Friday Night Track!

Caitlin and I went up to T-town last Friday.  A couple monkey girls were racing so we had free tickets for the finish line bleachers.

I’d actually never been up to the track for Friday night racing before, so it was interesting.  Overall I thought it was cool, but a bit too much of a drive to do very often compared to my relative level of interest and limited connections to the track community.  I was actually a bit surprised how few people I knew that were there that night.

It was fun though, and a great cycling hangout.  Being way up there in all that space, it had a nice summer country fair feel to it.  Just with bikes and spandex instead of pigs and corn.  As a bonus, the fast food place on-site has a couple vegetarian, apparently organic items that didn’t blow my mind but were definitely edible.

The women’s keirin final gets up to speed.

Sally (the starter) lays down the law as Julia (left rider) gets ready for a match sprint heat.

Peanut butter monkey girl!

One thing that was indisputably great was just how many juniors were there.  There must have been a good fifty kids between 9 and 13 years old, boys and girls, that took part in various races.  Some of them were on bikes tinier than Caitlins’!

There are just a couple more pictures in the Flickr gallery.

Race Report: Catskills

Chat, Ashley Doane, Ceci, Kevin M, Will C, and I all went up for the Tour of the Catskills stage race this weekend, with Brett Kielick also riding up to hang out and get in some more miles.

Ceci and Will did ridiculously well, Will winning the Cat M4 GC and CC just missing the W1/2/3 GC podium. Kevin and Ashley also did really well, with Ashley in particular grabbing 10th/76 in Saturday’s brutal road race (M3s).

I myself have nothing to report. The end of July I spent very sick with something picked up traveling and this was much too hard an event for jumping on a bike for the first time in three weeks. It was all I could do to just finish Saturday, make the cut, and start Sunday.

I did though manage to drive my Prius out of gas on the Palisades Parkway on the way up, one of the worst possible places to do so. No one died pushing the fully laden hybrid (they’re heavy!) up a steep hill and over the grass berm to get off the no-shoulder road before getting slammed by people coming around the curve behind, but Chat did mumble all weekend about his tennis career being ruined by all that strain the pushing put on his shoulder. I’m putting this down as a successful and obviously intentional team building exercise…

I have just a few comments of possible use for newer racers:

  • If you’re in a big field, can’t really see the road ahead, and need to know if there’s more climbing or a descent coming up, watch the treeline. If the trees keep going up, chances are you are as well. If you only see green or rock, chances are you’re going up a lot. Open sky means you better start prepping for a descent. This isn’t always conclusive, but it’s generally a pretty big hint.
  • Applying that prediction, usually hearing everyone shift is a good indicator you should be shifting as well. But if you’re rollercoasting from a big climb to a big descent, be mindful to not shift into the big ring until you yourself are actually on the crest and your leg speed is back up, lest you jam or throw your chain.
  • Similarly, normally I’m against herd mentality, but if you don’t know what’s coming up on the course but everyone else is eating, you should be thinking about it as well. Many of them probably have some idea about the course, and you don’t want to be caught out as the only one trying to eat later on a technical section or climb.
  • On a steep climb, especially early on before the field diminishes, you need to ride defensively and create space for yourself. A combination of going slow and a bit of panic cause the group to bunch up tightly. Combine that with some early weaving by weaker riders, bad shifts, etc., and conditions are ripe for a big pile up like we had in the opening miles of the cat 3 race on Saturday.
  • For a typical super hot summer road race, packing any less than the equivalent of at least seven bottles of liquid is a huge mistake, and the more the merrier. That may sound excessive, but at minimum you’re looking at two bottles for getting to the race and getting ready (particularly for mid-day starts), at least three to start the race with (I was super glad to start with four on Saturday), and two more to drink right afterward. Team sharing’s great and all, but I was stone-cold prepared to drive away and leave at the race anybody who’d finished my reserve nalgenes.

Beyond that, I encourage anyone with any interest in climbing to do this event. It’s a touch expensive, but has a solid time trial and two brutal road races. Combine devastating heat with what I think could be the hardest climbs in this region that you could have a mass-start race on—and I ride a lot in Vermont and New Hampshire—and it’s game on. It also seemed well organized. Marshaling, signage, and caravan coverage seemed spot on, and check-in was butter smooth. This could obviously change, but this year my buddies John Frey and Alan Atwood were doing results and chief refereeing, so placings, GC, stage communiques, etc., were all posted online ridiculously quickly.

