When I first moved to DC in 1997, I did not know anyone, let alone any cyclists. So I purchased a book on mountain biking in the Mid-Atlantic. The first local ride I went on was at Great Falls, VA, one the book described as “challenging and scenic”. In the dirt parking lot, I introduced myself to two guys (Rob Cook and Tino) with OC Racing kits on. After they graciously showed me the fun singletrack trials around that gorgeous park, we exchanged info, and they suggested I contact a teammate of theirs, Ken Bell for graphic design work.
Ken hired me to work evenings with him, and even though we would finish work at midnight, we’d go off to ride at Wakefield Park. Ken was training for this crazy-sounding 24 Hours of Canaan race I’d never heard of. He suggested I join him in the Wednesday at Wakefield ([email protected]) Race Series. I was a bit nervous but eager to try racing. Little did I know it would soon consume my life.
While I can’t find many photos dating back to the summer of 1998, some brief moments stick with me. I only won a single race in the [email protected] series that summer, but I placed high enough in all of the races to win the overall series in the Beginner category. It’s not really something you brag about, but I felt great. It meant I had found a sport I could not only do well in but do it for life (as opposed to Mixed Martial Arts, which after three years, I learned was unsustainable). At 28, I had found mountain biking a little late in life, but I was totally hooked.
Bike racing became a way of life for me, traveling to towns I never would have otherwise and exploring the furthest reaches of VA, MD and PA. Ken soon talked me into buying a full suspension bike (GT iDrive. I broke 3 of them.) as well as attempting the 1999 Shenandoah Mountain 100.
For roughly ten years, I continued racing the [email protected] series regardless of my rank or my focus, which would change from adventure racing to XC to ultra-endurance and eventually road and cyclocross. I got caught up with filming other races like the Tour de France and missed a few years, but when I returned the vibe was still as good as ever. And just as competitive as ever. For a race located just outside the DC beltway, the competition is always crazy-fast. I guess having a pool of 4 million people makes for some quality racing (and wonderful traffic trying to get there).
So while it took me almost 14 years to repeat my Overall series winner from when I was a beginner, it felt just as good. I took the top step in each of the 4 races, contributing to my best season of racing yet. What feels even more fulfilling, however, is making new friends who love to race their bikes in the dirt. Even at 43 years young.
Special thanks to the Potomac Velo Club and The Bike Lane for keeping this very special and challenging series going. Thanks for reading, and see you at the races. -Jason