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.