More importantly, it’s a fun weekend. We rented a huge house nearby for pretty cheap and had a great time making dinner, getting ice cream in a sweet little Main St kind of town nearby, and hanging out. Don’t miss out next year!

Prague Toy Museum

Today we spent some time in the Prague Toy Museum, just inside the outer walls of Prague Castle.  I was prepared for this to be a letdown but it was actually really cool.  Perhaps above all else it really highlighted how timeless some of these hobbies, like wargaming, really are.  These are a few photo selections.  A bunch more photos are in the Flickr gallery.

The sheer size of this cohesive set is pretty cool. Then you read the placard noting they have dozens of boxes more of this one set in storage.

There were a lot of dollhouses of dolls playing with dolls in dollhouses. It's just so damn meta!

Now this is what I'm talking about, naval miniatures and toy boats!

Civilian vessels.

The main fleet.

I really liked these dock pieces. They're really abstract and highly simplified but yet they're going to all the detail of having a dock in the first place.

Sort of an early LEGO precursor, with the bonus of being able to be all busted up to show damage---the future of miniatures wargaming is... a hundred years behind us?

Similarly, there were a couple of these block castles. I'm pretty sure the giant pig (upper right) is going to break the siege...

This didn't photograph well, but is an awesome mountain and all sorts of miniatures, everything made out of tin.

There were a bunch of these dioramas with clockwork mechanisms underneath that made pieces up top move around and act out vignettes.

An interesting point was made by one placard that at one point, early in the development of steam power, toy engines were almost more intricate and doing more elaborate things than real ones.

I also really like early models of airplanes and flying machines, almost as complex as the real thing.

The plentiful simple tin models of dirigibles and zepellins also really appeal to me.

Early wargaming terrain... that looks like it would fit right in today.

A really cool diorama/playset.

Detail on the main action.

Action Man, precursor to GI Joes and a pretty sweet male Barbie knockoff.

Most probably the awesomeest Barbies ever made...

I was almost devastated in the final room to see Star Wars and Star Trek all jumbled together. But then, do I see? Is that the sly Mr Solo taking a similarly poorly rendered Capt Kirk hostage so Obi Wan can chat up a redshirt? This I can get behind.

Again, a bunch more photos are in the Flickr gallery.  They’re worth checking out for those into these sort of things.  You know, toys and dolls.

Karlštejn

Two Saturdays ago Caitlin and I took a train from Prague to Beroun, hiked some 15 kilometers or so to Karlštejn castle, and then took a train back to Prague.

Train

Prague’s main train station is only a few minutes away from our apartment, it’s just on the edge of the tourist core of the city.  There are a ridiculous number of trains and train routes.  It’s also comparatively very cheap; for all our tickets we spent something like a total of $12 US for about a forty-five minute ride each way.

Prague Main Station.

Part of the shopping concourse inside the station.

One thing we are big on is writing down exactly which tickets we want and just handing that paper over to the ticket teller.  Beroun and Karlštejn turn out to be pronounced more or less like what an English speaker would default to, but many other placenames bear little resemblance to an English phonetic reading.  English is very common in the big scheme of things, but not prevalent.  Even with all the international travelers at the main station you can’t rely on easily asking for a two person discounted ticket, the express train, or whatever.  So Caitlin looked up and copied down all of the wording on the train system website.

Our ticket requests to give to the teller.

Svatý Jan Pod Skalou

In Beroun we had a three hour detour to watch the start of the Beroun Bike Weekend.  From there we hiked to Svatý Jan Pod Skalou, St John Under the Rock, a modest monastery and the small village surrounding it.  There is not much going on here beside a restaurant or two and the elaborate monastery chapel(s), but it has a great view walking into town.

The trailhead.

Walkin' along.

Approach to the monastery. That looming figure in the top left would be the rock, as in St John Under the Rock...

The village. It really doesn't extend much past the frame of view...

Cemetery and crypt near the monastery.

One of the two or three market tables and small food stalls near the monastery.

Caitlin would not carry this for me the rest of the way if I got it...

Red Trail

From there we hiked over to Karlštejn.  The Czech Republic actually has a really impressive national trail system.  There’s a wide ranging network through the woods and countryside that is marked all the way into the villages and even towns, usually to train stations.  We could have picked up this trail right in downtown Prague somewhere and walked dozens of kilometers all the way down.  The trails are very non-technical and open, so it’s also very feasible to ride a cyclocross, mountain, or beefy touring bike all around on them.

