Naked Women's Racing Blog

Race reports, training tips, and our ladies' lives on two wheels.

Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop

Nicole is crushing her first year on the dirt. Read more about this podium performance at the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop.

On Saturday June 27th, I raced my third ever mountain bike race. I have been racing now for two seasons, mostly on the road. I wanted to branch out this year to experience more disciplines and see how I would enjoy them and adapt. Saturday’s race was the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop — marketed as a cross country race, I would be doing about 13 miles in the novice category. I was excited to race this as a prep for the following weekend’s Firecracker 50, as I wanted and needed to see how I would feel on my mountain bike at altitude. My start time was 10:55, giving me plenty of time to drive up that morning, get registered, and warm up.

I was excited to run into a friend, Gina, from another team when I arrived. She and I suffered through our first mountain bike race of the season, the PV Derby, 4 weeks prior. We set out to ride the first part of the course as a warm up prior to the first group’s start. Now, I have skied at Winter Park for many years, so know this mountain like the back of my hand….but I will tell you, it is much different without a few feet of snow covering the ground. The start was at the base of a dirt fire road and pretty quickly went from flat to rather steep. We were both huffing and puffing pretty quickly. It quickly brought back memories of Beti Bike Bash where I blew up pretty quickly after going out too hard on the climbs. The road felt as though it dragged on forever, so I made a mental note to take it easy come race time, and not make the mistake of blowing up quickly again. We couldn’t actually make it to the single track as the pro men were about to start. So we finished the rest of our warm up on the road around Winter Park Village.
Cut to the start line. There were not too many women signed up for the novice category, maybe about 14 total across all of the age groups. We were the last group to go. When the whistle blew, I was purposefully holding back a little knowing I had to pace myself. Several of the women took off pretty fast up the road, and I didn’t feel pressure to chase them knowing I could make up some time later on. Then to my surprise, our trip up the road was cut off early and we made a right hand turn onto the single track! The other women were off and I felt pretty far behind already. There were one or two sharp switchbacks early on, then we cruised along some single track in the trees for a while. Some of it was smooth and fast, with other sections having a few more technical rock obstacles with some large roots mixed in as well. There was one section that I went for on the downhill, but my tire slipped on a root and I had a fall early on, but shook it off and back on the bike. This single track continued for a little while until we got to more fire road. At this point I had passed about three people that had been ahead at the start, but I knew two of the women in my category were likely well ahead of me.
The fire road was a good place to make up some time for me, and I felt surprisingly good at altitude during this climb. I even caught up with a few more folks, including some of the Novice men who had started a ways ahead of us. We eventually turned off of the fire road to the right up another wide, steep road that was littered with loose shale and some “monkey skull” sized rocks. I tried to stay on my bike as long as I could, but eventually took a bad line, and ended up walking the bike for a while like several people up on the trail ahead of me. Eventually this led back to a smoother fire road, and I made up some more time again, passing one more novice male rider. This climb up the road finally led up to another single track trail where the other groups (sport, expert and pro) converged onto the same trail. There was a bit of a downhill break, and this section of trail became a bit rockier. I hit a section of rocks that I had to put a foot down for, and a Sport woman and a Sport man passed me. The woman took off, but I was able to catch up to the male ride and stay on his wheel for a while. It was good to have a line to follow, or change if I didn’t quite like the way he would take it. After a bit of a climb, the trail started to descend and a there was a section that he stopped at, and I had to stop short. Having lost my momentum, I ended up having to walk this section, and then two other folks passed me. This is where the trail started getting tricky for me. It turned into a series of very tight switchbacks with close trees. Switchbacks are my nemesis, and while I could put a foot down on some, there were others that were just too steep and sharp. I was feeling tired enough that I didn’t want to make a mistake and hurt myself this late in the race. Eventually it straightened out to some very fun single track that was tight and slightly uphill, but you could see far enough ahead that I could take it pretty fast and had a blast.
Down through a few more switchbacks and some more fun single track, I eventually got out of the trees and the trail started descending rapidly. There was a sharp left turn onto a little wood bridge, and a kid yelling, “youre almost done!!!!!” and there I was on the road to the finish line. I geared up, turned my legs on, and sprinted to the finish. My new mountain bike friend was waiting at the finish having finished minutes ahead, as she kicks butt at the more technical aspects of mountain bike riding 🙂
At the end of the day, I had a lot of tun, felt like I could have done more — i.e. did not blow up!!!! — and managed to get the 3rd place spot on the podium. Gina secured a 3rd place spot as well, which was a repeat from our respective finishes at the PV Derby! Can’t wait for the Firecracker 50, although that will be a whole other animal!