Thank you for letting me sleep with you last night. It’s always warmer and cozier for me that way when you just fall asleep with your headphones on and don’t bother to take me out. I can never hear what you’re listening to, but whatever it was, it must have been good. You don’t often dream of being young again, but last night you did and I got to see people from your past that I hadn’t seen before. I’m not sure what they were saying to you, but I could feel it make you warmer. Sponge Dog was in there too, I think he was standing watch over something, or someone, but he was keeping an eye on you like always does. There were shadows of other dogs running all around him, and they eventually lay down beside him and watched you too.
When you close your eyes, you project your thoughts and memories onto your eyelids like a movie screen and I have front row seats. As you drifted toward sleep, it was fun replaying the course over and over again that you took me to see the other day; I couldn’t wait for you to ride it faster, full gas, like all those other rides you’ve taken me on. Those rides where everything except for the trail becomes a blur. Those rides where you stare right through me with even more focus and vigor than you usually do. Those rides where your green iris’s supernova, let it all in, and I can look back and see the fire burning bright as ever behind your eyes.
These past few days here have been sweet. That chill ride along the coast you took me on Saturday was something special. You were taking it all in.
When you blink you’re snapping pictures into memory and I can look back through your eyes and see them get piled up in the corner with all of the others. You placed these on right on top. And then watching Tofor do so well in his race today was killer. It was a bummer that he flatted, but hey that’s racing. Even I know that. Hopefully people saw what he’s capable of before that happened. Hopefully he saw it too. That was a great sunset out there today too…maybe the best one you’ve shown me yet.
It’s almost like you knew it would be my last one.
You probably didn’t see it coming, but today was my last day. I had it planned for awhile. We were together what, like three months, and I knew it was just my time to go. I’ve gotten a little rough around the edges; and was doing you no favors with all of this springtime pollen around right now, and I could tell you’ve been a little irritated with me.
You’ve been wearing your glasses so much these days.
From how much I’ve watched you think about these trails, I’m thinking that today’s race might be important and maybe it’s not the best day for me to jump ship like this. But I know you can handle it. And it’s not like I’m going very far, I’ll still be right there watching. I just need to go out on my own terms and this is the best way I know how. I’ve watched you consider such things yourself so I know you’ll understand.
Yet you always seemed to just look right through me.
I probably could have picked a better place to jump off, but I had to wait until things got moving…at least until you got off the paved racetrack and onto the dirt. When I knew you would just react and leave me be, and keep on rolling. Besides, from watching you stare at the trail maps, I knew that fast rutted dirt road descent was called Lookout Canyon Rd, and I just love the obscure irony in that. I be all like “Ha! LOOKOUT!”.
When I jumped and landed perfectly on the inside of your sunglasses, I looked back at you and boy did you look surprised! It was FUNNY! I had to do it in a spot where you wouldn’t be able to take your hands off of the bars. Your eyes got so wide I could still look back through them and I saw connections firing that you didn’t even know you had. But I knew you had them. I’ve seen them fire before.
But then I saw all those other guys pass you and I felt kind of bad. For a while there it really seemed to affect you. You just stayed behind that one guy on all of that fun looking singletrack! You weren’t even riding it much faster than you rode it the other day! And that group of five other guys just took off! Like they were gone in a real hurry! I kept waiting for you to chase them but saw that you needed a moment to yourself. It wasn’t long before even I couldn’t see them up ahead anymore and believe me; I can see a lot better than you.
I kind of wanted you to stop again at those cool looking rock formations that you took me to the last time we were here, but I knew you couldn’t.
That was where you finally moved around that one guy you were following and I started to really feel the wind through my pores. This is what I was waiting for! I looked back and saw that you said something to that guy, but he just stared back and I watched him slowly disappear. I looked up into your eyes and they were full blast.
I wondered if you knew I was still there watching.
