24 Jun

The shotgun and the Yihaa – Hilly Billy Roubaix

Before I move to Minnesota in six weeks, I plan on racing all the fun races I haven’t done in this area yet. I thought Hilly Billy Roubaix might be perfectly suited for that: A 72mi Ultracross race in Morgantown, WV with some 4,200 feet of climbing and a little dirt….shouldnt be too bad, right?

I borrowed a cross bike, adjusted the seat height and pumped the tires to 100 psi and felt ready to go. I conveniently neglected all email exchanges of tire width, pressure and food. I mean it’s only a bike race, right?

Well, my opinion changed quickly when I received the pre-race email with the warning that the race times could exceed 8 hours. Again, the email talked about tire width, pressure, etc. 

It dawned on me I am missing something here!
I went through all neglected emails and holy cow; this wouldn’t be a walk in the park! It sounds more like an adventure race than a road race.
When we arrived at the race site, I saw either mountain bikes or well decked-out cross bikes. When another racer recommended putting 50 psi in my tires down from my original 100 (I am such a road racer!), I realized that I really didn’t know what I was in for. I was thinking of the 8 hours the promoter was talking about and prayed that I wouldn’t exceed that!
I couldn’t worry too long anymore because the race with all 227 racers started soon and the adventures began.
If I wasn’t busy finding the line with the biggest chance of traction going uphill, I counted all passed people who would fly passed me on the descent. The downhill sections were even more challenging through partly deep loose gravel, especially when your technical skill set goes as far as hopping on a curb, like mine.
Even in the mechanical department, I didn’t do too lousy. I managed to get my chain caught in the spokes only twice and I only got one flat on one of the descents. When I retrieved my pump, some essentials parts were missing. Lucky me, someone stopped for me who had already two flats so he was not in any hurry to keep going. (Note to the promoter, maybe the race categories should be divided into quantity of flats?)
The scenery of West Virginia was spectacular. With 4,200 feet of climbing, one can imagine how often we had the chance to enjoy the landscape from the top of a mountain (once the whole cross-eyed thing and the gasping for air stopped). In the valleys we were reminded that we were in West Virginia. I don’t usually see a 12 year old running around with a shotgun over his shoulder in his garden or signs “children at play 7am-10pm”. One other fellow racer from West Virginia made his state proud by exclaiming Yihaaaa before every climb. When no shotgun or Yihaa in sight, then a creek bed or mud puddles.  Yeah, this course was far away from monotony.
The guy with the suuuuper fat tires and the single speed dude who passed me with such an impressive speed on the climbs added another level of entertainment. And nowhere else but in Morgantown, WV did I think I would meet someone from Austria, where I just raced two weeks ago.
Have I mentioned the aid stations yet? At mile 19, 38 and 58, volunteers provided you with everything a thirsty and hungry racer wanted. It was basically a drive-thru because the volunteers ran towards you and provided you what you needed. Kudos to all volunteers!!!
Kudos to the promoter and the volunteers of putting on such a well –organized race (and that from a German! ;))!
It was steep….

…and muddy….

…and rocky…

At the finish

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