The very first MTB race I ever did was one beloved by many and considered an epic, the 25 mile 2002 Laurel Classic. I drove up three weeks before to pre-ride the course and really liked it. Well other than the one crazy loose gravel filled downhill, Stinger. I made a map for the course before I had gone up and ended up giving it to the race organizer Tom Oswald.
On the day of the race, I drove up with my friend Bill and his wife Cheryn. This was the first time I had met his wife and promptly forgot her name. Embarrassing for the rest of the day when I did not know her name and just addressed her as “hey” or whatever.
We got up there; Bill got his dual squishy Kona ready while I got my yellow Gunnar Rockhound ready. Both he and I raced sport, which did the long course, about 25 miles, and started 5 mins after the expert men an 5 mins before the expert & sport women.
The start was a lot faster than I expected. I felt by the top of the climb I was near the end of the field, but I wasn’t. Once into the single track I began to pass guys continually. At about the halfway mark, I caught up with a group of 5 guys working together. I got into their double paceline and we all worked together while talking and joking and giving advice on upcoming sections. I remember making a joke about wanting a hamburger when the lead woman, Shannon Orr, caught up to us.
All the guys got quiet, stopped talking, the pace quickened and working together ended. The group broke up and all five guys rode away from Shannon and me. I rode with Shannon for a while, but then on the long climb, Left Straight trail, I pulled away from her. I then caught and passed all five guys from the group. I never saw any of them again and ended up finishing in 2:13. I waited to see who would finish next, and it was Shanon finishing and winning the women’s in 2:14. I assumed each of those guys were so upset when she passed them on the course.