I didn’t know if you could see it or not, but I started to see a dust cloud just ahead from that lead group. You seemed too busy to notice; you were trying to straighten out the turns in the trail and were just bashing your arms and bars through the overgrown branches like they weren’t even there and I’m really glad you didn’t go down. Did you even see all those erosion ruts all over the trail? That got a little intense there. The dust cloud ahead billowed bigger, closer, thicker; and then there they were.
Your eyes filled with soft relief when you saw them but you stayed on it. I saw you thinking about how you could potentially make up a little time on the sandy run-up and sure enough you were able to pass that one guy and it seemed that was when all the other guys realized you had reattached yourself. That was cool, glad I was there for that. Those two guys who wouldn’t let you pass on the singletrack while the front three powered away was a little worrisome but holy crap, when the trail opened back up you sure did start smashing! Just like those loopy neighborhood lunch rides you’ve taken me on. That fire in your eyes now was FRIGGING BRIGHT. I thought you were going to let up after passing those two, but then you bridged up to the lead three and snuck in front of them too just before the next singletrack started. That made me smile.
I looked back and saw that it made you smile too.
It was pretty sick being on the front for that. Even closer to the action than I normally would have been. You were moving pretty well but I did get a little worried when you eventually waved the other two around. Your face relaxed a bit when you were following their tires on the downhill stuff. The way you relax when you take me out.
You probably needed to relax a little anyway.
When you guys merged with all those other riders, things sure kicked up a notch and that dust was intense. I really don’t know how you were able to see. I could barely see a thing, and that’s saying something. That one guy riding the black hard tail really seemed to pour it on here. I think I saw fire in HIS eyes. I kept waiting for you to climb back to him but you never did. The fire was still in your eyes, but now more crackling campfire than funeral pyre. The third rider behind you slowly disappeared.
As you pedaled off the dirt and returned onto the racetrack, I looked back up into your eyes and saw you replaying the terrible crash that you had here last year over and over. I don’t think I had seen that memory yet. The one that cracked your helmet and broke off your saddle. The little room where you kept that memory has always been a bit smoky, but it seemed to be clearing out a bit now; as if someone finally opened a window. You took your hands off the bars and soft pedaled the entire home stretch. I saw you replaying all the rides we did together this year. The fast ones. The hard ones. The lonely ones. The long ones that brought you here. The ones we both know you really don’t have the time for.
You were smiling.
And now my last memory: You finally take off your glasses and see me still sitting there. YES I’M STILL HERE! I’m cold, dusty, and brittle; I’m done. But the soft glowing coals in your eyes warm me one last time.
I think now for the first time,
instead of looking right through me,
you are finally noticing me.
Only a few days have passed since the 2015 edition of the Tahoe-Sierra 100 MTB race, and I’ve already lost track of how many times I’ve opened up my laptop, fully intending to write this race report, only to stare at a blank screen struggling with where to start. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me since the race ended this past Saturday. After an all too brief pit stop at home for the night after the race, my post-race recovery sleep was interrupted by the sound of my alarm at 4:30 AM Sunday so I could catch an early morning flight out to Boston for a few days of business travel.
Even still, I’ve tried several times to pop open this laptop and start writing, only to stare at a blank screen with empty thoughts. I thought writing this race report would be easy. Easy, because I won. Easy, because everything finally went right for me in this race. Easy, because my race wasn’t affected by my contact lens popping out like it has at the Annual Cool MTB Race in March. Easy, because my race wasn’t ruined by a malfunctioning clutch derailleur like it had in the Napa Valley Dirt Classic in April. Easy, because I didn’t go from 2nd place to 5th by crashing so bad at the Sea Otter Classic that I broke myself saddle off, cracked my helmet, gave myself a slight concussion and had to finish the race standing up the whole way. Easy, because I didn’t taco my wheel in a crash like what happened at the Lost and Found 100 Miler in May. And easy, because I didn’t get completely crushed by the high altitude like what happened to me at USAC XC Nationals in Mammoth in July.
I guess trials and tribulations give better material to write about.
