Gripped Racing is comprised of a great many cyclists with a range of special talent and fitness. At its heart though, Gripped Racing is about mountain biking. It is a team of cyclists who are drawn into the orbit of racing in the woods and who view the technical aspects to be challenging and magnetic. A lot of the Gripped DNA is also in the long distance riding and racing. We live by the “Long Live Long Rides” creed, and so if there’s an ultra endurance race being held, there’s someone from Gripped racing.
This is Jared, happy to be finished and make the top 10. Matt Donahue (in red) helped make it all happen.
Each Fall, however, when cyclocross season rolls around — when roadies get to be off-road and mountain bikers get to bump each other around — it takes some adjustments. Dialing down from 100 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing at Shenandoah to 40-60 minutes of redlining on a short loop course on soggy grass fields requires a few changes. Gone are the fat tires, suspension systems, water bottle cages, and, sadly, the rocks, roots and drop offs. For the most part that is.
Of all these crazy races, though, DCCX is the one that Gripped racers would design. DCCX is a cyclocross course for the mountain biker. It’s comprised of a mile and a half of switchbacks, short challenging climbs and barriers that are exciting to race and, more importantly, fun to celebrate after. The course is a marvel of tiny challenges, none of which alone pose much threat to anyone, but expertly stitched together make each lap a potential sufferfest. Jess could probably bunny hop these barriers but she charged them proper ‘cross-style.
This year’s rendition started with a 100-yard dash that peeled to the right, dropped off the asphalt onto a grass pitch, and veered leftward. It continued through two snaking out and backs, then through a stand of trees before turning left and down again onto a gravel road. From this low point on the course, racers sprint along a slight incline and confront the beginning of a super fun and twisty part of the course with lots of tight turns, chances to rub shoulders and plough the front wheel before hitting the first barrier set. Clearing the two hurdles, racers must navigate a dicey incline and subsequent up-down switchback before dropping onto the main asphalt road. Along this road every racer faces the desire to quit at each lap. There’s Dogfish Head Ale. There are waffles. And the lap’s hard part is still ahead. Plus you’re right at threshold hoping to not hurl in front of your family while everyone you raced against all summer long blows by you motivated by the fantastic crowds. Kevin cornering – fast.
Through the crowd at the half way point, racers climb slightly, ride through a half dozen zigs and zags and come to a straightaway where they can pass those who just passed them, and as they approach the next set of barriers, racers are able to see the faces of those 30 second ahead of them as they come back through the main staging area along cobblestones. The most fun part of the course greets racers at this junction where they can pick up a lot of speed and drop into a fun and flowy 200 yard stretch that swings them back towards the center of the staging area. Confronting racers is a five step incline that almost everyone runs, followed by three switchbacks whereupon everyone gets to do it all over again.
A record 800 of the region’s racers came to DCCX-V to pedal four, five, six, or seven laps, so competition for podiums and beer hand-ups was fierce. The crowds, armed with cowbells and cheers (or heckles), were record-setting, too. The only cyclocross race held within D.C. at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, DCCX usually attracts a large, enthusiastic hometown crowd, and this year — stoked by near-perfect, sunny Fall weather — was no exception. It was great day to race, grab some sausages and beer afterward, and celebrate the camaraderie of bike racing along with competitors, team, friends, and family. Laura T, Jess & Pam
Gripped Racing put in a strong showing not only racing but also volunteering and cheering along the DCCX course. Congratulations to Jared Janowiak for a Top 10 finish amid a tough 3/4 field with over 100 racers. Props go out to Jason Harris, Jason Berry, Jessica Kelleher and Kevin Carter for pushing through 40+ minutes of pain. And well-done to Melanie Carter (Kev’s wife) in the Rookie race! Thanks to Tim Abbott, Rob Russell, Pam Frentzel-Beyme and Stephanie Wolf for the support from the sidelines. This is Collin, Steph and Penny.
We salute the mountain biking core of DCMTB and their sponsors, including the extra special Dogfish Head Alehouse, MABRA, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home. This is one of the most eagerly awaited Sundays of the year for any bike racer, but, because of DCMTB’s commitment to excellence, it is the one non-mountain bike event of the year in the area no mountain bike racer wants to miss.
Jess’ Report on Sufferfest 2011:
Buki is right. Cross/DCMTB’s epic course = total sufferfest for the long-ride loving mountain biker. Another year, another 37 minutes of scary-high heart rates and wanting to puke. I guess using my mtb to pass, and then re-pass, all the gals on the technical turns and climbs takes the mind off the physical agony…but it will take me another year to agree to do this again.
I have no doubt I’ll be back in 2012. The course is fantastic. The food and company even better. Hopefully next year I’ll remember a short-sleeved t-shirt since there’s no need to lengthen the sufferfest by wearing a sweatshirt in beautiful, sunny 80-degree weather.
How can an hour be so miserable and yet so much fun? I keep asking myself that week after week, but invariably the fun trumps misery by at least a hundred to one. I love the whole scene. The support of the spectators is great, and at DCCX they dial it up five notches to amazing. I watched one rabid fan sprint up the road cheering/yelling at his buddy the whole way. I thought wonderful lunatics like that were only bred in the high mountains of France. Being one of the few riders on a mountain bike, this course is especially suited to me. I was too lazy to switch to cyclocross tires (at least I have a 29er and can do that), so I just left my small block 8’s on there. The surfaces were so rough that I don’t think they were much of a handicap. The first five seconds of my start was spectacular for me, but in my heart I know why a dozen guys quickly swooped around me. It isn’t the bike, and it sure ain’t the tires!
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