Baker's Dozen 2019
Now in it’s 13th year running, the Leesburg Baker’s Dozen is an annual tradition in Northern Virginia. Every year in late April, several hundred mountain bike racers descend on Rockledge Farm along the banks of the Potomac to ride some of the best private trails in the area. The race begins at 9:00 am, and ends when you cross the line after 10:00 pm later than night—how far and how many laps is all up to your initiative. Originally a relay, the race has grown into multiple categories of solo, 2 and 3 person teams, with some age grouping.
My first Baker’s experience was in 2014, when Jared Neiters, Gram Smith and I crushed ourselves to get the course record and overall win, completing 22 laps over more than 220 miles in 13 hours. We came back in 2015 to try again, but after a fierce battle with the Joe’s Bike Shop team came up 4 minutes short finishing in second place. The next few years were plagued with bad weather and other obligations, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever go back…until this year. My two oldest boys showed interest in riding, so I threw our names in the hat as “Team Croker” in the 3-man category, aiming for a good experience and a fun time instead of just focusing on a win.
Despite a rainy and wet spring, the weather looked like it would be perfect. I’d take the start and the first lap, then hand off to Jonah and Logan, alternating laps through the day. Just how many would depend on how things went.
The start was fast as usual, and my legs still a bit tired from RockStar took a little to get warmed up. I did my best to stay near the front and pushed my pace to see how I’d respond. The course was fast, and nearly mud free, but unfortunately about a mile from finishing the first lap a stick jumped into my chain and ripped off the inner cage and pull of my rear derailleur in the blink of an eye—I didn't even have time to see it coming. Reluctantly I ran/pushed the rest of the lap and handed things off to Jonah before figuring out what to do next.
While Jonah was out riding, Kenny Gingerich came by and offered his pit bike. I asked if I could swap wheels, he said I could take anything off it I wanted…so I went ahead and swapped derailleurs which serendipitously were the exact same (only his worked!). Now back in action, the day started to look a little more fun. The weather was perfect—sunny and 65 degrees. The winds were a bit strong and took down our tent, but didn’t bother us much when we were in the woods.
As the hours passed, we traded laps and stories and enjoyed just being outside. With three of us racing, I had a bit of downtime between laps to chill out and get some relaxation on.
After my fourth lap, I managed to squeeze away for an hour and buy a new car. Seriously.
After an awesome picnic dinner with the rest of the family who came to watch, we evaluated our current state and decided we’d make one last push each and call it a night. Logan took the first lap at sunset, and I took the last lap in the full dark finishing just around 8:00 pm. When we called it a night, we had completed 13 laps for our team total—not bad for the 13th year of Baker’s Dozen.
Overall our little 3-man team ended up just about in the middle-third of the teams, getting bumped a few places down by some teams that went all the way to 10:00 pm. But I was proud of the way my boys rode, and grateful for the memories we made. And I was really happy when the rains started to fall as we drove home in our warm car.
I didn’t do the best job taking photos this year, but Bruce Buckley has a fantastic gallery up on his site.