I also find it kind of hard to write about a win without coming off sounding like a jerk. When in reality, the way I feel is best summed up here by one of my favorite bands/songwriters lately, James Snyder from Beach Slang where he says at the beginning of this acoustic recording: “I feel like a kid who got invited to a party that he has nooo business being at”…Somthing like that….
Anyway, here at the Tahoe-Sierra, things just went smooth. We lined up at the start behind the Summit Restaurant in Soda Springs for our 6 AM start and the pavement start toward Ice Lakes Lodge starting calm and well enough. Racers chit chatting about what is to come and spinning lightly in the cold early morning light. And then just 50 yards or so before we hit the dirt, two Team Chico riders, Rich Thurman and Aren Timmel (both former Tahoe-Sierra 100 winners themselves) picked up the pace and separated themselves a bit. So naturally I bridged up and grabbed their wheels and just like that the three of us were off together down the first decent of Soda Springs Rd.
Rich and Aren held pace down the decent with me following their lines closely being careful not to flat on the many hidden rocks buried in the moon dust. I choose a risky tire combination this year and wanted to be extra careful here at the beginning. Normally, I’d go with some solid, durable trail worthy tires as the course is known to destroy rubber…but this year, I took a risk and went with a Schwalbe Rocket Ron in front and a Thunder Burt in the rear. Both pure XC tires. The Rocket Ron certainly has grip for loose conditions but it’s sidewalls are very thin. Same with the Burt. Pure XC lightweight, pinner tires. I carried 3 tubes with me expecting many flats, but hoping for the best.
We got to the bottom of the descent all together and then I rolled to the front setting pace, glancing down at my power meter from time to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere near the “too hard” mark. Then a few minutes later, as the grade began to kick up I looked back expecting to see Aren and Rich right on my wheel but they were already a few hundred yards back. “Huh….am I going too hard to early?”, I thought, then glanced down at my wattage numbers and confirmed it was a manageable pace and saw no need to back off.
And then just like that, they were gone and I was off the front.
Alone, just 30 minutes in.
And it stayed that way for the next 8 hours.
My tires rolled fast and didn’t flat. I blasted through the first aid station without stopping (just checked in my number and out), and then I rolled into Aid 2 at Robinson Flat in just a smidge under 2 hours and basically just rolled right through that as well. Then blasted down Cavanaugh Ridge as quickly as I could, and onto Aid 3 at Dusty Corners. Here the helpful volunteers cleaned and lubed my chain while I took a leak, then grabbed a PB&J square and wolfed that down before the single track of Pucker Point.
Pucker Point went fine except for the COWS. I rounded a corner and came face to face with a small herd of four cows standing right in the middle of the singletrack and I skidded to a stop and we all just stood there staring at each other no more than 20 feet away. I rang my bell. They shook their heads and stamped their feet and rang the bells around their necks but they didn’t move. It was really funny and wanted to take my camera out, but I really had no idea how much of a gap I had to any chasers so I just wanted to keep moving. I basically had to get off my bike and run around the cows and eventually they ran away too and it probably only cost me a minute of stoppage time at most.
The loose singletrack of Pucker Point soon ended and I found myself on a dirt road looping back toward the Dusty Corners aid station again which pulled double duty as aid 4. I quickly came upon them, rang my bell to get their attention and shouted my number out, and then just continued on up what I thought ended up being one of the toughest sections of the course…a big long 10-ish mile climb through deep dust on torn up logging roads. This slowed my pace down considerably, but I was still able to make it to the half way mark, back at Robinson Flat Aid station at mile 51 in just a little bit over 4 hours.
It was here I ran into my buddy Jeff Barker who graciously took a few pics, and then cleaned and lubed my chain while I refilled some bottles and slugged down a bottle of coke.
No one seemed sure what my gap was to the chasers so I rolled out as quickly as I could and began the rough descent down the Western States singletrack toward Duncan Canyon, and the Poppy Trail singletrack that hugged the northern edge of French Meadows Reservoir.
