Author: Fritz Stafford
Published: July 24, 2016
The resurrected Tamarack Twister brought XC MtB racing back to Tamarack, Donnelly Idaho, July 9, 2016. The Twister course utilized some trail segments that had been used in previous Tamarack XC races, but the course layout was new.
The course begins with the shorter “Enduro Loop” followed by the longer “Forests and Meadow Loop”. Both loops start with the same “Bunny Hill” climb, and then proceed with varying challenges ranging from the “Enduro Descent” to the “Mosquito Forest Turns and Climbs” to the “Cobblestone Climb” to the “Hidden Trails” curvy descents to the rough “Wild Turkey” meadow meander.
The course length is ~7 miles with ~1100 vertical feet, and the race length is a rather long 2 laps for Cat3, 3 laps for Cat2 and 4 laps for Cat1. Most of the climbs are wide enough to allow easy passing, and most of the rest of the course is single track until the boulevard return to the Start / Finish. The course begs the question of “Hard Tail or Full Suspension?” I rode a hard tail, and for the first time in my four seasons of XC racing, both my water bottle cages came loose.
Fueling and hydration are crucial to finishing strong in such a long race. Luckily, the weather was perfect for the race, ~60F and light rain. Typical mid-July weather would have been ~20F warmer, and this would have demanded twice as much hydration, ~4 water bottles. The moist, mostly firm course condition left all participants and bikes with a light humus coating.
One big challenge for this race was the course was not marked until the evening before the race, and the map published in advance by Hal Miller was not particularly accurate. All participants were on equal footing trying to find the course on the first lap, one extra mental challenge I generally prefer to avoid. I and others attempted to find the course in the week prior to the race based on Hal’s map, and as far as I know, nobody succeded. I believe this was all in Hal’s plan.
The course has enough vertical that climbers can gain significant time, and the course also features enough turn segments sans simple high speed descents that bike handling specialists can gain significant time. While the former characteristic is common, the latter is not, and this may be the halmark of this course.
Much of the course is single track curves with visibility beyond the next curve obscured by forest vegetation and / or terrain. Constant concentration was required to react to the course, and the course was hungry to punish any lapse of concentration which became more likely with exhaustion in such a long race. Many riders showed signs of such incidents.
So, this course offered a big advantage to not just bike handling specialists, but rather, bike handling specialists who excell on unfamiliar course for the duration of a long event.
Jamey Yanik won by nearly 15 minutes, but this winning margin is a bit less than previous results from this year would predict, ~20 minutes. Those with above average climbing and / or bike handling skills were inspired by the course. The rest of us got our butts kicked by more than the usual amount, but we still had a great time on a great course that taught us how to go faster in the turns.
Eric Chizum took 2nd place Pro/Open Male at 14:40 minutes back, Ian Mullens took 3rd place Pro/Open Male at 15:21 minutes back, and Alec Miller took 4th place Pro/Open Male at 17:22 minutes back. Both Pro/Open Females had race ending technical issues on the first lap.
The course would have been 100% ride-able except a collapsed bridge forced a detour that began with a loose dirt and rock turn that was too tight to ride. It was not in this condition in the weeks prior to the race. Hal Miller, Alec “Miller-lite” and Alex Phipps put in a ton of work to bring the course to life. Much of the single track had become over-grown, numerous down trees blocked the course. This work was done purely for the reward of giving back to our cycling community.
FYI, an accurate “Tamarack Twister 2016” map is available on Strava, Tamarack Twister Strava Segment
Wild Rockies Race Team represented with 4 participants: Fritz Stafford 2nd place Expert M50+; Andy Kemp 3rd place Sport M50+; Daryl King DNF Sport M50+; Steve Chafin 1st place Beginner Male. Michele Swan provided expert photographer services (i.e., click or tap on the “Photo Galleries / 2016 Tamarack Twister ” main menu item).
The photographs included in this article were taken by Michele Swan. To view / copy the full resolution available in these “quarter resolution” images, set web browser to full screen, click or tap the images to bring-up the attachment page, click or tap on the image size icon located between the image title / filename and the image (e.g., 1440×960), clicking or tapping the image a second time may be necessary to view the full size image (depending on display size), and then right click on the image to copy (on a PC). Instructions to purchase the full resolution photos are available at Fitness and Grace Photo.