Sunday, May 16, 2010

Race Report: EFTA Glocester Grind--Gnarly Root and Rocks--Not for the Faint of Heart

New Race Report Format

After reading a recent race report by Mr. Sweeney over at the other blog, I have decided to follow his lead and make a template for my race reports. Instead of giving you a boring play by play about people who you may or may not know and/or care about, I will review the race itself, while offering a condensed version of my experiences in during the race. I am not sure how this will work out, so I will test driving this format until I either forget to do it, or I find that it isn't satisfactory.

The new headings will be: overall quality of the race, value (taking into consideration travel as well as race fees and perhaps lodging), race organization, attendance and depth of fields, safety (road/trail conditions as well as organization issues that impact rider safety), fun factor and what strengths the race rewards and which shortcomings it punishes.

Glocester Grind

Overall Quality

This race is awesome. At $25 + $4 for a One Day EFTA license, this race is more expensive than many mtb races, but it makes up for it by providing challenging trails and good, yet casual race organization. The short 1.5 hour drive and the excellent trails make this race well worth attending.


I didn't preregister for this race. With race fee and EFTA license, it cost me $34 to race, which is pushing the envelope of acceptability. My driver, Mike Wissell was grumbling about purchasing yet another license. While EFTA seems to be a good organization, forcing me to purchase another license to race seems like gouging. Many of us already hold USAC and UCI licenses. A third license is excessive. You can purchase an annual EFTA license for $24. But remember that there are only 7 EFTA races. You'd have to make to all 7 to make buying the license up front worthwhile. I hate to say it, but for the number of races that you can use it for, the $90 USAC Road/Cyclocross/MTB license is looking like a bargain next to the EFTA license. Seriously, EFTA should just charge $4-5 more for the races and quit the day-off license shell game. The race is $29, not $25 as advertised. I'd rather just pay $29, than feel like I am being nickeled and dimed.

After the rant, this race was well worth the fees (upfront and hidden).

Race Organization

The directions to the race were mostly accurate (there were some distances that were incorrect). Registration was quick and simple (and the young woman who took my paperwork was chainsmoking). The races went off on time. Results were posted on a fancy electronic monitor quickly. I heard that splits were being posted while we were racing. One thing though, the display on the monitor scrolled confusingly. Fields were not well denoted. I know my finishing time and where I finished in relation to the other men who raced with me.

EFTA (and MTB in general) has too many categories. In Root 66 races, I get the pleasure of racing against Mike Wissell since we are both in our 30's (more accurately, I see his back at the start and then he watches me finish while wearing his street clothes). EFTA races further divide riders by age. I was got 5th place among 38 year old men who rode hardtails and didn't have tattoos.

There was no food or drink available to racers after the race. While I come prepared, this affects many mtb racers, as they have come to expect a BBQ, some local baked good and some drinks for sale after a race.

Payout was slow. Not as slow as Root 66 sometimes is, but slow. That said, they paid Mike $10 for first place. Cash is good. Waiting an hour for it...not so much.


The race was well attended and it felt competitive. I say this mostly because I felt like I was constantly being passed. Actually I was. Since I was getting passed, the field was competitive. The elite field had about 20 riders, which seems big.

Safety/Trail Conditions

The trails were gnarly, which means that there was ample opportunity to crash. But the course routing and markings were great. The trails themselves were pristine. Apparently, this race is on private property and they only open the trails for this race. Damp and rooty. Twisty. Spiky rocks in the corners. Lots of threading the needle. I slammed my pedals into stuff multiple times a lap.

What You Need to Bring

Bike handling was key. If you were taking bad lines or squeamish about slippery roots and rocks, you were dropped quickly. There were a few power sections, but mostly you needed to keep your speed up through the technical stuff and rail the many corners. Line selection was more important than in any other mtb race I have ever done. Many of us found that running through the muddy rock gardens was faster.

A dual suspension bike would have been better than my hardtail. Oh well.

While I am no ninja, I rode well and didn't feel seriously disadvantaged, which is serious progress from last year. Last year, I would have left this race after one lap, crying.

My Race

I have been cycling little, so I was unsure how I would perform. I did fine. Also, my Fuji Mtb needs a tuneup and I failed to do it before the race. In fact, I was 5 minutes late to meeting my ride since I had to put a waterbottle cage on the bike on the morning of the race. It shifted rough and the rear wheel was wobbly for the whole race.

I had a shitty start and was last into the woods. I dismounted and passed 5-7 flailing riders in the first rock garden and that was essentially my race. I estimated that this move got me into 5th or so. I rode hard and kept a gap on my group, but watched as a group put time into me. After a 10 minute chase at an unsustainable pace, I settled in to a more reasonable pace and began recovering and conserving energy. I emphasized smooth flow over pure power and I think that this made me faster overall than if I had tried to dump everything into the pedals during the first half of the race.

I rode hard and concentrated on keeping the hammer down while selecting good lines (or as good as I could find). I made it a point to not ride any one's wheel at any time. The course was just too treacherous. Everything was damp and the rocks were often tall and steep enough to force you off of the bike if you came upon them with short notice.

Fun Factor

This was a great race. While my report is not very exciting, don't think that this wasn't fun. It was seriously fun. I will return next year, so should you.


Colin R said...

I think you're getting a bit too worked up about the license cost. $4 in licensing is f-ing cheap. Tons of people own USAC licenses ($60) but race less than 15 times/year, so they're paying more than $4/race. And those of us with $150 UCI licenses would have to do 37 races a year to pay only $4/race in licensing...

Plus EFTA lets you buy a 1-day license for any category. If they were d-bags like USAC, you'd have to buy an EFTA license to race anything above sport class...

Big Bikes said...

Disorganization bordering on mayhem is par for the gnarly course at EFTA races.

What they might lack in attention to detail, i.e.: food, timely results, mass starting 200 people, they more than make up for with their "real mountain biking" courses.


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