Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuscarora Off-Road Weekend

This past weekend was the 3rd annual Tuscarora Off-Road Weekend which is the first MASS event of the racing season.  The weekend consists of a Super D race on Saturday and a four hour cross country endurance race on Sunday.  There is also the option of on-site camping to extend the weekend fun.  The Tuscarora State Forest and Fowler's Hollow State Park are hidden gems in central Pennsylvania and there are miles of gravel roads and single track to explore.

There was good weather for Saturday's Super D event with temperatures in the low 60's and dry.  However, the recent warming temperatures weren't enough to completely thaw the course and the middle portion was frozen earth which caused some difficulty for the competitors.  I have to admit that the whole downhill riding scene doesn't suit me.....these riders are completely nuts.  It's all about going crazy fast downhill on steep slopes with rocks, roots, and drops and requires a certain reckless abandon that I don't possess.  But it sure was fun to watch!  My wife Karen joined me for the day and we spectated and chronicled the event with photos and video.  Karen did the still photography and I brought along our new video camera.  We watched from the lower slopes which were steep and rocky.  We saw a number of crashes and near misses, but thankfully no one was injured and all the riders seemed to have a great time.

The weather didn't hold out for the Sunday endurance race and the temperatures plummeted into the 30s.  This didn't dampen the spirits of the racers, though, and all of the perparation and warm-ups went down as normal and smiles were on display.  I guess competing in the first race of the season had the competitors feeling spry no matter the conditions.  The race course is a mixture of everything that makes mountain biking in Pennsylvania special - rocks, climbing, and more rocks!  Throw in some mud and screaming downhills and you have a race course to remember.  My task for the day was to again shoot some video of the racers.  Having raced this event last year I knew exactly where the good places were to get some footage.  My first stop was a brutal rock garden that is probably an eighth of a mile long and ends with "Joe's Bridge".  Then I made my way backwards along the course to another beastly feature which is a hike-a-bike climb known as "The Beast".  I don't know who gave this climb it's nickname, but it is appropriate.  I moved along from there to get some footage of a more sedate climb that was muddy but rideable.

I really enjoyed being out on the course watching the action and giving words of encouragement to the riders.  I was in awe of the ability of the best riders to negotiate obstacles that us mere mortals can only dream of clearing.  Even the riders that had to walk portions of the course earned kudos for their persistance.  Most came by me with a smile or a wise crack.  A wide range of bikes were being ridden - full rigid, hardtails, full suspension, and a fat bike or two.  In my opinion, the most exciting race of the day was the women's event.  Laura Murray lead the first three laps by a slim margin over Selene Yeager (aka the Fit Chick), then on the fourth lap Selene had lost a considerable amount of time.  As she came by, I told her I was starting to worry about her and she admitted that she had suffered mechanical difficulty.  Amazingly, Selene ended up catching Laura and capturing the win.  It was a remarkable effort on both their parts.  You can read Laura's version of events HERE.

After the race everyone gathered to enjoy the post race food and awards presentations.  Zach Adams' legendary vegetarian chili was a hit yet again, and some purchased the delicious Hay Sue's Spicy Salsa.  Overall this was a weekend to remember and I'm sure this event will continue to grow in popularity.  Enjoy the rest of the racing season everyone!

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