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Sunday, April 25, 2004 -- Gettysburg, PA
Michaux Maximus (iPO Event Id#: 6344)
Race report contributed by Brian Kemler
CityBikes Mountain Bike Team, Washington, DC

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Race Report: Michaux Maximus Expert Mountain Bike Race
Michaux State Forest (Near Gettysburg), Pennsylvania

Michaux is the granddaddy of painful and challenging technical mountain bike races - in the eastern US or anywhere else. Nothing compares. Many otherwise hardcore racers avoid it like a 'ho with a case of the clap. Others are attracted to the danger, the challenge, and the rush of fear and adrenalin.

The course is laden with 25 miles of jagged, shark-finned rocks, some the size of grave stones. Hiking it would be an impressive feat for your average couch potato. It's hard to believe people actually ride bikes here - and that they do is testament to the unrivalled technical ability of east coast mountain bikers.

They may have bigger mountains out west, but they're not as technical. And as they say, if you can ride here, you can ride anywhere. Add to that a dose of freezing, torrential rain and you've got the recipe for an ambulance ride to the local outpatient medical clinic. Years ago one of my friends once broke his arm here under similar conditions.

The rain was supposed to hold off till late afternoon. Instead, it hailed down upon the shivering racers as they staged us on start line at the foot of the mountain. I had dressed for the 75 degree weather the day before and started to have misgivings about racing at all. I decided to suck it up and soak it up.

They set us off on the initial climb and I hung at the back of the first pack of experts and began to warm up. We crested the hill, hit a straight-away and then shot through a rain-slickened rock obstacle course. Racers fell or were thrown off their bikes and a couple of times I was forced off and into a sprint, bike on shoulder. Sometimes, this was faster than riding. The first third of the race I was strong, had a nice rhythm and was technically quite competent, despite a jarring ride running my tires way too close to 40PSI for comfort.

After some technical climbs, we hit a long downhill and at 40MPH, the wind chill made it feel like it was 30 degrees. I forgot to wear my glasses so my eyes were not shielded from the constant slurry of mud being kicked up from my (water) wheel below. At one point I just closed my eyes, pointed the bike and hoped the force would be with me.

The rain relented and I was passed and did some passing. Gradually, I lost the snap in my legs and settled in for a 3-plus hour ride. I tried to focus on getting into a nice groove, but after a while the rocks won out. My legs became sore and I ran out of food, lost all dexterity whatsoever, and over-hydrated as I had to stop to pee 3 times - a race first.

I hit up another rider for a bagel halve and immediately my legs felt better. I still needed some more food, so I traded a CO2 cartridge for an "Edge" bar with another helpful competitor. Hopefully, this would give me the "edge" I needed. Either that or it would give me an upset stomach. It actually did neither.

During the last third of the race I refused to speculate or inquire with anyone how far off the finish would be. It seemed to help not to have any expectations. I was out there for a long time, but had fun savaging the rocks, picking aggressive lines and riding competently on a course most people refuse to ride.

At the end of the day I was tired, though not completely burned out. All in all it was a good inaugural race for 2004. It was cool seeing all the current and past members of City Bikes out there with all the other mid-Atlantic mountain bike heads. Next stop: L.A. then Revenge of the Rattlesnake in Davis, West VA two weeks hence.