The Rockhopper Classic is a MTB race put on by the good folks of the Monticello Cycling Club. Held in Lagoon Valley Park, in the hills just outside of Vacaville, CA, the race course is known for having a great fast & fun singletrack, a LOT of climbing, and an awesome 2.5 mile singletrack descent to finish off each lap. The entire course is approximately 8.5 miles long with about 1,300 vertical of climbing per lap. Pro, Cat 1, and Single Speed racers were to do three laps while Cat 2 does two.
With all of the climbing in this course, I decided to race my Giant XTC Carbon 29’er that I currently have set up with a rigid fork and as a single speed. As I have it built, it’s weighing in at about 17.5 pounds, so I figured I would appreciate it’s light weight with all of the climbing that would be in store. It’s rigid fork would be a benefit on the climbs as well, and with hardly any rocks or technical features on the course, I knew I wouldn’t have much disadvantage foregoing suspension. I picked a 36×21 gear that would allow me to power up the climbs while still having a bit of gear to work with on the few (very few) flat sections of the course.
The single speeders would start in the same wave as the Pro and Cat 1 geared riders. When racing single speed, starting at the same time with all the other geared guys is something that I appreciate because when I’m racing, I’m trying to race everyone out there, and not just the other single speeders. So starting at the same time gives me a lot more carrots out there to chase. Unfortunately however, at the start line the organizers informed us that the single speeders would only be doing two laps this year versus the other groups three laps. (they actually let us vote on it at the start line, with no strong dissenters, two laps for us it would be).
I positioned myself in the middle of the pack on the start line knowing that I wouldn’t be anywhere near the front with the pancake flat start sprint given my gear choice, so I figured I’d have to start making my way up to the front once the we hit the hills.
Start gun goes off and it’s the typical frantic sprint into the first turn. Sure enough, my chosen gear doesn’t have near enough punch to get me anywhere near the front so I’m content to just stay somewhere in the middle of the group as best we can as we sprint towards the first few twists and turns of the course that lead into the first hill. As we hit the first hill, I figure I’m somewhere in the 15th – 20th-ish position.
Up and over the first steep hill we go and I make up a few spots, then latch onto the wheel of the geared rider in front of so he can “pull” me across the next flat section into the “meat” of the course which is nearly nothing but up-down-up-up-down-up-up-up-down-UP-UP-UP seemingly endless singletrack and fireroad climbing.
As we started the first few miles of climbing part of the course, I was able to pass a few riders and move closer to the top 10, but it was very difficult to pass on the single track, so I had to be extremely patient. But a little over 3.5 miles into the course, we hit a STEEP wide fireroad that allowed me to put in a surge and pass a large pack of geared riders that suddenly put me into about 5th or 6th position overall. Then over the course of the next few miles, I was able to pass a few more riders and suddenly found myself sitting in 3rd Overall right on the wheels of the 1st and 2nd Place geared riders (Antonio Miranda and Justin Herrell) as we crested the last climb and began the 2.5 twisting singletrack descent back to the start / finish area.
Both Justin and Antonio gapped me a bit on the descent, but I was happy to not push it too hard here due to my rigid fork and also due to the need to recover a bit after pushing extremely hard in the past few miles to get around traffic and make contact with the lead riders. I crossed the start / finish line after Lap 1 in 3rd Overall and spun my single gear wildly to keep those guys from getting too large of a gap so that I could reel them in once we hit all the climbing bits again.
I was able to catch Justin and Antonio on the first hill of Lap 2 (Hamburger Hill), using my momentum to stay on top of my gear on the climb, I surged ahead of them to take the overall lead, but once we crested, I pulled over and motioned to them to come back around me for the short steep descent and then the last flat section back over the main section of climbing. I knew there was no point in me being in front at this point as they would just come around me on the flats anyway and I would need their draft to maintain any kind of speed on the upcoming flat section.
They pulled me across the flats, and then once we hit the climb I waited for an opening and then was able to pass both of them on the “climb to the green gate” section. I had to really power down to do that and was worried that such a surge would kill my legs for the remainder of the climbing to come, but as a single speeder, I know that it is usually easier on the legs to be able to climb without any traffic ahead dictating the pace since I’m not able to “sit an spin”. If I’m behind traffic, my legs are usually working harder than they need to as I’m not able to maintain whatever is the most comfortable cadence for the gear that I’m running.