I didn’t think I was riding these parts very fast, and I thought FOR SURE I was going to get caught here, but I saw no one as I exited the last bit of trail and into the campgrounds at the far end of the lake. From there I rolled down to the Aid Station 6 at the bottom of Red Star (mile 64) and I finally got my first time split to the chasers that I had heard all day. They said “well, we think you’ve been holding about 15 minutes on 2nd place since the first aid station”. That was a surprise and a relief. I was starting to get a little tired, and knew that I had some big climbs right in front of me, but I knew that I was climbing well lately and the last 30 or so miles of the course would suit me just fine.
So from there it was literally just put my head down, pedal, and try not to screw anything up. Luckily I was able to do just that, and rolled into the finish in about 8 hours and 29 minutes total time according to my Garmin to take the win.
Rich Thurman from Chico ended up rolling in some time after to hold down 2nd place, and then I think it was Alex Work from Rock Lobster for 3rd. Someone else I didn’t know snuck in for 4th. And Aren Timmel rolled in for 5th…I think…results are not up yet, so can’t double check. (EDIT: Results are now up here: http://northlanderevents.com/results-tahoe-sierra/4588066079)
At the end of the day it is a bitter sweet victory. I’m glad that my name can be added to the list of Tahoe-Sierra 100 winners. And I guess I’m now the only rider to take wins in both the Single Speed category (2012), as well as an overall win, but unfortunately, this is the last edition of this race in it’s current form. For next year, this race is moving to a new different location in a slightly different format (i.e. 3 x 33 mile giant loops). I won’t get into the reasons why here, but I sure am going to miss the remoteness and ruggedness of the Tahoe-Sierra 100 in the form that it’s existed in since 2008. But change can be good, and knowing Jim Northey inclination for “hard” races, I’m sure the new format won’t be…..easy.
Thanks for reading –
This last weekend I made my final trip of the year down to SoCal to race my bike. The high school racing series which began in February was coming to a close with one last race. The California State Championship! A battle between the northern conference and the southern conference. A race which always hosts the fastest high school riders in the state and the competition never fails to impress. This year the race was to be held in Los Olivos, on a course I was foreign to.
Typical of the Lewis family we left the house an hour later than originally planned on Saturday morning and began the 7 hour drive down. We arrived slightly later but still with enough to time for me to get a couple laps in and study the course. I had a quick meeting with my coach to talk strategy and then grabbed some dinner and headed to the hotel to rest up.
I woke up well rested, motivated, and ready to go! I lined up at the start 15 min prior to the race and began to get my self ready mentally for the battle ahead. Glancing around at the familiar faces, I knew that this race would not be easily won, I also knew I had what it takes to win it. I was lined up around 45-50 places back since I had missed some of the races throughout the year. This meant that I needed a very fast start in order to catch the front 10 guys before the first climb. The race went off and I immediately began mashing the pedals.
I worked my way to the outside and started working my way up the pack, picking guys off one by one. About half way to the climb I glanced down at my Garmin and noticed my screaming heart rate. Knowing the race wasn’t going to be won in the first lap, I decided to slide into the group. I hit the climb in about 20th place. The first major climb consisted of 4 steep switchbacks followed by a gradual 100 meter climb to the summit. Being that the group was so close together, the climb was pretty slow. The rest of the first lap I just focused on inching my way closer and closer to the front pack of about 12 who were starting to pull away but still giving my legs some quick rest time on the descents.
In the last kilometer of the race I made a strong effort and bridged the 15 second gap between the couple guys I was stuck behind and the lead pack…I had made it. This was a relief to me, I now just had to settle in and wait for guys to start popping off. As we made our way through the second lap the pace began to pick up and like I had thought guys began dropping like flies. By the beginning of the third lap there was just 4 of us. The pace was defnitley strong and I was starting to feel my legs but I knew the rest of the group was in the same position so I told them to “shut up” kept pushing on. This group was strong. I had raced all but one of them before and it had been so close every time so I knew that this race may come down to a sprint.
