Three of the Ascent Cycling Series races are held at Bear Creek Terrace, right in the shadow of the mountains. This was the traditional location for the Wednesday night races for the last three years, so many COS riders are familiar with the trails. We usually use Bear Creek as a pass through - a bit of single track before continuing up the Regional Trail to destinations further afield. The courses at Bear Creek Terrace don't seem challenging on intial inspection, but I've always found them to be deceptivly hard. There are some steep, punchy climbs, a few tight switchbacks that are usually sandy and a tricky little rock garden about halfway through the lap. The trails are narrow, making passing challenging. Add in race pace riding and a bunch of your best MTBing buddies, and it becomes even harder. It doesn't matter what route Andy chooses, Bear Creek is not a course where you can be complacent. I've seen (and had my own) dust clouds from wiping out in all sections of the Bear Creek Trails.
(2008 - I did not get the hole shot that year...)
Obviously, start times play a role in the cleanness of the course. The lucky 4:00 starters (usually the Cat 3 crowds) will have the cleanest trails, with fewer break chatter bumps and less dust. And with such short laps - 2.4 miles this year - the traffic will really have an effect. Some of the tighter, down hill corners will start getting washboarded as riders scrub speed to negotiate the switchbacks. By the time the 6:00 start comes around, the course may have completely changed from any prerides. So in the later starts, it's a good idea to try and get in a quick lap before the start. Being familier with the layout, where the rock gardens are in the lap, if there's any areas of oncoming traffic, tight corners in up hills, etc will make the race a lot more fun. Just remember that racers on course have priority and don't get in anyone's way! And listen to the volunteers...
Speaking of a quick lap, at Bear Creek the warm up is important. No matter what course selected (and there are plenty of options now) it's not that long until the race hits single track. Because it can be fairly narrow in spots and there are lots of cacti just lurking, passing can be tricky. The trails are wider then they used to be - four years of racing will do that. I've found that getting in that good warmup so I'm ready at the start is key. A hard, fast start to try for the hole shot will reduce the amount of effort needed later in the race. Get out and get onto the single track in a good position - then go like heck for the rest of the race!