good position. I started out the first lap (9.5 miles/lap) wayyyyyy too hard. I figured that I would just hammer up the first few climbs and catch my breath on the flatter/downhill sections. Turns out there were no flat sections on the entire course. You are climbing from the start and only occasionally stop to smash a short downhill section. Not enough time to recover. I ended up redlining way past my threshold and I had to dial it back. The first lap was basically just trying not to pass out.
As I came through the start/finish for my second lap, I was a little more prepared for what lie ahead. I was still on pace (55 min/lap); I just told myself to spin up the climbs and keep a steady pace to conserve my energy. The second lap felt much better and I finally found a rhythm. I finished the 2nd lap with about an hour to go. Now it was decision time. I was pretty gassed after that second lap and I had to finish the third lap in under an hour for it to “officially” count. I knew that I didn’t have another fast lap in me so I decided to pull the plug after two laps. I was kind of disappointed in myself but after hearing that the winner only did three laps, I felt a little better.
Overall my first MTB race was a true suffer fest. 15 miles and 2500 feet of climbing in approx 2 hours. I have never gone so deep in my life but to tell you the truth, I kind of liked it! I will definitely be doing some more MTB racing, maybe just pace myself a little more. Time for a beer!