Fort Custer Stampede

After a couple months of road and gravel road events (Barry-Roubaix, Hellkat-100), there was finally an opportunity to do a real mountain bike race!
The Fort Custer Stampede was held Sunday May 4th as the first CPS race of the year due to the postponement of the Yankee Springs Time Trial.
The course was in fantastic shape and as always, the SWMMBA organizers put together a unique blend of the Red and Green loops (with some sections ridden backward to the normal flow) to create a unique race circuit of approximately 14 miles.
The day was quite windy out in the open area of the parking lot. Once in the woods the wind was absent  except for a couple sections of the course which ran along the lakeshore in the Red and Green sections.
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Each subsequent wave took off from the start with Elite racers leading the pack at 10:00am.  At about 10:06am, us old guys (Expert 50+ category) sprinted off the start line.  My teammates (Jeff, Matt, Tom, Gabe and Josh) were already ahead of me and on the course.
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Fort Custer is one of my favorite courses as it combines quite a  bit of technical handling with a few straight fast sections and a few climbs which are all mostly some sort of switchback rise from lower to higher terrain.
Off the line on pavement and downhill past the concession stand at Eagle Lake, we rode across the picnic area to the guardrail.  My Expert 50+ category was already split with six fast guys gapping us as I led the remaining ten away from the road and into the woods. This initial segment was wide enough for passing an numerous racers passed me here as I edged over to let them by.  The course took a left turn a ways in and jumped onto portions of the Green loop with gravely switchback descents and climbs.   By this time I was, I thought, only ahead of two competitors and one passed me as we hit a small climb.  However, as we got near the trench section I realized I could outpace him in the technical sections and blasted around on an open portion by riding up on the grass.  The other racer was stuck behind him for a bit.
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Weaving and whooping through the trenches was a blast and I did indeed open a gap on that one racer and I would not see him again the entire event.  But the other rider behind him was able to pass and as I came out of the trenches and took a sharp left turn onto a wide flat fast section, my wheels went out and I skidded on my left side, wiping out.  That was enough for him as he passed me on that turn. By the time I got onto my bike and gave chase he’d opened a 30-40 second gap which, try as I might the rest the race, I could not close.  I would have one more sliding fall like this in the green loop on lap two due to too aggressive cornering but no damage or injury resulted.
After 66 minutes, I rode through the chute and out to lap two.  I felt pretty good though I recall thinking how such a race is hot from the start and you stay riding that way the entire time.  It made me ponder my endurance events where I could take 10 miles to warm up and still have 90 to go and in which one’s pace or heart-rate targets are different.
Back into the woods after riding up away from the road, I ate my one Hammergel.  I had also consumed 3/4ths of one of my bottles of Heed so I swapped them from bottle cage to back pocket to make the full one accessible for the remainder of the lap.  I still had designs to catch that one rider because for all I knew I was in next-to-last place.  So I kept my pace up and did my best not to dial back to an “endurance” mode.  In the second lap I had one guy from a different group pass me. I wanted to avoid getting lapped by Elite racers when on my 2nd lap but I thought this guy was one of them. But he wasn’t riding overly hard and he was actually  as single-speed racer so he must have had some mechanical and ended up merely catching up and passing me on our second lap.  So no Elite racer lapped me this day!
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I finished the race in 2-1/4 hours.   I found that there were three competitors behind me (and one DNF due to mechanical)!  It just goes to show how tough it is to know who is where on the course and why you should always keep pushing because you may get passed, they may pass you or a mechanical might mean the difference in a race placement.  I ended up 13 of 17.  I’ll take it!
My teammates had already finished and were enjoying their post race “refreshment.”  But it was good day for the team.  Jeff Jacobi took a podium spot at third place in the highly competitive Elite/Expert Single-speed category.   The rest of us finished mostly mid-pack in our respective categories but all completed the race with no injuries or mechanical issues.
Good job team- next up: Yankee Springs Time Trial  Sunday May 18th
jeff podium ft custer
FORT CUSTER STAMPEDE MOUNTAIN BIKE RACE  SUNDAY, MAY 4, 2014
ELITE/EXPERT SINGLE SPEED
3  of 17 JEFFREY JACOBIFOUNDERS RACING 54:58 57:29  1:52:26
8  of 17 TOM STOLZFOUNDERS RACING 56:28 58:58  1:55:25
14 of 17 GABE NIEHOFFOUNDERS RACING 58:071:06:08  2:04:14
EXPERT MEN 30-39
7  of 20 MATT REMELTSFOUNDERS RACING 58:06 58:58  1:57:03
12 of 20 JOSH HOGETERPFOUNDERS RACING 58:081:01:09  1:59:16
EXPERT MEN 50+
13 of 17 DENNIS MURPHYFOUNDER’S RACING  1:06:28 1:09:20 2:15:48