The last lap we all tried breaking each other but none of us would give in. I sat in around third most of the lap and waited for the right time to attack. With about a kilometer to go I made the pass into first and hammered the pedals. I made the last descent into the straightaway and gave it all I had maintaining first place. I could see the finish line and taste victory. However, the race was not over. I came into the very last turn slightly too fast and lost traction hitting the ground hard. I scrambled to my feet only to watch my three competitors pass me up. I rolled into the finish in fourth place and extremely disappointed. I was seconds away from being the state champion and I let it slip from my grasp. Huge props to the other 3 guys though, they are animals and it was anybody’s race. Now its time to rest up and get some road racing in before heading up to Canada with USA Cycling in June. Thank you all for your continuous support! God Bless!
Oh Boggs, where do I begin? This race had been on my list of bike races since moving out here. I actually decided to do it last year but I was a day late in the decision because the race had sold out. Well, this year I planned on it and got registered right away.
Apparently I am a special kind of crazy because I not only decided to do the 8-hour solo but I figured if I am doing that I might as well throw in a hill climb on Fri and a Super D on Saturday and race in the whole Funduro. Yeah! My better half decided to split it with a friend and go the 2-man team route. We hooked up with some Folsom bike teammates who so graciously saved us a spot to lay our tent and provide some good info and good times camping.
We made it out Fri afternoon and by the time we set up camp and got things figured out I had to head over and race the hill climb. At some point I had hoped to take a lap of the course beforehand as a warm-up but there was no time for that. So, I got right down to the nitty gritty hill climb. Ouch. Those just hurt. After burning my lungs out, I hacked my way back down to the camp area and jumped on the podium in 2nd place for Pro women. I figured I would hang out with the family and take it easy after that and not even try to get a lap on the course.
The main race day came and we all got ready to get out there. We had a great set up with the Folsom Bike tent and pit area right at our campsite. It was just past the main area where you came through the laps and worked great! All our kids playing and cheering and people hanging in our own area. Well, I got to the line and started somewhere in the middle of the mass. I didn’t really want to start right on the line. While it would have been nice to get out in front of a lot of people, I also wanted to just sit tight on that lap and take it easy. I knew I would go too hard if I was on the front. My plan was a nice easy lap and then to do my second lap as a race lap and then just try to ride strong the rest of the race. For the Funduro they add your fastest lap to your hill climb and Super D times, so I needed a fast lap. So, that is what I did. Worked well since the whole first lap was just a train and I got to see the course. Second lap I went for it, blowing by alot of guys along the way. That was the only lap I didn’t take bacon. After that I refueled and settled in for the long haul. Ashlyn gave me some encouraging cheers each time I came through. Around lap 5 I was stopped eating something and she just asked me what I was doing. Why I was standing there? Love that girl.
The end of lap three and the beginning of 4 were really a bit painful but I just kept trucking. Laps continued to get a bit slower and slower.
Oh, but bacon!! I lived for that bacon each lap, and everytime I went past the sign that said “8.9 miles to more bacon” I wanted to rip it out! I love bacon and I loved my Osmo. I don’t think I have ever loved it more.
Finally, I was at lap 6. Now, I knew I had till 5 o’clock to finish but I was thinking that was 8 hours. So in my delirium of lap 6, only looking at my Garmin time and not at time of day I thought I was done. There was no way I could complete another lap (I thought). What I wasn’t thinking about was that I actually had 9 hours to ride to finish the lap. It just had to be started by the 8 hr mark. I had told myself I would need a good 1:15 to make it safely around another lap.
So, I just settled in and plodded through that 6th lap thinking how tired, done, and maybe slightly relieved that I wouldn’t need to go around again. Well, I came through the lap and there was Drew yelling an update.