Caitlin is ready to go!

Wait, this is only what percentage of the way there?

More walkin'.

We learned a lot from these frequent educational signs. This one is clearly about a secret Soviet program to genetically cross-breed weeds, biting ants, and woodpeckers to produce some kind of horrible nightmare bird. At least, that's my assumption.

More trail ahead.

But finally more trail behind.

Success!

Wait, what? More trail?! But the sign, the sign!

Ok, success for reals this time.

Hrad Karlštejn

The castle (hrad) was built by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, to hold the crown jewels and important holy relics.  Of the latter, many of the paintings actually have little sockets cut into the frame to hold bones, spearheads, and other bits.

Like a lot of the major castles here, this one saw its fair share of fighting, particularly around the Hussite Wars.  It’s interesting looking at different renovations and additions to the castles.  Many features that look like serious castle business are post-renaissance or even more modern renovations and actually make less sense for the real purposes of the castle.  For example, the main buildings in Karlštejn are three distinct, separated towers in a progressively important sequence: The Imperial Palace, the Marian Tower, and the Great Tower.  There’s actually no way to get into the last two from the ground floors, you have to go through the previous towers.  In a post-renaissance update the first two were connected by nice little stone archways.  When the castle was still important though as a physical defense they were connected solely by covered wooden bridges, like the main tower still is, so that you could easily burn the bridges down and completely isolate the tower(s).

Looking down the depth of the well required to go all the way down through the hill to the water table is also pretty neat.  Wikipedia has an interesting tidbit about the well here being a significant weakness as it couldn’t supply enough water for a prolonged siege and all the miners being allegedly murdered to keep that a secret.  Castle dudes also clearly loved tall, steep steps and nothing else.  Daily chores could not have been pleasant for short people.

Getting inside the Marian and Great towers require a tour booked in advance, ostensibly to limit traffic through them; Karlštejn is one of the busiest tourist sites in the country.  The first tower though has regular group tours (required to get in) and is worthwhile.  I particularly enjoyed the vast, tangible difference between the bright, open assembly room with its kitchen area, large fireplace, and big tables, and the very dark, claustrophobic appearance room, where two tall, narrow window columns beam light onto the subject appearing before the king while he himself sat in a throne, the only piece of furniture in the room, set between the windows so as to be completely obscured in shadow.  The tower entrance is also neat in that it’s essentially a locker room for the region’s knights vassal, with personal chests along the walls with their individual heraldry and space to bed down if necessary.

The three main towers, from the close by well tower. Formerly the critical linchpin of the castle's defences... now its gift shop.

Looking down on the village. Bothersome peasants!

We have sacked the castle and taken their iced cappuccino, and now we can be cheery again.

The village immediately outside the castle is small despite being a tourist hotspot.  Entertainingly, as a prime national tourist spot, most of the restaurants have thick books with menus in every conceivable language.  I would have to think a fair bit to confidently list more languages than some of them have.  Vegetarian options were thin as the restaurants served mostly standard Czech fair, essentially pork knuckle or beef goulash and a kind of funny moist, dense, bland potato bread roll that’s really common here.   However, we did find some omelettes and potato pancakes.  Food seemed shockingly cheap for a major tourist area.  We figure restaurants in Prague, outside of the critical centers of the tourist areas, run about 3/4 to 2/3 of what we would figure on paying in Philadelphia.  Here was down around 1/2 to 1/3.

Train

The train from Karlštejn is just a few minutes’ walk from the castle.  With both the forest trails and several bike routes along the Vltava and Berounka rivers to town, it’s clearly a popular place for people to ride to and then take a train home.  Lots of cyclists were doing so when we were there.  Trains seem largely very accommodating of bikes, even at peak times.  Many cars have a few hanging hooks, and bigger trains have cars with large, dedicated rack spaces.

Caitlin declined my offer to just keep on walking back to Prague (Zbraslov on the sign here is a town about 15km south of Prague).

Karlštejn train station.

Countryside from the train.

Writing out the ticket request for the next day's adventure.

Etapa 4: Olomouc

This past weekend Caitlin and I took a whirlwind trip through Moravia, the eastern side of the Czech Republic.  We wrapped up by dropping into Olomouc on Sunday morning just to walk around, maybe see the cathedral, and get lunch.  From the train we started walking through a lovely park, and then cut over into the main town square.  There…

Hmmm, that's funny, down the end of the alley looks like a...

