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08 January 2014 @ 01:25 pm
Frozen Onion 2014  
Most of my "training" recently has consisted of doing 12 or 16oz beverage curls. In fact, I did a 750ml "curl" last night, so my writing skills don't feel too sharp today. I've been mostly off the bike and away from Vermont for three weeks with two work trips and one very busy holiday week with my girlfriend's family. When I finally did get back to VT, it was -11˚F outside with blowing snow. By Sunday it warmed up to almost 28 degrees, though, so I figured it would probably be ok to do a bike race. The Frozen Onion is a mountain bike race in Montpelier that has been on my radar for the last couple of years. It's in Hubbard Park, which is an awesome place but it closed to cyclists year-round. Except for this one magical day where a couple handfuls of idiots go out in the cold and race bikes.

"Training plan"

I almost didn't make it. It had been a long weekend of "running errands" and other adult tasks. All I wanted to do was sleep in a little bit longer. Except this time I'd pre-registered, so I didn't want to be out twenty bucks. My girlfriend and I crawled out of bed and ate some frosted mini-wheats, then hopped in the car and drove down I-89 to Montpelier. For once it looked like I might not be late to a race!

As we neared the starting line, the road conditions got considerably worse. The slushy roads gave way to slippery snow, and then the road turned upward. There was no way my Honda Accord was going to make it to the starting line. I turned the car around and frantically tried to find a parking spot close by. The closest place to park was downtown. The race started at 11. It was now 10:48. It wouldn't be a bike race for me if I wasn't racing jus to get to the start. I quickly got my bike off the roof, donned my hat, helmet, gloves, and shoes, and rode up the snowy hill.

At the staging area, things were a bit more relaxed. I don't think anyone even had a clock. The race just kinda started when everyone felt like getting to the line. I ducked into the tent, signed my waiver, and received my number.

Great. Now I'm the ass with the #1 race bib with no results or skills to back that up. Oh well. They must have done these alphabetically.

Whatever. I figured my number would give me a good excuse to line up towards the front so I could get a good start. I tucked in with all the skinny guys on fat bikes. Oh, did I mention the course conditions? Well, a couple of weeks ago there was a big ice storm, so there was a layer of ice covering the ground. On top of that, there were a couple of layers of snow. The trail itself had been mostly packed down, so it was ridable. Slippery, but ridable. Perfect fat biking conditions, actually. However, since I'm broke and my big purchase last year was a cyclocross bike, I don't have a fat bike. I was on my trusty Tomac, a 26" hard tail mountain bike. I locked out the suspension since I figured the snow was soft enough. And, man, am I ever glad it was soft. (Foreshadowing)

We finally started racing. Four laps. Easy and short. Or something. Downhill, curve to the right, slight uphill, flat, sharp right into a big uphill/biggest runup I've ever seen, around a tower, fast downhill, false flat, short singletrack, small wooden bridges, turn around, flat to the finish. Cool.

So my awesome starting position was quickly negated by my not so awesome pedaling ability. I mostly stayed with the bunch, though, until the first hill/runup. Hubbard Park is based around a hill with an old lookout tower at the top. The trail to the lookout tower is winding and steep. And icy. There were several crashes at the front at the base of that hill, and everyone ended up walking most of it. I tried getting back on the bike a couple of times, and was successful the third time I tried.

Not a great start. I'm the guy in the red going backwards.

I look like I'm having a good time, right?

And that's how the race went for me. Little by little I fell back from the leaders. I didn't pass anyone until the third lap when I finally got by the guy on the single speed, and then passed a guy with no front tire on the runup. Let me say that again. HE HAD NO FRONT TIRE. "Dude, that's badass," I said as I rode by. "No it's not!" he yelled back. And he ended up passing me again and beat me.

I got beat by a guy with NO FRONT TIRE.

By the fourth lap I was getting tired of having my heart rate pegged, and I was making a few mistakes. Plus, the course had gotten more slippery as it got more and more packed down. I was almost done, though. I mean, sure, I did get lapped by the dudes on the fat bikes, but whatever. All I had to do was cross another bridge and make the turn towards the finish. My bike had other ideas, though.

As soon as I hit the wooden bridge, my bike disappeared. I mean one instant it was there, and in the next I was flying through the air at 16 miles an hour. I stretched my arms out like Superman and enjoyed the quick flight before BAM, I was sliding face first on the soft, soft snow. I looked back and my bike had fallen into the creek below the bridge. Now is not the time for a swim! Luckily, Vermont's winter saved me. The snow broke my fall, and the river was iced over so bike didn't get wet. I climbed down to get it, got back on the trail, put my chain back on, and off I went to the finish. I ended up just outside the top 20, and easily could have been better than that if not for the crash.

At least someone was there to witness my flight. I'm just glad it wasn't the FAA.

The people at Onion River Sports put on a really fun event, even if there were no handups of any kind. Also, most of these photos are from their facebook page. I stole them. Sorry. But I gave credit!
Sarah: Learjet Taxiplanegirl on January 11th, 2014 04:23 am (UTC)
Hilarious and Ridiculous! I applaud your mega efforts and fun-seeking spirit. Does the name involve onions because of the crying the course tries to induce?
Forrestelforresto on January 22nd, 2014 05:38 pm (UTC)
The Winooski River runs through Montpelier and up to Burlington and the town of Winooski, where it empties into Lake Champlain. Winooski means "land of the wild onion" in Algonquin, so for a long time the English speaking settlers called it the Onion River. The creek that my bike fell into was a tiny and frozen over tributary of the Winooski. History!