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Penn State: Rothrock You Like Hurricane Race Report

By Tom Calcagni

So you cooked up a story and dropped the four of us in a meat-grinder

The Penn State Mountain bike weekend was a blast. One of the best race weekends I have ever had and itís a great start to my last season of collegiate bike racing. Despite not having the amenities that I typically have at road races, I managed to survive the wilderness and the parking lot of an elderly homeóbut more on that later. My plan going into the weekend was to have fun. With the help of Brett H, Vince, and Derek, this mission was easily accomplished.

Friday (travel):

Fridayís travels were marked with delay after delay. We set to meet at 8:30pm and didnít leave until close to 10:30. Before leaving, we somehow came under the possession of a gigantic pan of rice which would have easily been enough food for the four of us for the entire weekend. We didnít have a bike rack for the first couple miles and managed to fit all four of our bikes into the back of Big Bertha (Vinceís Van) with plenty of room to stretch out. Finally on the road, we set off towards State College, PA. After decrypting the one-page race flyer for the location info, we drove blindly through the woods about 20miles from the race location in the pitch-black night. We never found where the races would be, so we decided to head into campus to find a place to park and sleep for the night as it was getting very late. We decided to ďcampĒ in the parking lot of a retirement home since it was dimly lit and basically no one was around to see four people sleeping in an SUV. 2:30am and we were settled; ready to get a whopping 3.5 hours of sleep


We woke up, got breakfast and easily found the race course in the morning (after driving up the mountain and back). I got set up with Timís mountain bike which fit me perfectly and only needed minor adjustments. The Menís C race had one lap of a 6 mile course. It sounded easy on paperóespecially since the Lehigh MTB race I did last year was 2 laps of a 12 mile course. For this race, we had about a mile or two of climbing a fire road as our start. Off we went. This hill was an easy climb and I maintained 7th position until the top. Once into the forest the twisting turns along with the steep dirt climbs slowed me down and a few people passed me. Then came THE rock garden. Luckily, there is only one rock garden in this race, but someone thought it would be a good idea to plant a bunch of rocks in the ground right in the middle of a trail for a 2 mile stretch. This was exhausting to get through. My wrists, my knuckles, my fingers were shell-shocked. I got bounced around from one rock to the other, but managed to play leap frog with a couple people here. Then there was a short descent through dirt single-track, over a log bridge, and some weaving back-and-forth between some ferns. I was humming the theme from the Predator (1987) movie to keep my mind off the pain in my hands. Dun dun dun dun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun. chi chi chi chi. []

Finished 18th of 26 starters.

After my race, I rode around on my cross bike for awhile exploring the trails and riding up and down the mountain. Later, the four of us went out to eat at Green Bowl for some stir fry. Tim could tell you more about it than I can, but I must say that itís always a treat to go there. How could I forget about ice cream? The creamery marked the end of a tough day and after we drove to the top of the mountain to find a spot to camp for the night. Once up there we followed a trail in the dark to find a fire tower with only a few flashlights. Scary stories of bears, lions, snakes and raccoons kept the four of us on our toes. Glowing yellow eyes hovered in the tree lineówe were being watched. To the right of us was a recently extinguished fire; the embers still radiated with heat while the smell of smoke touched the nostrils. We hastily made our way back to our camp for fear of ambush by Tim and Joe, who we expected to be hiding somewhere. But they were already fast asleep and probably woken up by our loud chatting. Derek wrapped his sandwich in a plastic bag and hung it from a treeóthis time no animal was taking his meal without a fight.


I slept unusually well inside the Van that night. There is just so much room inside that thing that I was able to lay down across the seats and feel like I was in my bed at home. Although, upon waking up, it felt like I was coming down with a cold. I had a runny nose and that feeling in my throat like it was the start of something bad. We drove for breakfast and it soon cleared up. I readied myself for the Individual time trial and hopped on Brettís mountain bike. Me, Vince and Derek asked where the start of the TT was and were told it was just up the road not too far away. So about 4 miles of uphill later we arrive late at the start.

I got myself mentally ready for a ITT and sprinted off the line up the hill some more. I pushed myself a little too hard here for the person taking pictures, so hopefully I get to see how awesome I look. Made a couple turns at the top and then there was a stretch of rock garden which I was somewhat prepared for. With Brettís bike I glided over the rocks and passed someone who had dismounted. The dual suspension made it feel like I was riding on cloudsóbumpy clouds, but not as harsh as the day before. Just after this section came a long descent on dirt trails. I had a great rhythm going down this part and probably had a huge smile on my face as I pretended I was a speeder bike gliding through the woods of Endor. There was a sweeping left bend which I took too fast and briefly came off the trail on the outside. I saw a log jutting out from the right and knew that if I tapped my brakes Iíd be done for. The only thing left to do was to ride right into it and hope for the best. I made it over, but it steered my wheel onto the other side of the trailóright where another downed log was jutting into the path. I couldnít react fast enough and went over the bars and ate some dirt. Got back up and back into my rhythm. Later down the trail I approached another rider. I stayed on his wheel for a bit because the trail was too narrow to pass. When there was a brief clearing I saw my opportunity. I called out that I was passing and came around his right (where there looked to be just grass). As soon as I moved to the right I noticed huge stones that would have messed me up real bad. The only way to avoid them was to swerve back onto the trail hopefully not in the way of the other rider. When I tried to steer back to the trail my wheel got stuck between two parallel logs and I went over the bars again. Got back up and noticed the chain was stuck so that slowed my time down quite a bit. Finally got situated and back on the bike to finish the course. Then there were a couple wood bridges that were fun to cross with one final rock garden made up of huge boulders. Two riders in front hopped off their bikes and began to walk across. The crowd cheered me on to ride it and so I did just thatÖ I made it about half way until my wheel stopped and then I hopped off. I saddled up and sprinted to the finish. A nice dirt jump marked the line. Lifted the bike in the air and soared across.

Finished with a time of 0:20:13.44, and placed 8th of 13 starters in Menís C.

More ice cream after with a stop at Mad Mex and we were on our way back to Philly. Iím tired of writing so thatís all youíll get. To get the full experience, youíll just have to go to a mountain bike weekend yourself!

I took some photos too. Facebook reduces the image quality which is why I've posted these to Flickr. Feel free to use them as you wish and share with the other teams.

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Page last modified on December 08, 2013, at 07:22 PM