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Test to destruction: The Keith Bontrager diary 2007
Keith Bontrager is best known as the bike and component design guru behind his eponymous road and mountain bike components, but behind the scenes, the man universally known as KB is an enthusiastic and well-respected endurance mountain bike racer.
KB has taken part in a over 50 24-hour races in the last few years, and in his diary takes us inside the mental, physical, and technical challenges of long-distance mountain bike racing while juggling the demands of an active interest in the successful international business he began all those years ago.
May 31, 2007
Stages 3 and 4 and the second TT
First - some important MTB trivia. I was informed this evening by Clive, ace DH man and proprietor of Griffel Inn in New Abbot, Scotland, that, counter to the claims made by various northern Californian gents, the mountain bike was invented in Scotland, at Drumlanrig Castle. In fact I saw a version when I visited the museum there. Someone there tooled up a foot powered version of a hobby horse in the 18th century and then rode the thing to Glasgow. That's a big ride, and definitely off road at that time. I might have some of the facts off a bit, but I'll try to sort it out in the next few days.
Second - despite bumper stickers to the contrary, I am not dead. I missed the chance to submit an entry yesterday because of logistical issues only. The circumstances here are fairly rustic, and time is tight so this might happen again.
Stage 3 was a long one, 110km, 10 more than the advertised distance due to a diversion required on the morning of. No worries - more riding for the entry fee.
There was not as much pressure to ride very hard because the weather was good, perfect really, so the course would be fast. I rode it in about 7 hours which is a little off my race pace for that distance, so it was not that slack. I felt pretty good and was saving my legs as much as possible for the following morning.
The trails on the course were about the same as we'd had all along so far; a good mix of technical singletrack, gravel roads and some fast road sections. The organizer was kind enough to provide a tail wind on some sections too. Thoughtful guy.
Some of the singletrack was "built" in the forests. Actually a fair amount of what we are riding on is like that. It's not native forest - it is planted and farmed to be harvested. (US readers note: many countries have less land than you do, so what is there gets used in the best way). Someone decided that it would be cool if they made some low maintenance, trails in the woods to give someone something to do while they were waiting for the trees to grow. The trails had to be designed well because erosion would waste trees. They actually want to attract riders, so they did the trails properly, and they are cool. The trails we rode were a nice mix of tight singletrack, fast bermed descents, jumps, bridges, and rocks, everything you could want.
I believe we have ridden on more quality singletrack in this event than there is in many of the other MTB stage races I've done. And we are only half way along. Not bad.
TT #2 was held in Dalbeattie Forest, a few miles from the finish of the day's stage. I didn't have a chance to pre-ride so it was going to be one of those laps you do as fast as you can without any real good idea of what was coming. The trails turned out to be fairly fast and smooth in a lot of spots, though there were a few rocky descents and rock gardens that got my respect.
I had a 09:24 AM start time which is a bit early for me, especially after the miles of the previous day. I tried to deal with it using a morning routine that is about the same as I do between laps in a 24 hour race. That worked fairly well. I wasn't 100% but close enough and had decent legs all the way around. In the end I managed 10th. I had two minor technical mishaps that cost me some time. Without pointing fingers, one was the mechanic's fault and the other was caused by the rider. I still think I might be able to improve on the results as we go along. We'll see.
Stage 4 - After the time trial we rode 60 km to New Abbott. The route went through Dalbeattie forest again, then down along the south coast and then over a very big climb before it dropped into another forest trail system near New Abbott - more quality riding.
Tonight I am set up too. Rob Lee (elite 24 solo racer in the UK and designer of this year's Twentyfour/12 course) helped me get a room in the Griffel Inn this evening so I am not camping in a muddy field. I had a pint too. It was nice.
Tomorrow we ride about the same distance and then ride another TT. I am hoping my approach to recovery is working.