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Mullin's Cuyuna Crusher Race Report

"Shred the Red" had a number of meanings today.  First, the usual, actually riding the red dirt of Cuyuna.  Second, trying to shred skin when seeing if laying down on the bridge was faster than rolling across it (spoiler alert, it isn't).  Third, the extremely bright June sun trying its best to negate the SPF50.


As mentioned yesterday in my underwhelming Sasquatch report, today I was racing the Cuyuna Crusher.  To prepare, Friday I went for a ride on the Woolly with focus number one being skills work and focus two being a workout.  Aside from a number of mechanical issues, I had a break through ride.

I've said it numerous times, I'm a bit of a chicken when it comes to riding my bike.  Despite decent fitness I get killed on the mountain bike because I ride the brakes down every hill or around every corner and then have to work twice as hard to accelerate back up to speed or climb the next hill.  The evenings focus was on riding without brakes as much as possible.  I've still got a long ways to go, but I made some huge strides in that area over the course of the evening.

I also took repeated shots at the rock gardens.  If you were in St. Croix Falls Friday evening around 6:00 you may have heard some strange hollering in the woods.  Don't be alarmed, it wasn't Sasquatch, it was me successfully clearing the rocks not once, but twice.  I followed that up with making the uphill switchback in the West Ridge for I think the second time ever.  So despite leaving with a bike in need of some work I was riding some huge confidence in my improving riding skills.

After Saturday's Sasquatch Dash and a little lawn mowing, I ripped my bike apart and put it back together.  I had a number of issues that were stacking up.  Frank had straightened my rear derailleur hanger Friday, but the shift cable and housing needed replacement, and the derailleur needed to be remounted again and adjusted.  I had busted my chain the evening before and after a number of trailside missteps in putting it back together I wasn't comfortable racing on it so I installed a new one.  The bottom bracket/crank had some play so I removed that, cleaned a ton of crud out, relubed, and resinstalled that.  Lastly my headtube was clanking again after I lowered the bars a spacer so that needed tuning up.  After all of that I gave the bike a good washdown and the bike and I were finally ready to race the next day.


I watched my son race his third kids comp of the year first.  He finished last again, but said it was terrifying and fun.  I think Sidewinder made him a little nervous.  He's got a great attitude and I'm glad he seems to like hanging out and racing.  I got to see Starr off to start the Citizen race, but missed her finish as I went for a short ride to double check that my bike was put back together right and wasn't going to blow up on the trail.

The stated course was roughly 6 miles per lap, and I would be doing three of them.  On course there were two unexpected deviations, but not a big deal.  We didn't do Ferrous Wheel, and we kept going on Little Sidewinder instead of a detour onto the road.  The road would have been handy for another convenient passing location, but it all worked.  Per Garmin, I had roughly 5.33 miles per lap, give or take the accuracy of GPS on a course like this.

The race started with a climb up the road towards the lookout.  The idea of course to string people out before hitting the single track.  Ouch, roughly 90 feet of climbing in under half a mile.  It averaged 4.5% peaking at over 10%.  It did its job though.  I hit the Miner Mountain/Trammer/Hopper Hill section probably mid-pack, but on the end of a nice group.  It was time to put my new skills to the test and try to hang with guys on the downhills and corners.

It started out well.  There was a little snaffu when we hit the split on Hopper Hill where you could ride the expert section or the easy section.  I took the easy section since it was, well, easy and didn't have a distance penalty.  I merged back in, but the guy immediately in front of me flatted right there and I had to hop off and run up the few rocks.  This opened a little gap to the next guy, but riding down Easy Street I was able to close it down without going too crazy.

Cuyuna isn't flat.

Through Mucker Mountain I was successfully riding with a group of guys and it was fun.  I was using them to be attentive to riding efficiently.  By mid first lap at DirtWirx I was riding solo and getting blown away by the "more experienced" (older) riders starting in the wave behind me.  So I was pretty pleased with how things were going.