“You have the fastest lap of the day, and you will be down by less than 1 minute if you can complete your 7th lap! You have 1:12! You gotta go!!” Until this point in time I really had no idea where I was at all so it was all news.
Ugh! My mind began to reel a bit as I started riding again. Do I go for it? I don’t know if I can make it around that fast. As, I began, the course guy yelled to me me “If you’re gonna go, you gotta GO!” Ooof what to do? I rode to our pit, no way I could go without another Osmo! I looked at Ron and said something about what am I doing?? He jumped in and grabbed me a full bottle as I stood there reeling and confused and said “Yes, Drew was just here and you have to GO!”
So, I tried to wrap my mind around it and get going knowing I would have to go hard now. I had to walk the technical spot as I have no skills at this point and then I was just trying to get moving and I crashed on a loose corner. I picked myself up. It was not a bad crash, but I thought to myself “Really, you should just turn around now and go back, no way you can make it”. Then I got back on my bike and I went for it. I pushed and pushed and tried to ride smooth. I was thinking man, this will really suck if I don’t make it and this lap doesn’t count. I gave it all I had and pushed over the last climb. Once I got over I looked at my watch and knew it would be close but it was all downhill. So, I let it rip. I came up behind one guy on my way down “I gotta go!” I yelled and flew by. He yelled encouragements to me “you got it!” I came through the last tight switchbacks and I could hear a loud roar at the finish I only hoped I was making it, I came around the corner and the roar died…. Silence, or so it seemed in my head, as I looked up at the clock just past5:00.
I missed it by 3 seconds. Really?? Unbelievable.
I rode 80.5 miles and 11,400 in vertical with 8:45 of moving time but that last 11 doesn’t count because I was 3 seconds too slow 🙂
I was second overall and sat just a couple minutes back in the overall All mountain. I was so grateful to have some good food a beer and some rest sitting and enjoying the evening around the campfire with great people.
Oh, but I still had to ride back up the hill and do the Super D on Sun! That was fun. There was way too much pedaling in that super D!
Turns out that last lap didn’t matter at all! It would have given me a minute on the competition so I would have been less than a minute down overall. But she beat me in the Super D anyway!!
Drew kept asking if I was mad at him for making me do another lap. The answer was definitely not. Despite how badly I did not want to do another lap, I learned that I had more left in me than I thought. I don’t think either of us actually thought I would even come that close to getting it. So, while it was crushing at the time I am glad I had the perseverance to push through one more lap, and to push hard. Never give up.
There is an indie pop-punk band from my former hometown of Philadelphia, PA called Beach Slang that I have been listening to a ton lately. They came across my radar as I’ve listened to each of the band members respective previous bands going back 15 years or so now to my college days (edit: um, possibly 20 years….). So it was interesting to hear what these guys are up too lately and even with a grand total of just two 7″ releases to date, these eight songs are so have found regular rotation on my playlists lately with their raw un-produced sound, catchy hooks, and heart-on-sleeve lyrics.
So at races, I tend to always get a song stuck in my head that sort of becomes my mantra during the race and this year’s version of the Napa Valley Dirt Classic was no different. These songs serve the conflicting roles of both calming my nerves and also firing up and motivating me. The song for me for this year was Beach Slang’s “Punk or Lust” off of their Who Could Ever Want Anything so Broken 7″.
Specifically, there is an infectious anthemic, line at the 1 minute mark that goes: “THIS MACHINE. LET IT BLEED. LET IT EXPLODE!”.
(link directly to lyric at 1 minute mark)
Anyway, having a mantra of “This machine. Let it bleed. Let it explode” sung in my head over and over again may have been a poor choice for this race as I have suffered extremely bad luck each and every time I have done this race. For example, let’s look at my Strava titles for all of the Napa Valley races I’ve ever done:
2011 – “NVDC MTB Race – Made Wrong Turn, Rode in Circles, Doubled Back a Few Miles UGH”
(2012 – skipped race, was probably still lost riding in circles)
2013 – “NVDC MTB Race – 2nd Pro SS (Broken Chain Cost Me First UGH)”
2014 – “NVDC MTB Race – Mechanicals and Speeding Tickets, Not My Day UGH”
2015 – “Napa Valley Mechanical Classic UGH”
So each time I have done this race, I have had a mechanical that negatively impacted my race, or even when I didn’t have a mechanical, I made a wrong turn and got lost…..
