Springhill is a great course that really caters to those that spend a lot of time of singletrack. If you can't carry your momentum through corners, and stay off your brakes, it can get a bit irritating and monotonous. However, if you can get in the rhythm of the course, it's a freakin' roller-coaster. A similar feeling to the Red trail at Syllamo, if you have ever been there. If you haven't.......go.
I managed to get in the rhythm pretty quickly. The start was a fast one, with one of the Bell & Co. riders going full-speed off the line and into the single-track. I stuck to his wheel until right before the single-track turned from easy passing to tight, windy, and loose in the corners. Then, I jumped him. I hit the woodsy single-track first, and immediately began pushing as hard as possible. I figured this race was going to come down to whomever could hold their speed best through the corners. The Orbea Alma has a lower bottom bracket than most other 29'r frames out there, and I was able to really rip through the loose, tight turns without feeling like the bike was going to run away from me. The more time I spend on this bike, the more I am loving it. Not to sound like I work for them or anything, but it is one hell of a ride; very possibly the best 29" hard-tail I have ridden.
I rode out front by myself the entire race, which is how I prefer it, so I'm not complaining. I kept pushing the pace, as it is hard for me to bonk on a sub 2 hour ride. I knew that someone would quickly be on my tail if I let up. A couple times throughout the race I would hear someone in the woods behind me, and I would look down to check my HR. It would be in the mid 150's.....oops. When I got my act together, and starting pushing again, the familiar sound of tires rolling and freehub whirring would fade back into the distance. With an average HR around 170bpm for the race duration and speeds up to 25mph, I know I was working. A lot of accelerating out of corners will really start to boost the HR and tax the legs, but sometimes it is unavoidable during races.
I was having a lot of fun through all the swoops and flowing single-track. It's a shame that Springhill Park is almost 3 hours away. It is a fantastic course, but I can get to the Womble or Syllamo in about the same amount of time. I don't think I need to explain that much further.
A big thanks to Mercy Cycling for putting on the event, I am already looking forward to next year's.