I'm going start this blog by saying hats off to Blue mountain and sir bikealot for being pumped for putting on an XC race at Blue which has tremendous potential to hold events. Everything other than course design/marking and maybe pre race info the weeks leading up to the race was top notch, they know how to host events.
The course was something I have never seen in 15 years of racing. Trails were amazing but the course was comprised of many loops within loops and one big loop that featured a two way out and back singletrack section. Usually this would require over/unders, bridges etc.. instead the loops figure 8'ed each relying on Marshall's to tell us which loop to enter.(and when to yield to other riders entering the criss/crossings) My hats off to these volunteer marshals who I know did their very best, and got it 95% right. But with multiple categories all doing different amounts of loops within loops into other loops there were definite errors. Again a lot of excitement for the race, they are jazzed to have an xc race but that was way way to complicated course design. I honestly don't know how that got a go ahead from the OCA commissairs.
On to the race, small fields today I think that was owing to the lack of pre race info, laps, distances, feedzones etc. a lot of which wasn't set up till race day. I wasn't super stressed about the race, knowing how freaking hard the course was with old school type steep ski hill grass climbing imported from the 90's. The dh's were pretty straight forward. I knew if the pace was hard from the gun it wouldn't be a race, it would be an adventure with a result at the finish line. I decided on a Prefontaine strategy to make it hurt as much as possible and let the course decide how I finished. Pretty much took the holeshot and into the first climb, kept the hammer down.
Going over the top I kept the power on and opened a gap into the flatish singletrack before going back down. This was the one big epic loop we were on. I had no idea how much of a gap I had so i just kept racing like everyone was 20 seconds behind me.
Hitch number one, rolling along the flat bruce trail stuff at a good clip dodging hikers and nature walkers as they all swore at me when I went by, I really don't blame them no-one was there to tell them a 20 guys racing for more than a grand were gonna come screaming by(and masters, juniors, elite women). I did warn them all that a bunch more people were coming.
Continued on, hiccup number two, come to a three way trail section with tape all over the place in pieces. Marshall was there I asked him where to go, he didn't respond, I glanced to my left and saw course tape across the ski hill so I just bee lined it there. The rest of this loop was good the trails were a blast, Bombed down and back up the ski hill, looked back saw for a ways back and new I had a good lead.
#3, ah yes the two way out and back section, so started riding basically backwards on the course, which was nice cause all the masters I was dodging were able to cheer me on as we just laughed at each other. Some was doubletrack which was interesting but whatever safe enough if people keep their heads up. But then I see KK bomb out of the singletrack dh, yup guy sends me up the steep singletrack, I asked what happens when someone comes down, he said tell them to stop. I kept my head up for sure listening for a bike to come, but luckily KK was last through and I didn't have to deal with dodging oncoming riders anymore.
Finished off the actually somewhat straightforward loop, which other than the two way thing would make a great loop on its own. Grabbed the one bottle I'd get for however long the race was going to be and headed down Embryo, a pretty mellow dh run, fast and fun. Hit the first figure 8, and got through ok, which had me continuing downward. Finished that up and new I would need to do another half climb back up, then descend to the finish. Thats what we were told at the start. Got into a nice goove heading back up, the second time up this grind was tough but when I got to the top I was relieved. This had me going through the figure 8 again. But I still knew where I was going.
Descend back down, thinking awesome I'm done, Nope get turned around before the last decent marshals saying I have to do another half lap. I was not a happy camper hearing that. But got back on course and pinning it, as I still had no idea what my lead was. Climbed for a bit then started crossing the ski hills to my pleasent surprise a marshal jumps infront of me and says down that trail, awesome it was like a half...half lap. Headed down a sketchy not really used trail almost smoked Etienne in another course crossing. Passed him crashed, but I was glad to be heading downhill at least. Came to the final lap point and the marshal said yeah your done finish is just down there, Crossed the line for my first MTB win since 2009 (glassford sprint provincials)
J-roc was second and Zach third so a nice Norco podium sweep.
I hope they do another xc race there, I really do I just hope the OCA keeps a close eye on it and they go with a more "normal" course design in the future.