Again this year the Dirty Duo is my first official race of the season, I have done a couple of the local Saturday Morning Toonie rides to try to get the legs used to some race efforts and I missed the first of the spring series races so it comes down to the Dirty Duo once again.
This year we've had such an amazingly dry and warm winter that I thought for sure we'd get some of the classic rain and fog by the time the Duo rolled around but lucky for us the good weather held in there. I don't think I've ever done this race in the dry and was quite curious as to how it would be without the slimy and slipper trails Seymour is famous for. Not only was it dry, the conditions were perfect, the roots were tacky and the rocks were sticky, all was ideal for race day.
In years past there have been a few very talented riders show up for some early season racing and it definitely changes the pace of the lead group. This year I was happy to be counted as one of the faster guys at the start line so I felt sure I could finally win this race after all these years.
This was also my first race and maybe my third ride on my new Giant XTC 29er, I’ve been very excited to finally see how this new machine handles. Last year I raced on a 27.5 and really liked it but it didn’t quite suite my riding style. The thing I really enjoyed about the 27.5 was the light weight and punchy acceleration. So I was looking forward to racing on the new 29’er with carbon rims and frame hopefully making up for my previous 29er shortcomings.
Off the start line we quickly formed a group of 5 and stuck together on the flatter sections not burning any matches. We were together through the first trail sections and descent right up to the first climb up from the old twin bridges. I chose this hill to attack and get a gap, hoping that if they lost sight of me they would eventually give up the chase. Also I’m not the most amazing descender on Ned’s and I wanted enough room to ride Ned’s without having to push my limits and risk a crash.
The course was different this year due to the twin bridge being washed out so we had to take the only crossing available to us. There is a crazy steep and long wooden stairway down to a pedestrian bridge linking the west side of the river with the east. Unfortunately it became a pinch point for runners and riders all trying to use the stairs in either direction. Once past this however the trail opened up a bit and we were able to open up the throttle again.
Once past the stairway I was able to keep my gap over the next group until one point on the course, I think it was salamander I turned left where I should have right. On the plus side I was able to rides some cool trails I’ve never been on and eventually (and luckily) able to find the course again near one of the marshals and was on my way once again.
Even though I was back on course I had a hard time inflating my sails again. I made my way through some fun trails back to Baden Powel. Once I hit Baden Powel I knew where I was again and started to build speed again. I was really looking forward to the Old Buck climb, I’ve always saved a bit in the first climbs so I could really drop the hammer on the nice long steep grades.
This year was no different, I put everything I had left into that climb, pushing much harder and faster than I’ve been able to in years past. I managed to catch one of the guys I had been riding with earlier in the race, further building my confidence.
The descent of Ned’s is always pretty hairy for me, it’s well beyond my comfort level so I take it pretty easy. Despite my carful descent I still inadvertently picked up some good speed in some sections narrowly avoiding a couple pretty spectacular crashes.
Once past Ned’s the rest of the race was pretty uneventful, I wasn’t able to catch anyone else and made it back up the crazy stairs again without falling to my death.
At the finish I was happy to find out that I still managed a solid 3rd place about 8 minutes behind 1st. I congratulated the guys on their great riding and look forward to a rematch next year!
The bike was incredible, so lively and punchy on the climbs. The back wheel stays planted and finds traction where I didn’t think there was any. I found myself climbing some pretty steep stuff that I would normally have hopped off and pushed up. On the descents the bike is fun and nimble. There was no hint of the languid handling that 29ers are known for. I could hop and jump and carve the trail like I was on the 27.5 with the added bonus of its ability to roll over stuff that the smaller wheels hang up on. I had so much fun on some of the trail I almost forgot I was racing and found myself looking for trail features to lip off or jump.
I really want to thank Giant Vancouver for their awesome support this year, it’s going to be a fun year representing the coolest shop in Vancouver. I look forward to seeing them out at some of the races this year.