US Cup Triple Crown Finale

I spent the last weekend up in Santa Ynez (Los Olivos actually) for the season finale of the US Cups triple crown event.  Seemed like it was gonna be a good weekend of racing with Short Track and Super D on Saturday, and XC on Sunday.

I left early Saturday morning and made it up there with plenty of time to spare even after hitting some traffic just before Carpinteria.  I paid the ridiculous registration fee (thanks to Velo Hangar for some help there) for the triple crown series and setoff to warm up pre riding the Super D course.  Then toed the line for the Short Track race.

The Short Track format is 15 minutes plus one lap, seems easy enough right?  There was one short climb that occurred after a long straightaway into a head wind, then another straight away to a quick down then a couple turns, a lap takes about 3-4 minutes.  I had a good start and sat third or so wheel for the first couple of laps.  Because of the headwind the group stayed together for most of the race.

There were a few position changes as the race went on, then when I thought we had two and a half laps left I decided to test the field a little and start mixing it up.  I jumped to the front on the short climb and attacked.  Thanks to the insane power transfer of the Focus’ seat stays I had a small gap at the top climb, albeit only a couple seconds but thats all I wanted to know for now.  I knew that doing this would have me pulling the group into the wind the next go around which is why I wanted to do it with two to go then sit in and attack and hopefully hold for the win on the last lap.

As I was pulling the group through the start/finish we got the last lap signal, plan foiled!  No one was coming around to put their nose in the wind either.  So I kept it fairly mellow then started to string it out a little bit before the climb this time to try and prevent anyone using my own plan against me.  I was able to hold off the attack of Ryan and Cody up the climb, but they both snaked by me on the straightaway afterwards.  I was pretty gassed from my effort and they got a few seconds on me which is all they needed.

We had broken away from the main group and I was able to solo in for third.  Thanks to my season of CX racing for sharpening my race tactics!  I spun around for a few more minutes then went back to the car and stuffed my face with as much pasta and food as I could and relaxed a little before the Super D start.

I did a lot of time killin in the sun up there

The Super D course was one of the longer ones this season, and had a good bit of climbing in it.  It wasn’t technical in a super rocky sense but in a loose dirt, high speed off camber turns kinda thing.  I managed to put a decent run together with a couple small mistakes and sneaked by with a 4th place, and from what I could tell was the only one competing on my XC hardtail too.

Sunday was finally time for the real fun to begin, with the field twice as big as saturday and a lot of fresh legs, I knew I was in for some pain.  Right away once I started warming up I could tell that I wasn’t totally feeling it or into racing that much.  I got to the line with about 4 minutes until start time and was pretty disappointed to find that some racers who never faired too well were hogging the front line since there weren’t any call ups today.  Thats fine and all just don’t loose the wheel of the person in front of you when it starts to get real and we begin to ascend towards the skyline.

But of course, when we hit the first climb there was an almost immediate split of Siegel and Taberlay.  Well, ok then, there were still a couple strong riders in the lot remaining, I was in about 9th, then 3rd and 4th started pulling away from what could barely be called a group anymore.  It took a lot of effort to get by these guys and finally managed to get away from everyone else in 6th on the wheel of 5th.  Unfortunately neither one of us were feeling spectacular and couldn’t gain too much ground on Cody and Ryan in the 3rd and 4th position as they were working pretty good together.

So on the start of the second lap I attacked on the first climb and managed to get a little gap and expand it to a minute for a 5th place finish.  At one point I had almost reeled in the next two riders but just didn’t have the legs from all the racing the previous day.

This is right when I started to close the gap a little on 3rd and 4th, see how close they are!

I ended up 3rd in the triple crown for that weekend, and second for the overall series triple crown.  I was stoked there was actually a payout for once at a US Cup, and that was for the overalls!  Or so thats what I thought, unfortunately we were told they would not be cutting us checks as some criteria wasnt met or something, I get it I guess.  But warn us of that criteria ahead of time otherwise I probably wouldn’t have wasted my time and money to drive up there for some more generic medals and tin trophies.  But all in all it was a fun weekend of racing with good people and some fun trails.

The highlight of my trip would probably actually be running into Kurt, who was riding his bike from San Diego to Monterey, just outside of Los Olivos on the side of the 154.  How random, I was stoked to see him and offered him a nutella and jelly french toast sandwich which he somehow managed to choke down as we talked about our plans for Sea Otter.  Good shit.

Kurt chowin’ down
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Pro XC tour #2 in the books

No excuses this time, I was off of the antibiotics and had my first ‘real’ pro race under my belt, having another crappy showing was unacceptable.  I pre-rode the course the weekend before and knew what to expect.  It was a very technical course with some longer descents which suited me well.  I should have done some warming up on the course though, especially after being warned by Gareth and B. Gritters beforehand that the course was getting super chewed up from the Cat 1’s racing it.  Turns out the course rode completely different than the previous weekend.  

At the start I was lined up behind Miguel Valdez, which I thought was gonna be a nice wheel to follow through the crowd. For some reason at the whistle he hesitated and rolled out at a ‘not very fast’ pace and I was swarmed by riders from the rows behind me.  The course went from a pretty narrow fire road to some single track not too long after the start, and positioning was of the utmost importance.  I was pretty far back and had to put in some solid efforts when the trail would open up on the climbs before going back into single track.  There was so much traffic caused by the 50+ riders that we were all strung out within inches of the wheel in front of you in your easiest gear just soft pedaling, there was nothing else you could do.  
Excuse me I’d like to get by now
Near the end of the first lap (of 4), on the last descent, after moving up some spots and in a good place I ran out of talent and slid into a patch of some kinda small nettle plant thing to break my fall.  All was good but the line that I rode on the course three times the weekend before that I really liked was all of a sudden gone and replaced with loose sand.  So I lost a bunch of spots there and was pretty content to throw in the towel now with a valid excuse.  The tip of my saddle was also now pointed up to about the 11 o’clock position which was no bueno, so about a mile from the start I had to pull over and hit it down with my hand to make it level again, ohh yeah and losing more hard earned spots.  
Post crash, I had leaves in my ear after the race
Still wanting to quit, again, I just kept riding hoping I would change my mind.  Which I did, again.  Thanks to Tom Obrien and the nationwide team for the support and handing me bottles every lap, I kept pushing on.  I just rode the climbs as steady as I could, and would start to reel in riders on the descents and would pick em off one by one as the race went on.  Ended up in 20th, which is a lot better than Bonelli, but considering where I was before I slid out and everything I went through again to get going I could have done better.  But at this level you don’t really get a second chance, you barely ever get a chance at all, which is why it is so intriguing to keep racing at this level.
After almost falling asleep at the top waiting for the super D start, needless to say I had a pitiful performance.  I basically forgot how to ride a bike after laying on a rock in the sun for 45 minutes!  I was unable to clip in immediately at the start, then made some bad line choices and braking decisions.  Bummed because I feel its a course I could have done good on, ohh well, ended up 13th in that.
Time to start thinking about Sea Otter and what I may do the rest of this season.  In the meantime I’m taking in my Focus to clean it up at the Velo Hangar and drink some coffee, ohh I guess my employer will want me to come to work too.