Monday, November 20, 2006

Race Preview: 4th Leg MTB Eastern Championship 2006

Pattaya, Thailand

Track length:
One loop 3.5kms; 60:40 mix pavement and loose XC

The Pre-ride:
What happens when you have a mixed group of XC and DH riders design a track for the last leg of the 2006 MTB Eastern Championship? A course which demands both the physical aptitude of a cross-country rider and the mental concentration of a downhiller, that's what!

Our group started out late with Pete having early troubles with his bike. I had to swap tires with Bruised because he wanted to try out semi-slicks for this course. K. Sumet SummitMan, on the other hand, was nursing a hangover and HomeBoy Keang was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, after four swapped tires, one fixed tube, one broken pump, and HomeBoy appearing out of nowhere to rejoin our group, life is good again and we were ready to go. We later learned that Keang already had two servings of the course - one for each category B and C. He was also bleeding below the right calf which was sort of a 'sneak preview' of what was waiting for us in the woods.

The first stretch of the course along the bay was a refreshing, picture-perfect ride with coconuts, boats, and a lighthouse. Then back to reality just beyond the lighthouse - almost 1km of climb over concrete and bricks halfway to the top of the mountain while deciding whether to push through the track or have some coffee first to jumpstart the nerves. We chose XC.

To make things interesting, the course included this climb as we approached the XC track entrance.

It was a short steep drop which leads to a long, fast descent between trees, over roots, and finally to the ramp back to the brick road. SummitMan showed us newbies how to do it. I wasn't paying attention and Bruised was paying attention to me. We ended with our own painful versions of the ride down.
A short stretch of smooth pathway and we were back over soil. Bruised and I were already stirred and shaken but were too stubborn to call it quits and join Pete who was probably collecting chicks' numbers downstairs by now. We pushed on, right behind SummitMan and Homeboy.

The next climb was a test of patience and skill. It was a singletrack climb over loose ground along the side of the hill. This track is just two weeks old and it lacks the hardpack that XC'ers love. Very loose soil at the edge and small rocks at corners all waiting to destroy what was left of our momentum.
Inside the woods again to negotiate rocks and trees. A few more twist and turns and we were in front of a 10-meter steep downhill. We let SummitMan lead the way. This time, Bruised and I paid attention to see how it's done. It was a smooth and clinical descent until SummitMan must have hit a hidden root or rock somewhere halfway down. The result was also a smooth and clinical endo with both man and bike defeated by gravity.

Seeing this, Bruised and I knew exactly what to do - we dismounted and guided our bikes downhill on foot.

Finally, the last stretch. A hundred more meters and we will be back to sea level with promises of coffee and hot bread. The race course follows the PINK arrow but we were told to follow the RED arrow to avoid the downhillers that may be practicing up front (the downhill track cuts directly over the PINK path).

But the RED path was no beginner's way down. It was a steep descent which cuts sharply to the right at the base which then continues to go down and cut's back sharply towards the left before finally levelling off besides the fence and over the parking lot.

Realizing that we have important appointments later in the day which cannot be delayed on grounds of broken arms and wrists, we slowly guided our bikes down on foot - and that was no easy feat either!

In the end, it was a good ride. The track ate us all and spit us out disgusted but we all learned something new. It was a VERY rude awakening for the first day of the weekend. But we'll be back...OH HELL YEAH!

As soon as you enter the XC course, your focus should be on the track 100% of the time. Let yourself get sidetracked and you'll end up hitting a tree or going downhill in the wrong direction. The singletracks are very very narrow and with sections like those on the hillside, I won't be surprised to see frustrated fast riders having to dismount to pass the slow ones. There's just enough room for one bike and passing zones are VERY few and far in-between - almost only in the paved section.

How to Get There:
Set your sights to Pattaya and follow this map.
Thanks to K. Oo Pattaya (อู๋ พัทยาCraZyGang) of the CraZyGang Downhill Team for the pictures. The original post (in Thai) can be found here.



Anonymous said...

so ... can a newbie successfully complete 2 loops in this track -- even if he pushes and drags his ride over the technical sections???

WetSocket said...

I would say yes if you don't mind pushing/dragging your bike for more than 50% of the time. Ride the wide and smooth concrete/tile path and push drag over the techies.

The trouble is, the XC sections are very narrow. With all the traffic from the other riders, it is not easy to find a spot to mount and regain momentum.

I consider myself a newbie even though I've been riding for more than a year and logged nearly 5k kms on my bike but I was dragging and pushing my bike over this track. I've completed 5 loops around this monster and crashed 3 times on two separate trips.

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