... team car.

And another one...

And another one?!

Hmmm…

No, you have got to be kidding me!

The Czech Cycling Tour

Sure enough, for the third straight weekend we had randomly stumbled into a huge bike race of one kind or another, this time the Czech Cycling Tour.  Fortunately a cafe parked right on the finish line (those are its umbrellas above) had free WiFi so this time we were able to figure out roughly what was going on: We’d arrived in Olomouc just in time to catch the conclusion of the fourth and final stage of what’s seemingly the Czech Republic’s biggest road race, part of the UCI’s European continental domestic pro circuit.

The timing crew starts getting set up for the finish.

While volunteers get all the signage out on the hard fencing.

And a UCI official talks with some of the course marshals.

The all-important bouncy castle was of course established first thing in the morning.

Caitlin enjoys some pickled cheese (!), pizza, and a mojito---conveniently enough the only drink she's found that reliably includes ice cubes...

Earlier that morning the race had left Olomouc, done a long loop, and as we arrived was just about to begin smaller loops around town for a full 180km race.  It was very hot this and the preceding few days, which must have taken a large toll on the field.  The number of finishers did not seem to nearly approach the 148 riders that had started the tour three days previous.

Map of the stage (from czechcyclingtour.cz).

The lead cars arrive!

The breakaway leader comes by, several minutes up.

Coming into the main square.

Note that the entire old town section is on cobbles...

The peloton rushes by.

The extensive caravan, supporting 23 teams, starts going past.

DNF'd riders and their team vans drifted in throughout the day. These guys are notable because I'd coincidentally seen their van broken down on a roadside south of Prague while out on a ride earlier in the week.

Heading back to the showers...

Strava

So, we’re sitting there in the conveniently placed cafe and I’m cruising the web to find out more about the race.  I start looking through the earlier stage results to see if we can spot any big international pro names.  We don’t recognize any, but then I realize “Hey, I have seen some of these names before…”

A start list that organizers were handing out to the crowd as the finish approached.

The Strava leaderboard for a longish climb out of Řevnice, a town a bit south of Prague.

The leaderboard for another climb on the way back toward Prague.

One of the many issues coming to Prague was what bike to bring, or even to bring one at all.  A six week trip is right on the upper edge of where I could skip the hassle and be reasonably happy and fit with just running.  Ultimately I brought my road bike, well aware that skinny tires could be pretty challenging in the inner core of Prague, what with the beefy cobblestones, trolleys, traffic, tourists, and more cobblestones.  A big part of the decision was that I’d been talking a lot of smack about a few stage races in August and September, particularly Green Mountain.  I didn’t want to go into that having been off my road bike all of June and July.

What really sold it though was that I did a couple quick searches on Strava for the area and found this one long ride by a guy named František Paďour.  It hit a whole bunch of good climbs, was a nice roaming route, had great mileage, and wasn’t far out of Prague.  I was sold.  The very first thing I did on my bike in Prague was head straight (well, as straight as I could navigate) to the main climb on that route.

The ride in question.

That first ride I spun up the hill, came back, uploaded my data, and was a couple minutes off the leader.  I figured: No problem, if I go kill it up the hill, I could challenge that KOM.  …  Since then I’ve been unable to make any real dent on the leaderboard (it’s the first one above).  I felt a lot better about that knowing that the leader was out doing pro races.

The Neon Yellow Jersey

Then came the end of the race.  It was pretty exciting, but we had no idea what was going on.  They didn’t start doing English announcements until the awards ceremony, we couldn’t tell any riders apart, it was a short sprint, and so on.

Waiting for the finish.

First place!

Second and third.

Part of the field. Note that the sprint is short, curving, and cobbled.

Then I see rider #3 roll into the little staging tent next to the podium.  I do a quick double take on the start list, confirm that it’s František, and start telling Caitlin “Hey, I think that dude I was talking about on Strava might have won something…?”  Next thing we know…

Paďour wins the top Czech rider jersey!

“Wait, I think he might have won a lot…”

Whirlpool-Author takes the team GC!

Paďour wins the neon yellow jersey as overall winner of the Czech Cycling Tour general classification!

As far as we can piece together from results and horribly mangled translations of Czech cycling news sites, Whirlpool-Author won the opening team time trial, stage two, and stage four.  Paďour hovered in the top ten on several stages, and aided by the TTT took the overall win by 2 seconds.  The key move was making it into a ten man split from the field going into the stage four finish we saw while his rivals did not.  Notably, earlier in the day we’d actually seen the rider who’d started the day as leader trailing far behind but we had not realized the significance of his jersey.  Apparently he had multiple mechanicals and could not recover.

