Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Traveling to AMBC Fall Festival

Brutus and I Jumped in the car early last friday and drove all the way to Kentucky. We couch surfed with a awesome family in Berea, and I went to a Homecoming function at Berea College (my alma mater). Its kind of amusing to see peoples reaction when they find out that I am a scientist. I was not the most dedicated student, and had little interest in STEM careers. All of my professors were really excited to see that I really loved working in science (as opposed to living under a bridge swilling Wild Irish Rose).
After the Homecoming Breakfast We jumped in the car and drove down to Knoxville for the AMBC Fall Festival at Knoxville's Dirty South Trails. It was hands down, one of the most enjoyable days on the bike I have had. I also ran into a fellow Kansan Abroad, Charles Coats, DVM. Its such a small world. There was a guided ~30 mile ride on tap in the afternoon, and we rolled out a little behind. But within 15 minutes I kept dropping my chain off the SS. I ended up having to break the chain and pull a link, then reset the EBB. I cant figure out how all of the sudden my chain could stretch so much that the EBB could not pull all the slack. ugh. I hate being that guy on a ride.
Our group was comprised of the Me, Brad, and several of the NTMBC. We rolled a few miles, just starting to get into the flow of the trails, when we ran into the rest of the motley crew from TVB changing a flat. Beverages got passed around, morale was high.
From here on out there was a mighty gnar shredding, that was led by TVB co-owner Scott Smith, who would absolutley rip rocky, tech singletrack on a CX bike with 35c tires.
The Work that has gone into creating the "dirty south" trails is simply mind blowing. There are sections of raised bridges that go one for hundreds of feet, flow that knows no end, and a judicious use of terrain that made my 34:18 gearing not unreasonable. The only qualm was that the trails cover a very large area, and could very easily be confusing. The trails are on private and public land. Getting LGU's onboard for trail development is often less rewarding than sticking your hand in a garbage disposal, but the AMBC guys have done a brilliant job of it.

We ended up getting about 25 miles in before heading back to the festival. I made it back with 15 minutes before they started the short track race. So I sat down, had a cherry Coke, and tried to collect myself for some wild-eyed short track fun (spoiler: This would hurt).
About 10 of us lined up for the Expert race, that was started with a real cannon (insert rebel yell). We started and quickly realized that there were only about 200 feet to pass, and it was right in the middle of the crowds so people were yelling, throwing beer, and encroaching on the course. It was awesome. Once the cannon roared we sprinted to make a 90 degree turn into the singletrack.
After having spent the last 3 months on rock hard dry dirt in MN, I let it all hang out and went wide into the 90 degree turn and hope for the best. To my surprise (and the 3 guys in front of me that I cut off) I did not wrap myself around a pine.
Enter the Hero Dirt.
You could go just about as fast as you wanted, and if you had enough room to get the bike leaned over you were going to maintain traction. The rest of the one mile course was tight, fast singletrack. It was sweet. I spent two laps catchin up to the guy in 4th, then we saw the 3rd place rider with a mechanical. There was already a pretty good gap between 2nd and 3rd, so on the last lap I used the ol' Josh Patterson Chop pass to slip into 3rd place right before we went back into the ST. Then I just tried to bury it. I knew I had a little gap, but the tight nature of the trails did not really give you a chance to look around. Then my concentration lapsed. I clipped a tree and went down. Boom.
When you are in the process of piling it up at high speed, it is pretty amazing how quickly you can react. I was convinced I broke my hand when I hit the ground, but that thought was secondary to the thought that I needed to get back on the bike and finish the race. I feel like I must have bounced up, and waggled my fingers as I was leaping onto the bike. It just happens so quickly.
Turns out I had a good ten seconds on Shaggy in 4th, so I was able to ride it in for 3rd place in the expert field. Scott from TVB took the W.
Some footage

Then I managed to indulge in a refreshing beverage and some spectacular gnosh. I ended up sitting next to an old couple to eat, and we struck up a conversation. Turns out he is one of the Knox County commissioners, and has worked very closely with the AMBC to further the trails in Knoxville.
The bottom line in all of this is that you should make the trip to the southeast for MTB fun. Checkout the AMBC Site for details and maps.
Checkout TVB to hang and ride with people that love bikes.

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