TK Lawless MTB Race Recap

Race Recap by David Bradway

Dr. TK Lawless Park in Jones, MI has a great trail that Emily and I have ridden many times and raced a few times. Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association (NIMBA) held a race here on Sunday, June 25th. We pre-rode a half lap on Saturday before the race to check out trail conditions and open our leg muscles for the race the next day. The two lap, 20-mile Sport class races were our target. The trail was in great shape with only a small amount of rain in the days leading up to the June 24-25 weekend. 

On Sunday at race registration we were very surprised to learn that NIMBA organizers decided to run the course in the opposite direction of the normal trail. This is a good and bad scenario. On one hand local racers who have the trail dialed won’t have an advantage as they won’t have ridden in the opposite direction. On the other hand, this leads to obstacles that aren’t experienced on the normal trail. I have been a victim to this during a race. At a 12hr race a few years ago I hit a small stump that would not have been an issue if the trail was running the normal direction. This resulted in a separated shoulder and my race being over. Luckily on this occasion I had no mishaps with unforeseen obstacles.

My race started slower than I was expecting with the pack not quite sprinting to a bottleneck at the entrance to the trail. I easily made my way to the front and was not planning on looking back for followers. I could hear another rider behind me and by about mile 2 I could tell we had a gap. I offered to let him take up the pacesetting. He declined and let me continue. This was my cue to keep the pace steady and try to hold him off. Halfway through lap 1 of 2 I started seeing a gap behind me. I kept my pace up until the gap was big enough for me to take small recoveries after the numerous short climbs. As I neared the end of the first lap, I could tell second place had gained a companion in a red jersey and they were gaining on me.

The way Lawless trail is set up for races is such that NIMBA will use a small portion of hiking trails in order to complete the race loop. In this particular race they routed the finish up a significant climb. This turned out to be the biggest climb on the course. Making my way up this climb for the first time, the two riders behind me were steadily gaining on me and were within a couple seconds at the beginning of the second lap.

Once back in the woods, I could tell I was creating a gap through technical twisty sections then they would catch back up on the climbs. I started to push harder up the climbs and was once again recovering during the small gaps it would create. Nearing the end of the second lap and heading onto the last small section of hiking trail I could see that my gap was small and that my only choice was to hammer up the last hill or get caught. Heading into the climb I looked back to see the rider in the red jersey within a few hundred feet and gaining on me. I put my head down, gritted my teeth and put my all into this hill and hoped it wouldn’t come to a sprint after the hill. I didn’t know if I would have anything left. I made it to the top of the hill and tried to keep my cadence up despite feeling like I would lose my breakfast. I looked back and didn’t see anyone in pursuit. I crossed the finish line to see my name as the winner for Sport 20-39.

Not only did I win, my wife, Emily, won her race as well.