A teammate brings the last-day GC leader home.

Whirlpool-Author sets up the train to reel in the solo breakaway going into the closing laps.

Ironically, just that previous Thursday and Friday I had spent considerable time while riding trying to figure out how these guys, whom I had assumed all along were quick but still comparable locals, could be going up that one climb in particular so much faster.  Suddenly it was much more clear.

So that is the full story of how František Paďour and Whirlpool-Author became Joe Kopena’s official favorite European continental pros.

Trying to congratulate František and thank him for posting all of his immensely helpful routes.

There are a bunch more pictures in the Flickr gallery.

More Secret Bike Races: Beroun Bike Weekend

Saturday Caitlin and I took a train to Beroun and then hiked over to Karlštejn.  Of course, the first order of business was to find coffee for Ms Thompson, so we walked to the town center—a full kilometer in the wrong direction!

In any event, coming into the main square, what did we see?

Mmm... Looks like some kind of run or something.

Oh man, that kid's got a number plate on... Maybe a bike race?!?!

We had indeed stumbled onto the opening act of the Beroun Bike Weekend, kicking off with a ridiculous amount of kids’ races around the town square.  This was only made more awesome by the fact that we had no idea what was going on and no one spoke English, so we could only assume the entire setup was for the kids’ races.  And, let me tell you, there was a lot of setup.

This is a way more elaborate finish than I've seen at some US national championships...

Food trucks, with the beer flowing readily by 9am at the latest.

Spin bike demo truck. These three people were in this thing for at least an hour.

He's a one man band caught in a trio... The first of two bands to play throughout the morning.

The awesome thing about kids' races is they bring spectators like nothing else can.

There were no less than four giant inflatable arches around the quarter mile square.

A strict bouncy castle regimen is now the only Joe Kopena-approved warmup routine.

A lot of the activity was actually really neat, and very kids-focused.  Several organizations had tents up teaching kids about road safety with different games and coloring books, in addition to more generic fun like facepainting.  There was also a really sweet, super well put together micro pump track thing for tiny kids to ride some bumps and curves on.

Lining up for the bump track.

Shreddin' some gnar... on push bikes!

The local police had a whole bunch of coloring books and posters about riding in traffic. I looked for the much-needed "How to Avoid Death by Angry Tram" but they were all taken already.

I have no idea what the guys on the left were teaching, but it seemed to involve painting things.

The table on the right had a guessing game about road signs. I... did not win.

The wisely chosen white tiger paint provided the necessary aerodynamic and ferociousness advantage to propel her to the win over the orange tiger girl. True story!

Racing was also in no shortage of supply, with a ridiculous number of categories divvying up the horde of little kids.  Boys, girls, toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary school kids, everybody got a category, almost all with a whole bunch of other people in it, with each age group doing another lap beyond the previous one.

Pre-schooler boys get ready to rip it...

Some highly technical number placement adjustment going on.

From now on, this is the new gold standard in pace car technology.

And they're off!

The field comes back through the gates.

Girl pre-schoolers, goin' a whole lot faster than those wimpy dude pre-schoolers...

A girls' race winner after her epic victory. She looks way more credible as a bike racer than I ever have.

We gather there was some crazy mountain bike race there later in the afternoon, as well as some kind of gran fondo ride/race the next day, but we eventually managed to determine it wouldn’t start until late afternoon and couldn’t stick around.  The course looked awesome though, and was apparently quite long.  As we left organizers had started moving barricades to create a prologue sequence that looked super crazy to watch, wrapping and twisting all throughout town before making its way to the woods and an egregiously long opening climb.

Start line. (photo by mtbs.cz)

Across the Berounka river. (photo by mtbs.cz)

A long stretch of the trail we hiked out of Beroun was actually course taped, quite likely for this race.  We were super disappointed they started too late and we were not caught by a raging tsunami of mountain bike racers, especially given the seeming Czech predilection for starting all categories at once.  Except in kids’ races of course.  That’s serious business.

There are a few more photos in the Flickr gallery.

City Overlook

Early in the morning from a church front on the large bluffs overlooking Old Town.

There’s actually a lot of good running in the park up here, with a pretty big network of flat paths up top and a bunch of long, steep ramps and stairs to and from the river and Old Town.