Little Sidewinder is a flat, but twisty stretch and again I was pretty dialed for me in riding without riding the breaks.  Sand Hog Mountain is a nice little climb about 2/3 of the way into the lap.  Nothing quite like 3 minutes at 95% max HR to make sure you aren't being too soft.  The ride back down was fun.  I'm not up to letting it rip without brakes on that level of bermy switchbacky goodness, but I'm getting closer.  Post race Strava inspection shows my 3 descents were PRs by 20 seconds.

I was pretty stoked to finish the first lap without getting blown out of the water.  I was still riding with guys from my wave and I don't believe I had been passed by any of the guys from the later waves yet.  This was a huge improvement over DirtWirx.  Grunting out the climb to start the second lap I saw Bill Schildgen just leaving the single track.  This meant I was still a minute plus ahead of him which was pretty good news.

I was working pretty hard.
Lap 2 was all about maintaining effort, focus, and efficiency, while remembering I still had another lap to go after that.  I didn't want to blow up and limp the third lap in.  There were a few points where I was disappointed with my execution, thinking I could have ridden them a little better.  That was OK though, I just kept on focusing on riding smart.

Bill finally caught me on the climb up Sand Hog on the second lap.  Over halfway into the race, I'll take that over half way into the first lap like a few weeks ago.  He went by and I went back to grinding away on the climb.  He got a little hung up in a pack on Sidewinder while I was getting a nice ride from someone and I almost caught up to  him again when we hit the road at the end of the second lap.  Once he got around though he was gone.

Come lap three I was still riding with people.  It was definitely getting thinner though.  Around Mucker Mountain I made a pass and there wasn't anyone in front of me.  This was really the first time all day I didn't have anyone to pull me along or for me to chase down.

My steed was well dialed and treated me right today.
Things were continuing to go well until the short little bridge section on the downhill off Mucker.  I'm not quite sure what happened, but I got a little too aggressive on the turn into the bridge and went down.  While I tried to shred skin and bleed to spread some red I managed to not do that.  What I did do was have momentary panic that I had broken my leg.  I had excruciating pain in my lower leg, but it only took a second to puzzle out that my calf does not have a bone to break.  I think what happened was my downtube hit my calf and it immediately locked up into a huge charlie horse.  Five or ten seconds and a sprint to get off the bridge and out of someones way and I was back on the bike again.  So, per the above spoiler alert, sliding across the bridge is NOT faster than riding on it.

My handlebars were a little crooked, and I was a little thrown confidence wise after the crash, but I now had someone to chase down again.  I was able to latch on by the base of Sandhog and after checking he wasn't in my age group, I successfully tagged onto him and he pulled me to the finish.

Post Race

I was very pleased with my ride.  Without looking at any results I felt I executed well, felt good, and had made a substantial improvement in just a few weeks.

My son and I took a nice dip in Huntington Mine Lake at the new beach.  The revamped trail head is really impressive.  Bike wash station, water fountains, changing booths, bathrooms, bike tools, parking, signage, its awesome.

Cuyuna Tan Lines
When the results were finally posted I was in an astonishing third place in my age group.  So we had to stick around for awards.  Sadly, when they went to announce third place, it was Ben Ogren, not me who got called.  The final results added that Ben, before this Ben.  Oh well.  A little disappointed I didn't get hardware to go with Starr's second place in her age group awards, but I'll survive.

Once the results are up later, I'm going to plunk them into my hand dandy, race comparison spreadsheet and see how they stack up against DirtWirx there.  I'm sure they are better, but we shall see how much better.  Otherwise I'm thrilled with my progress on a mountain bike.  It's easy to make gains when you aren't that good, but then again, making gains is fun so it's all good.

Mullin's What's Next

St. Croix Fat Cat Triathlon is July 11th.  Should be a fun event.  The run and bike thing I can handle.  The whole kayaking thing will be a real wild card.

As far as mountain biking goes, I don't have anything else I'm targeting.  I think I'd like to do another race this year, but we shall see what lines up from a scheduling and availability perspective.

Thanks for reading.  Say hi on the trails.

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