Monday, September 19, 2005

Cougar Mountain 2005

XC Race Starting Line
Originally uploaded by /k.
I finished off the bike racing season last weekend at my first NORBA event, the Cougar Mountain Classic.

Cougar Mountain is held at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Sonoma is just south of Napa and north of San Francisco. While a Indy car race track isn't the most ideal place for a mountain bike race, this event did have road and downhill racing also, so I guess it wasn't a bad compromise. The hills outside the race track are rolling and are tall enough to see the Pacific Ocean. Since Cougar Mountain is an official NORBA event, the top 10 finishers in each race's age bracket and category qualify for NORBA National Championships in Mammoth, CA (which was held last weekend.)

I competed in two events: cross country (XC) and Mountain Cross (MTX). I race cross country fairly often (PCRS and Tahoe series are XC) but I hadn't ever actually done a MTX race before.

My XC race was an eye opener. A lot more people, a longer course (8+ miles), a lot faster people and a lot hilly course. That and they used the high-tech RFID-like chips around your ankle to time you. Very high tech, but pretty cool -- they time you down to hundredths of a second. Apparently, the NORBA races are a tad more serious than the PCRS get-togethers. Either way, I finished in the middle of pack, just outside of the top 10 finish that I needed to qualify for nationals. The guy who won my age bracket ended up placing fourth at NORBA Nationals this weekend.

The MTX race was just a lot more fun. MTX races four people at a time down a short, steep track with a number of motocross style jumps. The top 2 from each heat advance while the last two get eliminated. Needless to say, the race can be a little dicey. However, you've got a lot of pads to make sure you don't break too much. My age group had about 10 people and I made it to the semi-finals before I got ousted (So I finished 5th). This means that I did qualify for NORBA Nationals in MTX, but I didn't make the trip down to Mammoth, CA since I had to work.

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