Sunday, June 07, 2009


I'd heard the Leavenworth race course was one big hill--first half the race you climb it, second half you descend it--fast. That's exactly what it was. Stunningly beautiful too. I love the Leavenworth area but I'd never been to Freund Canyon before, which is basically due north of the skatepark. (You'd know where that is if, like Jen and I, your 10-year-old son led you by the hand on the great Washington State skatepark tour two years ago.)

Near the top of the course's 1,800-plus-foot climb, it was all purple lupine and Indian paintbrush and wide open views of canyons, peaks and valleys. But by the time I made it there during Saturday's contest, I had no time to really soak in the views; I was leading the 45+ Beginner's race and thought it most appropriate to try to maintain that lead.

The race started with about 1.5 miles of dirt road before we actually hit the trail. Which was good because I'd heard that it was tough to pass on the singletrack and that the downhill was so fast and skinny that passing there is next to impossible. The road stretched out the field a bit and about a mile in, I'd made it to the front of our group and just wanted to stay there. Turns out passing was actually quite possible on the trail--though there were stretches where the consequences could be a tumble down the hillside through the aforemention pretty flowers--and I made my way up through some of the 35-44 racers. While the road climbed gradually, the trail was much steeper with one or two spots where I had to get in my tiniest gear, lean down low over my handlebars to keep my front wheel down and really push it to make it up and over. Generally, I'm Mr. Altimeter boy, never riding without one so that I always have some idea when I'm nearing the top of a hill, but I'd forgotten mine and just had to take it on faith that the climbing would eventually end. Which it did but not before we'd climbed for 35 minutes straight.
Then, came the downhill. Which was as advertised--smooth, narrow and fast. Winding too, which lots of water-bar dips which lifted one's back wheel high off the ground and threatened to launch me from my bike. I felt like some cartoon character trying to hang on for dear life on a runaway horse. (Alas, I later heard that a couple racers were hurt when they were indeed launched from their bikes; I saw ambulances heading to the race site when I was leaving.) I hit 34 miles an hour at one point before we were spit out onto the dirt road we'd started on for a 50-yard sprint to the finish. Another rider and I duked it out to the end and though he might've pipped me, he was a couple decades younger than me so he wasn't in my race. I ended up winning the 45+ division.

(The entire race was 8.6 miles long and it took me about 49 minutes.)

My plans are to do as many of the Beginner races as I can this year--Bellingham, Roslyn and Greenwater are upcoming (I'll miss Winthrop because I'm doing Test of Metal), then move up to Sport next season where the races are often twice as long. The Leavenworth Sport race for example was two laps of what we Beginners did, thus two times up the 1,800-foot climb. (Yikes!)
Thought this was pretty ingenious--this guy knew he'd want a bottle for a later lap so he mounted a bottle cage on a pole and stuck it in the ground.

Just found these photos on the Indie Series website Biker Chat, taken by joelb ( Thanks, joelb. I'm the guy in green and yellow. George Spaggiari is the Lampre dude in the center; he finished second in our race.

And Chris Green, who finished 3rd in the Men's 35-44 Sport Race, just sent me the below shot. Thanks, Chris!


  1. Wow 34 mph on the downhill, I hit only 26 mph and was terrified when I was launched onto the front wheel at the giant waterbar. I slowed down after that. The 2nd lap was much easier at a slower scenic pace. Might ride the Freund again this weekend. Sorry you can't make the next race, just make sure you make the next three. Have fun at Test of Metal. Good blog. George S.

  2. Hmm, maybe my speedometer lied to me b/c 26 mph probably makes more sense. I'm not an overy aggressive downhiller. See you in B'ham, George; Galbraith is right across the street. Maybe we can go for a ride after. - McQ

  3. Mike
    This looks like a good race for you, watch the picture slide show.

  4. Thanks, George. This one looks interesting too: