I’ve been riding the trails at Cedarglades for over 10 years, I helped lay out an adventure race course there, covered two 6-hour mountain bike races, a couple of running races, 3 Atilla the Hun Mountain Bike Races, a night time waterless (except for some rain) triathlon and even the first ever cyclocross race held in the park. I’ve laid in Bull Bayou Creek which runs through the middle of the park to cool off after riding on a hot summer day, I’ve ridden it on January 1st in a cold rain just to get in my first of the year mountain bike ride. I know every little shortcut to get from one side of the course to the other on foot in about 10 minutes but…
I’ve never raced on the Cedarglades Park Mountain Bike Trails.
This year was suppose to be different. I needed the points in the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series and this was the final race. I hadn’t been riding much but that didn’t really matter, it hasn’t stopped me from lining up before. And then last week I came down with a head cold, it weakened me but I continued to plan to ride. By Saturday I was feeling better but figured I was probably out again. I went down to the park to cover the Inaugural Cedarglades Cyclocross Race. From the top of the hill I could see all the vehicles in the parking lot with empty bike racks, racers out pre-riding the course, and I felt a little tug. After the cyclocross event as I made the drive back to Little Rock from Hot Springs I began to feel like I could do this, I could suck it up and join the fray. It’s only one lap, 9 or 10 miles of sweet, sweet singletrack. I don’t have to win, I just need to ride.
When I got home, before I even went in the house, I loaded the bike on the truck.
When I woke up Sunday morning I checked the weather, it was going to be a beautiful day, the Cat 3 gang would have to live without photos from the event, I was going to race…and then I noticed it. TEMPERATURE 25 DEGREES. You have got to be kidding me. I have all the right clothing for it, the bike is ready…but I wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to suit up.
I got to the park with plenty of time to scout around but found myself sitting in the truck, engine running, heater cranked. In a moment of clarity I had decided to leave all my bike gear except the bike at home. It was probably a smart move. When I did finally wander around and talk to folks the main topic of conversation was the temperature.
For the last several weeks leading up to the race, organizers worried about some clear cutting that had been done in the park, part of the landfill expansion. The cycling community worried that the ruined section would not be repaired in time for the race right up to a couple of days before the race. It was my understanding from the racers that race organizers and volunteers had done a tremendous job of repairing the trail in the last week. Kudos to those who build, maintain and fix trails. Between that and the low temperatures you might expect a low turnout but organizers informed me that they actually had more racers this year than last.
While I was out on the course during the race I overheard riders complain about not being able to feel their hands or as Austin Morris said during one lap, “My water bottle is frozen.” I watched as he rode away, hitting his bottle on his handlebars trying to loosen the ice up enough to get a sip. I tip my hat to all who mounted up this day.
Back at the pavilion, spectators and early race finishers enjoyed baked potatoes and chili as they fought to get close to the bonfire provided by the organizers. A few joined in some extreme heckling to keep themselves warm, running along side the riders, screaming encouragement. I wasn’t able to stay for the awards as both the race and series winners were announced. I drove away, thinking, next year, I ride.
Another season of cross country racing is over but soon enough we’ll be back at it with the Arkansas Mountain Bike Marathon Series and a new event this year.
We’ll have full race and series results when they are posted. More photos for sharing, downloading, tagging and commenting on will be available later this morning.