Blazing Boondocks: Northstar’s technical test piece offers ripping bike racing
With overcast skies and a few cool drops of rain in the air, 174 racers mounted their trusted freeride steeds and took on the rowdy Boondocks trail Sunday in the second race of Northstar-at-Tahoes Downhill Mountain Bike race series.Legendary for serious sequences of rocks, ruts, jumps and drop-offs, the Boondocks trail had never been used for competition. Whereas typical downhill race courses take fast, fall-line routes, the mile-and-a-half-long Boondocks throws in trail tightenings and rocky corners that demand aggressive, but relatively low, speed riding. Northstar spent more than 120 man-hours during the week getting the trail in primo condition for the race.Having ridden Northstar-at-Tahoes Bike Park off and on the last two summers, the Boondocks trail is one of my personal favorites. Figuring the best way to cover the event was to race it, I decided to join in the fun and enter the competition, my first mountain bike race ever. Though Id been tempted by bike races in years past, for whatever reason I had never stepped up to the clock. Looking ahead to the Boondocks race, it seemed the perfect opportunity to taste the thrill of racing in a casual setting, big on freeride fun, low on competitive pressure. Just my style.As with all Northstar races, competitors were divided into 24 divisions based on age and experience beginner to professional. I put myself in the sport 27-34 class, figuring I wasnt a beginner but I definitely wasnt an expert or a pro, either. Having made a handful of hot laps on the race course a few days previous, I felt confident in my line arriving on race day. My only worry was how rutted and bumped the course would be by the time I got on it. Nearly 100 riders were lined up before me.The morning of the race I got in one more inspection lap and rode it cleanly. I was ready. Now it was time to hurry up and wait.Milling around the start zone, riders joked about the deteriorating trail conditions and how the sparse rain was going to magically repair the course. No luck there. The rain just spit on us intermittently.An hour and a half after the race began it was finally my time to drop. Restrapping my pads for the third time and tightening my shoes another click, I stepped up on the starting rock and waited for the odd sixth beep of the starting sequence that signaled it was time to blast off. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeep … Sprint!My race run went well, but not perfect. Though I definitely satisfied my first two priorities of having fun and keeping the rubber side down, I didnt style every line choice I had hoped for and lost precious time on mid-course sections I had flown through on previous laps. Despite the early bobbles, I kept it together to finish the race fast and ended up third in my sport division.The race was won by Northstars own Jon Wilson, who finished the course more than a minute faster than me. Looking back on my mistakes I can see how seconds add up here and there, but a minute? I was highly impressed with how fast Wilson and the other pros must have been riding. And I thought the stakes were high with how fast I was moving.Talking with other riders after the race, I was glad to hear even the pros found it difficult to keep their desired pace. Local pro racer and third-place finisher Dan Krenicki summed it up challenging race, sick course.Boondocks is a very demanding trail, not very high speed, said Krenicki. Northstar did a great job making it a premier race course for how technical it was.The next event in Northstars Downhill race series will be on Aug. 10. Watch out Sport 27-34 … Ill be back for the top step!