Mark Junkerman and the folks from run-ride-race supported by Groundforce IT do an incredible job with this early event. Held in Pocahontas State Park just south of Richmond, the 48 mile Monster loop is where the action is at. Not really a mountain bike race nor really a cross race, Monster Cross walks that fine line of UltraCross the long distance moderately techie, mostly-dirt-or-gravel fast paced brand of racing. The timing for this race makes it the first competition of the year for me and an opportunity to test out early season fitness. I signed up for the Single Speed mountain bike category, cause I love racing the Single Speed and most of the rest of the year I’m racing a geared mountain bike AND I have an awesome Specialized Carbon Stumpjumper Single Speed with a Chisel rigid fork that weighs 17 pounds that is perfect for UltraCross.
I raced the Single Speed Mountain Bike category at the 2014 Monster Cross and was very fortunate to win against the 2014 National Ultra Endurance Series (NUE) Single Speed champion and arguably the best endurance single speeder in the country, Gordon Wadsworth. How, you might ask is that possible? Well, at last year’s event, only minutes into the race Gordon’s furious pace had force an elite selection that I did not make. But as luck would have it, he suffered a chain tensioning problem that forced him off the bike for a lengthy repair. Gordon chased valiantly after the repair catching the entire single speed field except for yours truly.
I’m certain Gordon is waiting for the right moment to exact his revenge and I thought the 2015 edition would be the place… but a conflict with the new rescheduled date kept him away.
My job was not going to be much easier as also entered in Single Speed mountain bike was Toasted Head Racing’s Mike Montalbano, who has won both the Mohican 100 and the Shenandoah Mountain 100 on single speed… but he too sat out this year’s Monster Cross with a conflict.
So with two of the best single speeders in the country not in attendance, the door was open. I drove down to Richmond from DC with my frequent winter training buddy, DC Velo rider Paul Mica. Paul is super-strong and has great mountain bike skills. With a solid ride, he could be on the podium in the pro-elite category in which he was entered.
I lined up right at the front of the huge 2nd wave for the start. Bang! Two minutes after the pros, we were off. As soon as the pace vehicle waved us on, a 10-20 rider front group quickly formed. Within 10 minutes it was down to about 8 riders that included single speeders Igor “Piki” Danko and Brian Patton. Both were riding very strong.
We soon caught and passed my Rare Disease Cycling and eventual pro women’s winner Stephanie Swan who was digging deep… but she was not in the lead at that point. I got gapped once on the first lap due to Brian’s strong effort up the long soft climb on the southern loop section but was able to close it back down on the descent. By now the group was 4 or 5.
Soon after we passed eventual 2nd place pro women’s finisher Erin Wittwer and finally we caught up with last year’s pro women’s winner and my RDC teammate Selene Yeager who was able to latch on our group and ride with us for half a lap or so. Selene later got off course and was forced to abandon. Bummer!
By the second lap, Piki finally started to appear tired and was dangling off the back. Finally! Brian smelled blood and upped the pace and Piki was dropped. This time I was sure to stay with him. By the time we got to the southern section again for the 2nd lap, it was just Brian and I (two single speeders) leading the non-pro wave. Wow! We got held up at the road crossing by police due to car traffic and a 3rd rider (eventual Mens CX winner) David Sellars was able to catch us. I got caught between David and Brian when we were allowed to proceed and David allowed a gap to open up… Brian astutely noticed and promptly drilled it. He was taking his shot. By the time I got around David, Brian had a solid lead. I chased but could not catch the now leader of the non-pro wave and ultimately had to settle for 2nd overall in the non-pro wave by 30 seconds, but because Brian was on a cross bike, I was able to capture the win in the Single Speed MTB category again!
Unfortunately for Paul, an early snapped chain and the subsequent lengthy repair took him out of contention. Next time my friend.
But the race of the day was the sprint finish between my RDC teammate Cole Oberman and legendary Pro Mountain Biker and Topeak/Ergon rider Jeremiah Bishop where Cole missed the win by the width of a MTB tire 😮 Well done sir!
I’m super pleased with my result and even more with my early season fitness.
Next up, the NUE opener True Grit in Utah next weekend!
Full results here.