Mountain Bike Race Recap – McDowell Meltdown 2012

An unidentified Cat 3 woman (#514) on the course at the McDowell Meltdown.

I hadn’t lined up for a mountain bike race since May; the summer heat, a trip to Asia, moving to a new house — all conspired to keep me off the course, and off the mountain bike altogether at times.

But I can’t resist McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills, Ariz. There is absolutely nothing that mountain bikers can’t love about its 60-plus miles of trails. Of course, the McDowell Meltdown (the first race in the 2012 Mountain Bike Association of Arizona series) only consists of the loops in the Competitive Track. Still great!

Here’s what’s on my mind about the McDowell Meltdown.

Racer Krista Gibson responds to cheers from her friends.

1. The organizers are exceptionally dedicated and nice. Running these races is a labor of love. Need proof” Brandee from Global Bikes posted on Facebook at 3:30 a.m. about how eager she was to get out there and put on a race (she’s also an MBAA board member). Another example: I signed up the day of the race, which didn’t entitle me to an event t-shirt. But one of the MBAA guys scrounged up some leftover t-shirts from the previous year for us johnny-come-lately schlubs. He didn’t have to. We didn’t expect him to. A really nice “late or not, thanks for being here” gesture.

How Did You Do”
If you want to find your race results, check these links:
Cross Country

2. Sign up online. You’ll save stress on yourself, plus a few bucks. And you’ll save some stress for the folks from La Roue d’Or – they have a lot on their hands with managing the registrations.

3. The Arizona mountain bike race scene has changed. My Adventure Bicycle Company boys had no presence. Back in the day, it would’ve been them, Rage Cycles and Landis as the standard bearers. These days, it’s Global, DNA Cycles (the McDowell Meltdown title sponsor), Sunday Cycles and a few others — and Landis is still around. I didn’t see any familiar faces out there. But I met new people, and hope to run into them again at the next mountain bike race.

Racer Aimee Nay and friend relive the mountain bike race action.

4. The first-timer class is a really nice idea. Unfortunately, the women’s field continues to be small. In the late 90s, there were definitely more new mountain bike racers of both genders. I remember Beginner Class (now Cat 3) men’s 19-24 groups with more than 70 riders.

5. Speaking of the people in each field and the various categories — I still see sandbagging (the fine art of riding a category – or two! – below your ability to get better race results) as a problem. The front of the Cat 3 pack is where it’s at its worst. Three quick thoughts: A. Abolish a championship title for Cat 3 racers – it’s a dis-incentive to move up to the proper category. B. No racers attached to teams should be in Cat 3. If you’re so plugged into the mountain bike scene that you roll with a team, you are too experienced for Cat 3. C. If you finish in the top 10 percent, you go up. I’d apply this to Cat 2, also. Getting people in the right categories will get more new riders to mountain bike races. Your race results should never take a backseat to integrity.

Overall” The McDowell Meltdown is one of my favorites, and I’m glad I went. MBAA puts on a fine mountain bike race, and you should give one of its events a try.

This post just might contain affiliate links. Fear not, they’re non-spammy and benign. Hey, I have to keep this thing running somehow!

By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.


  1. So much fun!! It was my first race and I had a great time. I am unfamiliar with the trail and had about 10 other reasons for coming in last in the first timer women’s class, but I was still riding my bike on a beautiful day with alot of cool people. Good times. Anyways, there was a ton of people jumping out taking pics on the trail and I do not see any to guide the individual to view the result. Got any ideas?

  2. Thanks for your visit and comment, Tammy – and for racing! I’m going to add a bit to my post about where people can see their results. Good call … I was thinking too much of myself and my own experience and not enough about people who might drop in. Check in again, and I’ll have that update posted.

  3. Gotcha! I saw the word “result” and went straight to the finish times. I heard that MBAA will post a link to the photos Monday at the earliest.

    By the way, I was about to start plumbing my Facebook and Twitter resources to find a first-time racer to interview for a Q & A session for my Phoenix Mountain Bike Examiner page. If I come up with a few semi-intelligent questions for you in the next few days, would you be willing to answer them?

  4. Hi Justin,
    A friend of mine came across your site when looking for pics of the 1st MBAA race. Very nice recap and well organized.
    I wanted to comment on point 5. I am likely one of those guys you’re talking about as I raced Cat 3 for a team and did well. I chose to race Cat 3 because I have very little experience in the MBAA scene and I’ve only done a handful of races. My 1st race ever was an MBAA race in Flagstaff last summer followed by the Williams/McDowell race (where I got smoked!). I was hooked though and knew racing was for me. I met a few guys who were also passionate about the sport and joined their team.
    As I saw it, there were several factors in choosing a category; speed, competition, and experience.
    My speed improved over the last 6 or 7 months but I had no clue how I’d measure up to my competition, and my experience in the road and mountain scene can be counted in months (i.e. little experience). Since you can’t go down in a category (i.e. Cat 2 down to Cat 3), I chose Cat 3 to see where I was at.
    I mention all of this to give a different perspective on sandbagging. When you actually are new to the race scene and can’t move down in a category, how does one know where they’re supposed to be until they try a novice category? I suppose the answer is a time trial, but it’s difficult to see the MBAA doing a preseason TT, although I like the concept.
    Anyhow I’m getting long winded. I now know where I’m at so I’m moving up to Cat 2 for White Tanks (where I’ll get smooooked!). 🙂
    It is sincerely my desire to test myself though and if I’m not in a category that will do that, I need to move. Plus, there are true rookies in Cat 3 and I want them to come out again and not be intimidated by guys who probably shouldn’t be racing with them. This sport is too cool to be turned off by sandbaggers (or the appearance of sandbaggers).
    See you out there.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Ryan. I am certain there are guys in your boat who are trying to find the place they belong. But there are also others punching below their weight. I’m kind of glad to be 6’2, 205 so I can race Rock Crusher. Or I’d be getting mu butt handed to me in Cat 2. I’d actually prefer marathon, but I didn’t have time to prep for that sort of endeavor. Maybe at White Tank or a later race up north. My results will not impress anyone, but it will be cool to do it.

    Have fun out there. If you see a black Santa Cruz Superlight with a long-haired, white-helmeted character on it, be sure to introduce yourself.

  6. Sounds like a plan Justin. I do recognize the picture of the gentleman with the Goldendoodle. I briefly spoke to him because I have one as well (I call them Goldendummy’s). Anyway, I’ll look for you next weekend.

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