Our ‘Mini World Cup’ at Bonelli Park

There was so much awesome going on this past weekend at the Bonelli park Pro XCT HC event.  I have never been more excited to be a mountain biker here in North America.  I feel that our sport is on the rise and is starting to make a comeback, and why wouldn’t it, it’s so darn fun and the vibe at the races is super relaxed and friendly (for the most part)  I heard from multiple people that there were 17 different nations represented for this race, how rad is that!

The course at Bonelli is world class, and definitely one of the hardest courses I have raced.  Every year, without fail in the middle of the second lap I pretty much wanna drop out and have to talk myself into staying in the race.  Scott, Ty, Paul and the rest of the Sho-Air cycling group put in a lot of long hours to help make the course even better than last year.  It’s a pretty relentless course, and most riders, myself included, chose hardtails. I decided to go with the Focus 29er vs. the 650b just because there wasn’t a whole lot of turning or quick accelerations needed.  I have a set of Enve tubulars that I have been dying to race on, they are so light and fast, like a seriously noticeable difference.  But the course got really chewed up from all the pre-riders and Cat 1 races and lack of rain that I had to stick with some beefier tires for fear of eating shit.  The tubular tires are only a 2.0 while I raced on a 2.2.

The most noticeable improvement of everyones hard work was the addition of the ‘a line’ which was a 6×6 beam that separated a log pile on one side and a rock garden on the other, on an uphill.  This section was guaranteed to be entertaining and boy did it deliver, it was even right around here where Kabush started to make his move for the win.

113 riders all competing for something!

113 riders all competing for something! Photo mtbmike.com

Considering the field of 113 riders my callup of around 60 really wasn’t that bad!  I had an OK start on the parade lap and was around the riders that I felt like I should be racing against…until we hit the –aline.  I was pretty confident in my ability to ride the section after pre-riding it the week before, but I definitely should have done a few more runs on it!  I came off on the beam then bumbled the next section pretty good, I was that guy that I wanted to avoid during the first lap when the racing was still really intense.  Of course the only time my chain has ever dropped was during this race when I messed up here.  It took a good bit of time to get it back on and I reckon I lost 10-20 spots.

OK then, keep on keeping on, then I noticed shortly after that I had lost some air in the rear tire somewhere, not sure if I burped it or if it was gonna go flat so I just decided to cruise on it for a while.  I had an extra set of wheels in the pit, but it seemed like everything was all sealed up and good, so I just hit it with some CO2 really quick.

Suffering!  Photo by Phil Beckman

Suffering! Photo by Phil Beckman

It was right about this time, on the second lap having lost some spots, going up the super steep climb on the backside of the course that I decided I was gonna DNF.  I somehow managed to talk myself out of this again and decided I was just gonna race the course from here on out.  I managed to pick off quite a few more riders, but was still not super motivated to bury myself.

At the end of my fifth lap I was pulled from the race, a first for me.  I was pretty bummed at the time then I looked around at all the other riders that were pulled as well and didn’t feel so bad.  Then when I checked out the results and saw that only 30 racers out 113 were able to finish the entire race I started to feel a little better.  Then when I went and watched the replay of the race, which was covered awesomely, BTW, pretty much as good as the world cups I’ve watched online, and saw Manuel Fumic eat it really bad on the a-line on the first lap (along with dozens of other riders) and I wasn’t as bummed.

I’d like to give a big thank you to Roger and Cheyne of Kenda tires for the support.  I wasn’t even running kendas but they were more than willing to feed me and help with anything I needed, so thanks guys!  Looking forward to running the new turnbull canyons.

I finished in 50th which isn’t awesome but that’s ok.  The event was so much fun and it was just rad to toe the line with some of the worlds greatest mountain bikers, granted I was toeing it from 6 or 7 rows back, but whatever it was an experience not soon to be forgotten.

Pictures following soon…

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Checking in on the Bonelli course

I got the chance this past weekend to get out and pre-ride the course with designer Scott Tedro, Sam Schultz, Keegan Swenson and mechanic Paul.  The racing coming up at Bonelli park this weekend (3/15) is going to be huge as it is (i believe) the first time the US has hosted an HC event.  There are a good bit of Euros that have managed to cross the pond to join us which just makes it that much more special.  Check out Sho-airs’ press release… http://uscup.net/up/file/Bonelli_Prerace_Press.pdf

The course is even a little tougher than last year, which is going to be even more brutal coupled with the pace and the heat.  There is a little more technical climbing thrown in, and a new technical section with an ‘A’ line and a ‘B’ line.  This area is sure to cause some chaos, and considering its placement in terms of the finish line may actually be a deciding factor for the winner.

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Looking back down at the ‘A” line

After the technical section of the ‘A’ line there is an off-cambered log section, that looks super sketchy!  The photo below doesn’t really do it justice, and considering the first person to ride it that day (no names mentioned 😉 ) racked themselves when they came unclipped from their pedal, made it seem even more treacherous.

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Dont mess up here, cameras will be watching!