Just as I moved past Justin and Antonio and into the overall lead, I began to hear and extremely loud annoying clanging coming from somewhere on my bike. I’ve been plagued by tons of mechanicals in races this year, and I began to have flashbacks to my nightmare of a race at this year’s Napa Valley Dirt Classic where I dropped my chain 4 times throughout the race which essentially cost me that win. I couldn’t quite tell where this clanging was coming from…but it was extremely loud and I had no idea what could be wrong. I keep looking down at my bottom bracket…at my tensioner…and my chain…spokes…everything..trying to figure what the heck was wrong but I just couldn’t tell. The bike seemed to still be pedaling fine so I really no idea…but the metallic clanging was extremely loud even over the smallest bumps so I knew that SOMETHING had to have shaken loose on the bike. I figured I would just keep pedaling along as fast as I could until whatever it was that was making that clanging sound exploded….
Soon enough though I had discovered exactly what it was that had shaken loose and was causing the crazy clanging noise. I came into a turn a little too fast, grabbed my rear brake and absolutely nothing happened. uh-oh…no rear brake. I grab it again with my entire had and squeeze it for it’s worth and there’s absolutely no effect…yep, my rear brake is entirely non-functional. Something regarding my rear brake is what is making that clanging noise, but thankfully I still have the front to get me through the last 2.5 mile descent to finish off this race.
I entered the start of the my last 2.5 mile descent and gave a glance over my shoulder to see if there was anyone there and saw…no one. I had a nice little gap but figured with only one brake on the descent it would probably disappear pretty quickly, and sure enough, about half way down the descent, Justin Herrell caught me and not wanting to slow him up, I pulled over and let him by as quickly as I could. I was able to finish off the descent without anyone else catching me until the last bit of flat pedally stuff before the finish when Antonio caught back up and passed me in the last two turns before the finish chute. I gave him his time gap between him and Justin and wished him good luck, and then cruised through the finish line for the win in the single speed class with a finishing time of around 1 hour 20 minutes for my two laps. Mason Marlow in 2nd and Mark Boylan in 3rd.
Immediately after finishing, I hopped off my bike, inspected my rear brake, and quickly found out why my rear brake went out:
All six of my rotor bolts had fallen out causing the rotor to detach from the hub and just “clang” around back there. And as you can tell in the pic, the hub shell actually CRACKED where one of the bolts screwed in. So somehow the hub cracked at that point which resulted in the loss of one bolt and I guess that all the other bolts got ripped out around the same time…whatever…just glad it didn’t result in a crash or impact my results in anyway. I guess my experiences in the past with racing with “One Gear and One Brake” helped me get through 😉 -> http://onegeartwoplanks.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/one-gear-one-brake-eight-hours-8-hrs-of-gold-oroville-ca/
Congratulations to Jared Kessler for taking 1st place in the XC Pro category! About this race:
It is one of the biggest and longest standing mountain bike events in Oregon’s rich history of racing. It features a Cross Country Race on Saturday that utilizes some of the finest single track in Southern Oregon with over 4,000′ of climbing and Descending for Elite and Cat 1. a little less for Cat 2’s and a short course for Cat 3, Racers will be tested on not only there fitness but there skill on a Mountain bike as well. Sundays Downhill continues to grow with racers coming from Washington, California, Arizona and all over the state of Oregon. This year it will see some new changes. The Downhill will get 2 stages instead of 1 with the addition of a race run on BTI, a very popular trail that is at the end of the Cross Country race and near the venue. We are also putting points on all 3 of the stages, XC and the 2 DH stages and crowning an “All Mountain” Champion for both the Men and Women. (You must compete on the same Bike!)
This race is proudly part of the Oregon XC series
Ron Shevock raced the recent 3-event Bogg’s 8-Hour Enduro held at Bogg’s Demonstration Forest on 5/3 – 5/5/2013. Day 1 consisted of a Hill Climb competition, Day 2 consisted of an 8-Hour solo endurance XC race, and Day 3 consisted of a 15 – 20 minute SuperD race. Ron raced his Giant Anthem Advanced X 29’er 0 in all three events in Pro Open class and tallied a 2nd Place in the Hill Climb, a 3rd Place in the 8-Hour XC, and a 3rd Place in the Super D, good enough for 3rd Place Overall. In the 8-Hour XC event, Ron completed 11 laps for a total of 98 miles and over 12,000 vertical feet of climbing, finishing just a few minutes behind 2nd Place. More detailed race report to come…