Sunday, September 12, 2010


Titanium Cancellara shares his story with race director Roger Michel. Check out his smaller back wheel.
First up, let me state that there is epic--as in say, the 165-odd miles incredible flowy, fun and (at times) fast singletrack trails at Capitol State Forest near Olympia. And then there is EPIC--as in Scott "Titanium Cancellara" Young's performance at the first-ever Capitol Forest 50-mile mtb race that took place at said forest. Let's cut to the chase.

About five miles into the race--a terrific event that featured a LeMans start--I see Scott pulled up by the side of the trail, a forlorn look on his face. His bottom bracket is toast, he says. Damn, I say and think, but there's really nothing I can do. So on I go, shaking my head at his bad luck and all that money he spent ($130 for the race, motel, food, etc.) only to get to race for about a half-hour.

Vast 90,000-acre Capitol State Forest
As for myself, I spend the next 5-and-a-half hours having a challenging-as-hell, but crazy-fun time, keeping the leg cramps, the bonks, the start-out-too-fast monsters at bay, all the while climbing some 5,500 feet. (My GPS registered some pitches at 24 percent.) After my finish in just under 6 hours, I look for Scott figuring the poor guy's been hanging around the Mima Falls Campground, where the race started and finished, bored out of his mind. No sign of him. The race director has no record of him as a DNF so I grab a burger, find a tree to sit under (not easy, as my lower back was not being cooperative) and call the wife to tell her that everything--including my collarbone, surgically repaired four months ago--is fine. I'm in mid sentence when who do I see cross the finish line but Scott, oddly--very oddly, I might add--with a third wheel affixed to his back. It looked like it was his halo, like he was the subject from some Byzantine religious painting.
Here's what happened: At mile 5 (actually 4.87, according to my GPS), his free hub on his back wheel turned to toast, not his bottom bracket. No matter, the result was the same; he couldn't ride his bike. So he runs with it (yes, runs with it) for 7 miles to the first aid station where there's a bike mechanic. At times, he's able to jump on his bike and coast downhill, at others kinda scooter it along and was even able to keep with packs of riders if the terrain allowed, but mostly he just ran. And ran. (It should be pointed out that Scott is an extremely strong runner; he's finished top 15 in the Chuckanut 50K so if this had to happen to someone, it happened to the right guy.) 

At the aid station, they determined that his back wheel couldn't be fixed but volunteer Glen Campbell had a rear wheel he could borrow. Thing is, it was a 26-inch wheel and Scott rides a 29er. No matter, a few adjustments here and there and he's off. Turns out he likes the way the bike handles better than his straight 29er. Scott's a big dude 6-3, I believe, and he rides an extra-large 29er and sometimes has trouble powering through tight, technical turns; the 26 in the back, 29 in the front made his bike just a little more maneuverable.    
Riders awaiting the pre-race meeting
OK, so he rides the next 25 miles or so, passing people left and right, and gets to the last aid station which, it turns out on the sorta loopish out-and-back course, was also the first aid station. This time they ziptie Scott's broken wheel to his backpack (his halo) so he'll be able to take it home with him at the end of the race; he'll just leave the borrowed back wheel with the race director. Scott said that on the climbs it was fine, but on the bumpy flats and downhills, it kept knocking him on the back of his head. But he finished. And pretty well too. (Results aren't up yet.) An incredible performance and a true testament to not quitting, and of making the best of a tough situation.
Scott and I after the race.
I'm fairly new to mountain bike racing but as I found at the Indie Series races I did last year, as well as Boggs 8-Hour in Sonoma County, there's a really cool vibe among the fat-tire crowd. Certainly everyone wants to do their best, but there seems to be less of a cutthroat, judgemental, I'm-better-than-you-'cause-you-don't-know-what-the-hell-you're-doing feel than I've experienced in other sports. It seems more like just a bunch of folks who like to have fun getting dirty in the woods. (Trail running seems to be the same way.)  

Scott and I both met a bunch of great people. Among them, the below single-speeders whom we talked to before the race. (And neither of whose name I remember.) The one in the red was especially inspiring. This was his first mountain bike race ever and this course--which climbed 5,500 feet, most of that on snaking single-track not relatively wide-open fire road--was not an easy one for a single-speeder. But he finished pretty well and with a huge, I'm-on-Cloud-9 grin on his face. He told me that three years ago he weighed 390 pounds and this summer he had two goals: climb Mount Adams and finish this race. He accomplished them both. 
Lots of inspiring stories at Capitol Forest this weekend! 

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations and a great story!
    We have a friend who did the 100-mile race. He finished 10th in under 11 hours.