Bit of a broken record. UGH.
So singing “This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it Explode!”….was a great mantra to shout it my head as the gun went off and our Cat 1 class hit the gas up the start line pavement and I got impatient as no one out of our group of 40 or so REALLY seemed to want to hit it so I exploded to the front, took the holeshot, and led the charge onto the dirt and up the first climb stretching the field out until the mandatory run-up climb where I slowed then and allowed for a group of 6 or 7 of us to come back together so I had other riders to work with through the next flat and fast sections.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”…was a great anthem to shout at myself as our group bled watts, poured sweat, and shed a few more riders off our backs and we were down to myself, Curtis Smith from BP, Cole Davis from Limitless Cycling/Folsom Bike, and two other riders that I did not know. I believe just Curtis and myself were in the same Cat 1 35-44 age group, so I was stoked that we were leaving others in our wake and so I just kept on shouting…..
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”….and kept pushing. kept smashing as my quads flared in pain soaring up hills and singletrack to stay with the group, and push the pace over the whoops section and through all the super fun shady leafy singletrack on this classic MTB’ers course.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”….while on the edge of control, drifting turns fast with tires hooking up in just the last seconds before disaster. Hurting, but feeling good knowing that everyone else here is hurting too…we’re in this together. Smash, smash, smash.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it……”….ah #$@! it DID explode! On a choppy high speed straightway, about an hour into the race, I was downshifting and smashing pedals chasing Curtis’s wheel when the chain went flying off.
“This Machine…”…..”it is bleeding, it has exploded” I said to myself as I looked closer and noticed that the chain was not just off, but it was kinked 4x’s around itself and the derailleur was out of whack.
“This damn machine”, I quietly muttered to myself as I burnt 7 – 8 minutes or so un-kinking, re-kinking, and finally untangling for good the chain and then got the derailleur back in line and in functioning order. I’m not sure how many people passed me by on the trail. A lot. Curtis would go on to win our age category and Cole just edged him up putting up the fastest Cat 1 time of the day.
So for my next mantra, the Beach Slang song stuck in my head, for the remainder of my “race” was:
“This city sleeps in a pattern of broken junk, but nights like this, it don’t matter. All this dirty fun”
(link directly to lyric at 20 second mark)
Roughly translated paraphrased and interpreted into: “These races sleep in a pattern of broken junk, but rides like this, it don’t matter. All this is just dirty fun”
Ended up 9th out of 18th after all of that.
Next up, Sea Otter Classic.
EDIT: Bonus, more Beach Slang tunes. Intimate acoustic set via NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts:
Yesterday, TBF Racing held it’s 5th (!) and final MTB race of the Winter/Spring series. Since these races start so early in the year (first race occurs in mid-January), and I needed a little bit of a break following a long cyclocross season that also stretched into January, I’ve only attempted to show up to the last two races to see how the legs are feeling.
The first race I showed up for a few weeks ago wasn’t a good indicator as I burped a tire on lap 2 and basically DNF’d, so with this one I was just hoping to put in a strong training effort, and finish the race.
Giant XTC Advanced SL 29’er
SRAM XX1 Drivetrain with a a 36T front chainring matted to a Quarq powermeter
RockShox SID XX World Cup front fork (100mm boosted to 120mm)
Nox Composites XCR-29 wheelset
Continental Mtn King front tire
Maxxis Ikon EXO 2.2 rear
Link to my Strava File:
The race was 4 laps of a 6.5 mile singletrack circuit with a long gravel start and finish sprint from the timing arch along the shores of Folsom Lake. As usual I got a bad start and in the first few hundred meters of gravel found myself mid-pack and boxed in but I wanted to get to end of this gravel in the lead so I could be first into the singletrack. Halfway down I was able to break outside and hit the gas to launch to the front and create some separation before the singletrack.