Euro 2012: Česko vs Polská

The Czech Republic played Poland the other day in the Euro 2012.  This of course meant that Old Town Square was completely packed.

Enter the maelstrom...

Caitlin, don't wander away!

She wandered away...

Still no Caitlin...

There she is!

Caitlin thinks there should be bleachers with tickets only for short people.  It seems only fair.  There was no way to get any closer to the big screen than the shots above, but basically every little stand and kiosk in town had somehow found a big screen TV to play this on.  You could walk all around the tourist core of Old Town without missing anything if you really wanted to.

The Czechs apparently won.  We were actually in the square when they scored the only goal, fairly late in the game, and were shocked we weren’t crushed in a stampede to the big screen.  Poland is actually the cohost of the tournament with the Ukraine and this was an upset by the Czechs that put the Poles out of it, so I can’t imagine it was too pretty at the actual stadium.

Dawn over the Vltava

 

All from Charles Bridge.

Genesis Bike Prague MTB Race

Coming to Prague, I knew it had a pretty strong MTB scene and much less of a road cycling vibe.  This has turned out to be ridiculously more true than I expected.

Yesterday I was out riding, on my road bike, when yet another path just turned to dirt.  I figured, fine, whatever, I’m tired of this, and just kept climbing up the now-dirt, steep little pitch rather than turning around yet again.  Then course tape started appearing, blocking off side trails.  Then a steady trickle of mountain bikers, fortunately also going up rather than down, with number plates…

Coming over the top, I found myself in the middle of the biggest mountain bike race I’ve ever seen, right on the outskirts of Prague.  The trail I’d come up was the finishing climb of Genesis Bike Prague MTB, though fortunately no racing had begun yet.  It dumped into the start/finish chute, where hundreds and hundreds of mountain bikers of all types where milling about in early staging.

The front of staging.

(all photos by Genesis Bike Prague, I didn’t have my camera with me)

By the time the race kicked off, I was estimating there had to be 1000 people in there.  It seemed like such a high number though that I kept discounting in my head, arbitrarily cutting back down to five, six, seven hundred.  Sure enough, the results pages report 1027 starters.  To be fair, I have not raced out west where there are some bigger races, but that’s huge, three to five times bigger than almost all MTB races in at least the northeast US, and that’s not even looking at the hundreds of people hanging around on bikes, spectating.  I haven’t seen much like it since BikeLine used to put on races at Belmont Plateau in Philly with 600–800+ racers back in the MTB heyday, or the year MTB Single Speed Worlds came to State College and had 600+ racers.  The vendor expo area was as big and interesting as that for the Philly pro road race.

Part of the vendor expo area.

Part of a standard city block's length of industrial strength bike wash stands.

The podium on the rock concert-ready, full size stage.

The field was a hugely diverse mix, from near-pro looking types, to clearly very recreational riders and bikes.  All of these started in a single, ridiculously big wave, caveat the earlier kids’ race.  There seemed to be no controls or even self-imposed patterns over staging, though everyone seemed orderly out of the blocks, even working through much slower traffic.

Videos and pictures of the course itself are on the website.  From the start, several miles of highway were blocked off for an initial long climb to the other side of the park to spread the massive field out before hitting trails.  Once woodside, there were two options, one a 60km (~37mi) circuit.  That’s a fairly long race by typical MTB standards, a marathon rather than a straight XC, though from the pictures it looks to be distinctly on the less technical end of the spectrum.  The other option was an even less technical 35km (22mi) course on mostly roads and paths, explicitly noted by the website to be for recreational riders out for a fairly casual ride in a race atmosphere.  Kind of like an MTB gran fondo, though without the typical cost of a race, let alone the gouging gran fondos—registration was a very low ~$20US.  The trails themselves look like fun, though mostly more or less paths and some double track.

Course picture.

Course picture.

Course picture.

Course picture.

All in all, it seemed like a really sweet event.  It clearly incorporated aspects of both a race and a huge group fun ride, which I think is cool and an important direction events need to consider in keeping races sustainable.  I have to confess that Pavel Gonda, former ECCC superstar (NYU), had mentioned to me a few days ago that there was an MTB race going on nearby this weekend, but I had no idea he meant basically in Prague.  It’s somewhat unfortunate I didn’t realize it would be within riding distance and pretty non-technical or I would have thought more about taking him up on looking for a bike to borrow.