Monday, November 24, 2014

Cranksgiving 2014 ~and then there were only 2~

So a tradition that started a few years back was to have everyone go up to Paris mountain and camp out and race/ride/party at the Cranksgiving endure/superD race which goes on all weekend.  It is a nonstop plethora of activities in the Greenville area starting with an alley cat race in the heart of downtown Greenville.  Our first year, we tried to do it all and missed the start of the alley cat by about 20 minutes, but hung out for the free beer.  We also swept all categories that year with full representation from Charleston thanks to Palmetto Brewing's Christopher Winn setting us up and making us look good.  The weather was fantastic and the camping was incredible since everyone had a set plan to cook something and or help out.  Lots of participation makes for a great event.  We all raged throughout the night, drank lots of tasty beers and raced on incredibly perfect track conditions.  The second year started and end up roughly.  We all had a commitment as well as the privilege to attend Chris Winn's wedding and hang out at the reception for a bit, so we skipped the alley cat race that year and hung out in Charleston until late that evening instead.  After an incredibly beautiful event, we then raced out to Greenville to our awaiting tents which were previously setup by Spencer and Adam who were coming out from NC.  We were late getting there and tired, but it didn't matter, the weekend was about to start and we were ready to have some fun.  Sleep came and went and we started out into the super D.  My practice laps went by smoothly and I was set to take podium again until some slow person in front of me during my one qualifier would not move over in time.  I lost several seconds "being nice" and resulted in a 5th place scoring.  I was clearly upset, but it didn't matter, I would just work harder the next day for the enduro.  Well...that didn't happen either since the weather dropped madly during the night while we were at the bonfire sending everyone scurrying to their tents for warmth.  Needless to say, everyone was absolutely exhausted the next morning from fighting the 20 degree temps all night to wake up to 35 degree chills.  I was ready to get moving and racing, but found a group of mutineers on my hands and everyone was aching to depart, so we did leave with everyone also catching a flu shortly afterwards..and thus ended our second year at Cranksgiving.

 Now into our third year and I actually have an enduro bike setup to ride up there and everyone bails except for Spencer Thomasson.  So we make plans to head up and race it regardless.  I am excited since I had just received this Yeti from a guy selling it on PinkBike and it is an amazing bike.  I hastily built it up with a set of temporary cranks ready to descend ever faster down the mountain this year thanks to longer travel suspension.  Since it is only 2 of us, I reserve a cheap hotel room and we meet up there with me arriving earlier that day and working from my hotel room until later when Spencer arrives.  My bike is as tuned as I can make it and I know there will be tweaks to it throughout the day since I have yet to really tune the suspension to my body weight and varying conditions.  It's actually kind of nice to just focus on the bike for once and simply get ready for a day of racing, but I truly did miss the camping and camaraderie of friends from the years past at this event.  Our first day of racing finds Mike Pierce hanging out handling sweep and miscellaneous support for the event.
 It is a new venue to us and we have never pedaled down it before.  We also get to hang out with the founder and current owner of Endless Bikes, Shanna Powell, who is racing as well.  Seems the same groups of fun people are catching the endure bug.  It doesn't surprise me, I love the format!  I have been visualizing this since I saw the movie Klunkerz.  Climbing has never been and will never be my strongest suit since I am just not acclimated to going up every day.  To me, I just really want to push my bike up the mountain and race it down.  Thus the enduro and super D format.  Super D(on a real trail) is a bit more extreme in terms of the downhill aspect with Enduro allowing one to gain time across flats, minor climbs, excel at the rock gardens as well as go down the mountain faster than your rivals.  It's testing your skill behind the handlebars and thats one thing I usually do very well.  So after getting our morning group meeting out of the way, we head out and up for our first non-timed climb to the start point.  I notice I am working way harder than normal and chalk it up to riding with big travel suspension.  We get to the top, race our first lap down on new terrain and there is way more uphill flat expansions than I anticipated. The downhill is short and choppy and not very challenging.  I struggle to pedal across the flat sections feeling like I am working triple time.  I finish my run exhausted and surprised that something is wrong with me, never once placing blame on the bike.  I mainly think it is because of the 300 miles I did on the 60 lb Krampus last week in Florida, but that was a soft pedaled stretch. As we pedal up again for our Super D(which is a joke for cranksgiving) run on the same crap course, my chain comes off.  Big Red Flag!  I slide it back on and think while pedaling what could have happened.  I blame it on the flimsy 9mm QR on the back thru axle knowing I have the 12mm conversion kit coming in the mail to solve the issue.  Then I blame it on the suspension being too slack.  I am stumped.  I take my Super D run and slog through it losing major time whenever I have to cross a flat section.  The bike SCREAMS on the downhill absorbing each and every mistake I make and letting me flow, but when I start pedaling it across something tricky, it is like the cranks are sticking...sticking...thats it.  the temporary cranks.  Hmm, upon finishing up my SuperD run, I make a mental note to check my cranks and then quickly forget it the moment a free beer is handed to me.  Go figure.  We then proceed out to dinner and the bonfire and get to witness some madman jump the 20 foot high bonfire on a 20" bmx bike by bunnyhopping off a slightly inverted rickety wooden picnic table.  I could not believe he made it after his first botched attempt nearly had him laid out in the fire itself.  Some people are just born a little crazier than others I suppose.
 After a great night hanging out, we proceed back to get some rest and the morning comes insanely fast.  Breakfast down the road and off we go to day 2 of Cranksgiving 2014 at Paris mountain venue this time.  I am pumped since I know this area and have mostly memorized the run.  As we start pedaling up, my chain drops again.  I cuss and roll it back on again getting puzzled looks by Spencer since he notices I have a full MRP chain guide on and I am dropping my chain soft pedaling upwards.  I mention to him that I have no clue why it is dropping when it happens again.  This time I force it on and start getting pissed and concerned.  If this happens during my run, I could get hurt.  As I sit there pedaling, I feel a weird pressure on my feet and notice that my chainring is moving in a weird motion.  At first I think it is a bent chainring, but immediately thereafter, I realize that my cranks are loose to the point of falling off!  I stop and yell to Spencer to take a look and he stares wide-eyed at how loose they are.  Fortunately, my Crank Bros multitool saves the day and I torque them back on, and then notice the amount of friction my cranks have on them.  Seems I did not give them the spin test after installing them on at home.  I have solved the reason why I am having such a hard time pedaling this beast!  Surprisingly, I can now pedal much more efficiently regardless of the crank friction, and know I need to resolve this after todays race.  I make it up the hill much quicker and take my first run.  The downhill run is fast, cold and furious and I charge it feeling very comfortable on the bike finally.  I am feeling good and thought I put in a good time, but it seems there are much faster riders here today all racing on XC bikes which seem to handle the up and across much better.  So, I take my mid pack finish for the day and enjoy the great weather and friends for the weekend.  Spencer, on the other hand, crushed it both days as he brought out his TallBoy XC bike and dominated both the Endure and XC events for his division!  Awesome day, awesome weekend, and once again lesson learned to totally test out your equipment before heading out the door.