After settling down a few moments later, I noticed that it was already just myself and two other racers peeling away off the front with the other two being the brotherly duo of Curtis and David Duncan. Satisfied with that separation, I let up a little and the 3 of us rode up to the bench and then down through the next few miles of rolling singletrack towards the Beek’s Bight parking lot.
As we hit the parking lot, I knew I didn’t want to be responsible for pulling all 3 of us around all morning so having a hunch that one of the two Duncan’s would gladly accept a pass if I swung wide in the parking lot to forego the curbside bunnyhop jump back onto the trail, I did just that and rolled back onto the dirt via the slighly longer route through the boulders. Sure enough, just I’m doing that both Curtis and David both take the faster line popping the curb and then hit the gas. Perfect 🙂 I then jumped on their tires, let them set the pace a bit and watched their lines. For the remainder of this first lap, we stayed together and Curtis was at the front setting a pretty high pace.
The three of us rounded the corner beginning the second lap all together and it was here that David moved to the front. Then it was Curtis, then me. We rolled through some flat singletrack twisters and my sixth sense began barking at me that these two guys, being brothers, could possibly try to work together to drop me. So just as I’m thinking this, whether intentional or not, it seemed as though Curtis left off the gas a little and David was pulling away. Not wanting any part of those (potential) tactics, I kind of forced a pass around Curtis and then jumped right back on David’s tire to avoid any blocking.
David kept up the pace as we went through the neutral water station on the pavement and I looked back and noticed that Curtis was beginning to drift backwards. So what I thought earlier could have been team tactics, was more of Curtis just backing off the pace a bit. From there on out, our gap grew and it was just David and I racing together for the remainder of the race.
This lap was fairly uneventful. David and I stuck together, trading places here and there. The only meaningful event that occurred to me on this lap was during our climb back up to the bench. The middle of this climb tips downward for just a bit through a pretty fun rock garden. It’s nothing crazy technical, but if you hit it just right you can create a small gap causing other riders to burn a match to catch back up and I was able to do exactly just that here.
For those of you on the team that attended our little MTB clinic at Granite Bay back in February, this is the first section that we stopped at to spend some time practicing on and discussing lines. Here is an example of when practicing on the MTB really did help!
After riding through this rock garden I glanced back and noticed that I had created a bit of a gap between us (#foreshadowing). For a second, I toyed with the idea of just gunning it right there trying to drop David. But with another lap and a half to go, I thought I’d wait, and settle for David having to burn some energy to catch back up.
So now on the last lap, we started the climb to the bench one more time with David in the lead setting the pace. With what I learned by going through the upcoming rock garden section at the front of mind, I snuck around David and made the pass just before we started the short descent into the rock garden and then tried to fly through this section as quick as I could.
After the rocks I glanced over my shoulder and saw that I may have had an even bigger gap this time then I did on the previous lap, and so NOW it was go time. I stepped up the pace a bit and started to put some distance between us.
For the remainder of lap 4 I just tried to keep the pace high, and not make any mistakes. Working smoothly around lapped traffic without delay and being careful not to totally blow myself out just in case I needed something in reserve for the end if David happened to catch back up. But luckily I was able to maintain that gap to the finish and hold on for the win. David cruised in behind me just 40 seconds or so back so it was good that I didn’t let up the pace too much as I would have been upon me in an instant. David is super fun to race against and is getting faster and faster so he’ll be threat to keep an eye on for the remainder of the year!
Next up…..some good ol’fashioned mid-week Prairie City racing starting Wednesday and then some USAC races in April with Napa Valley Dirt Classic and the Sea Otter Classic where I want to try and qualify for XC Nationals in July.