The Birch Fall Classic was the first mountain biking event (aside from many Critical Mass rides) I have participated in. Whilst I was coming off long days touring with a loaded trailer, I did not envisage having 8 hours of trail riding in me so I asked the organisers to pair me with another rider. What the event proved to me is that Manitoba does have hills if you know where to look! It was a warm and prerty tough day... and an enjoyable one.
I had arranged to get a lift to the Birch Ski area, where the event was being held, near Roseisle, Manitoba, with the person I was teaming with. We had also got together a couple weeks prior to ride the very tight single track at Birds Hill. We arrived the night before and had a ride around the course to check it out — this is when we found out how tough some of the sections were! We were also surprised that there was no one else camping at Stephenfield Provincial Park, so we had the entire park to ourselves.
Race day was actually quite warm, with a number of riders ditching jackets after their first lap — many of whom were also suprised by the difficulty of he course. The course was approximately 10km long, and wound through single track, some very steep ascents and descents, some wider grassy runs, and a number of almost impossible sections that created some traffic in the earlier stages of the day.
Given it was my first race, and the terrain was much different to that I had ridden in Australia, the event was an experience and I learnt quite a lot. My times reflected this, with my lap time on my last two laps being only 30 seconds slower than my fastest (my 2nd lap — 46 mins 30 sec). I found this interesting given the setting in of fatigue (I rode just over 50km in all). My endurance abilities from touring and the increasing race expereince were clearly two factors.
Overall, it was an enjoyable day, where I pushed myself pretty hard. My preparation could have been a lot better, though there are not that many areas in/around Winnipeg that I am aware of that I could have utlised for this. Would I enter again? If I have the opportunity, for sure. If I end back in Winnipeg for a few years, I may make it a regular event.