This section is tricky, and comes at a very inconvenient time

Little techy DH section, trickier than it looks.

After getting in some warmup laps we decided to go at one race pace, and holy crap was it brutal.  The course is just relentless, there is no hiding out there anywhere.  The course is fast, coupled with some super steep climbing, and descents that are always keeping you on your toes I think its perfect for this coming weekend.  Lets just hope the temperatures are under 90*!

Scott the snake wrangler

Scott the snake wrangler

Big thanks again to Scott for letting me get in some runs and listening to my feedback.  I have never met anyone so stoked on mountain biking as him and think that in the coming years there is going to be a resurgence of off-road riding.  Also Keegan and Sam were killing out there, hoping for a good race for all of us!

Watch live streaming here…

Women start at 11:15 PST, and Men at 1:45

Stop #1 – Mellow Johnnys Classic

This was my first time actually traveling a longer distance to go race bikes so there was a lot of potential unknown situations that could have occurred, which left me a little more stressed than normal.  For the most part everything went pretty smoothly though.  Gareth Feldstein, aka G-Money or is it G$?, and myself split a car and a hotel room and everything went off without any major glitches.

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Minivan FTW!

We got in Thursday night, ate a bunch of BBQ and got our bikes built.  The next day we cruised out to the race venue after some breakfast, registered and attended the riders meeting.  We were able to get a tour of the course with Rich Weis, which turned out to be super helpful.  He had been out there a day or so before and already had all the good lines nailed down which he was kind enough to show us.   We rode the course a few more times going over different lines on all the technical sections.

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Texas, yea there are rocks!

After the pre-ride I knew I was gonna be in for some major pain the next day, as the course was so bumpy and littered with loose rocks that a hardtail at race pace out there is just crazy.

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Post ride food, yes a bored out Baguette filled in with honey. It. Was. Awesome.

After another large breakfast, along with some harmony bars as snacks, race day morning, we picked up Gareth’s sister who was in town visiting a friend.  This worked out great as she was able to hand us water bottles (and did so perfectly, thanks!)  I downed one of Skratch labs hyper hydration packets about an hour before the start of my race and went through three bottles of pineapple during the race and managed to stay decently hydrated for how hot and dry (but still humid, it was weird) the Texas sun made it.

My call up was around 42nd out of the 70 person field, which I guess could have been worse.  There was a one mile start loop before entering the course for the first lap which had two seperate sections that went from a wide fire-road to singletrack.  I knew these were going to be major bottlenecks for my starting position, and can pretty much make or break your race.

Sure enough at the first singletrack entrance people were stacked up completely stopped!  I managed to ride a little off trail and pass a handful of people instead of stopping to wait around.  Then at the top of the second climb after everyone went 110% up it for positioning there was another backup, this one a lot worse.  There really wasn’t a good way around this one.  I hoped off my bike and ducked around some trees, and managed to take a dead branch to the face and split my lip a little.

Soon enough we were back on our way and entering the course.  I had no idea where I was at this point, but knew I needed to move up.  At this point I’m sure the leaders already had a good 2 minutes on the rest of the field because of the bottlenecks.  I was able to put in some hard efforts on the climbs and get around some more people.  I didn’t want to dig too deep this early because five laps of this course could completely wreck you if you are a little off.

I managed to get in with a good group for the second and third or so lap with Menso de Jong, Keck Baker, Cole Oberman, and Miguel Valdez.  But the last bit of climbing on the third lap was starting to wear on me.  The guys that had dual suspension bikes were just able to transfer a little more power to the ground and not get as beat up.  I had no problem hanging with them on the descents but the super bumpy flats and punchy climbs put a hurting on me.

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Crazy I finished 31st and had 31 as my number. Maybe next time they’ll give me 15!

 

I managed to finish 31st overall, which considering the field isn’t too bad.  I also took about 5 minutes off my time behind the race leaders from last year.  I know Ive got the fitness to start mixing it up with everyone, I just need to slowly start working on getting better callups(along with the 300 other pros in the country, ha!)

Considering how unforgiving and bumpy the course was the Tuned by Velo Hangar Focus Raven performed great.  I pushed that bike to its limits for the entire 1:40 on the most technical course of the season.   Like I mean I hammered the crap out of that bike and it handled everything with no problems. My two-year old ENVE wheels also got ridden as hard as I could push em with still no problems.  Also glad that I put on tires with more sidewall protection because I saw about 4 people flat yesterday, there were probably more!

That night we cruised over to Mellow Johnnys bike shop for some free grub while they replayed the race.  Then cruised around on 6th street in downtown Austin and scoped out the hundreds of bars and restaurants.  Austin is definitely a pretty rad little city, and with the bike race being so fun I will for sure try to make it again in the years to come.   Big thanks to Scott Tedro, Sho-Air, and all the volunteers and race organizers from TMBRA.

And an even bigger thanks to all my friends, family and sponsors for the support couldn’t do it without you guys!

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Cruising around 6th street, just a unicorn no big deal.

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Riding around some trails that skirt along the Colorado river.