Race report, Spyclocross

I was a little hesitant to do this race, because I really didn’t feel like driving around LA again up to Chino.  But being this is the first race in a new series, Spyclocross, I figured it was worth checking out.  Driving into the park looking at the course, I thought ‘ohh great another flat socal cross course’.  But the course was designed well, and had good speed and flow, with a lot of faster cornering and some straightaways, and most importantly a nice long straight for the start.

You only got a call up if you pre-registered, which I tried doing Friday at 9:05 before online reg. closed, at 10.  But it turns out it closed at 10 MOUNTAIN time, so that wasn’t happening.  The race started on time, which is the second positive thing for a new series (the first being a decent course).  I was on the third row, along with all the other non-prereg racers, out of about 5 rows.  I was stoked at how many guys were there racing, this is one of the biggest fields Ive seen for a southern California cross race!

A pretty good hole opened up right in front of me after the whistle blew and I was able to make it into the top 5 by the first turn (thank you again for having a proper starting straightaway).  That turn was completely blown by the newer elite racer Ryan Dahl who had taken the whole shot, and allowed for some more position changes.  I ended up 2nd or 3rd in the group, along with all the other top local guys who were able to make it through the traffic.

The course was flat and fast, without many features for people to make mistakes on, so a large group of 8-10 rider were together for the first two laps.  I was content sitting in the top 5 while we burned some time, Chris Jackson set a good pace at the front, and I was hoping we would just start shedding ridders as I don’t like being in that large of a group.  There were some lead changes and jostling for position going on but everyone was riding solid.

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Phil takes the best photos

Near the end of the third lap I wanted to test the water a little, and maybe narrow down our group some, so I put in a little acceleration to see what would happen.  No one came with me and immediately I had a small gap.  Just as we were about to make the u-turn back onto the pavement the group had bridged, I got slightly disoriented and tried to make my turn 10 feet too early, into the tape! Ahhahaha, I quickly caught back onto 6th wheel and sat in for another lap, making sure to make a joke about it with Brandon on the next lap, letting him know that he shouldn’t turn yet, and he replied ‘Yeah, third tree’ haha.

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Photo by PB Creative

I had worked my way up to second wheel, behind Jackson on the 5th lap.  Still not liking the group, I passed him in the turn right before the stairs and hit it hard.  I was pretty sure I was faster up the stairs than most, and it was really bumpy at the top for the remount so easy for someone to make a mistake if they are flustered.  Sure enough shortly after, Chris informed me that we had a gap on the group.  Wanting to play a little of their own tactics back to the Gritters I would be happy to work with Chris to establish a good gap, so I just stayed on the gas as long as I could.

By the time we hit the long finish straight Chris had dropped back to the group and I had some time on the rest of the field.  Not wanting to see how it would play out if we were all a group I decided to go at it alone and kept the throttle down for the next lap.  I was hoping they wouldn’t get too organized for a chase, and not be too worried about me being off the front barely halfway through the race.

I still had a gap after the 6th lap but Brandon had gone and was trying to bridge.   I was recovering, as much as I could, from my effort and he got within 8 seconds or so.  I kinda thought that if he caught me we might go back to the group, since we would both be pretty exhausted from our efforts, and probably not want to work together.  I liked riding by myself and choosing my own lines so I accelerated again on the next lap, hoping to at least keep the small lead, or put more time into Brandon.

It worked and I was able to get back up to a 20 second lead, (thanks to Eric Johnson for the accurate time reads 😉 and was able to ride the last lap at tempo instead of all out.  I was super stoked as this was my first every CX win, and against a solid field (note: missing Gareth).  The awards were accurate and completed within a timely manner, another win for the new series.  Im really stoked that someone else is stepping it up as a race organizer for cross in socal, this was one of the best races yet, with a good vibe and great prizes, I will definitely be back and I hope this series grows over the years.

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Thanks to Victor Sheldon for snapping this pic!

Race report, Long Blaahhch

After a long time on the east coast, I was pretty anxious to get home and race bikes with friends.  I flew back to California super early on Friday and on my way to work my truck broke down and I barely made it back home without having to call a tow truck.  I was tired and stressed about being behind in work and now having car problems, and was just stoked to be able to use the wife’s car to make it up to Long beach and race saturday.

I got to the venue a couple hours before the race and after driving around lost in the park for a while finally found the venue.  I posted up under a shady tent with my new teammate Danger and tried to stay out of the sun.  Since we don’t have our team kits yet Danger rocked one of mine just so we could look a little more official, the best thing about it is that it says “E. Reinecke” on the sides, haha.

We pre-rode the course a few times and complained about how bumpy it was and talked about how much we miss our third teammate, Gareth.  After putting my bike in the pit I setup an ice sock and got to warming up.  Since it was in the 90’s it didn’t really take much to get the blood flowing.

I was surprised at how many people were in our race, I didn’t have a call up and was on the third row out of 3.5 or so.  There was some sort of weird, whistle, false start thing, but being near the back I wasn’t going to wait around and see what that was all about.  The start straight was super short, and I burned a good bit of energy moving up and it took about half a lap to make my way into the top 5, which is where all the action was going to be.  There was some dude, that none of us knew, who was bunny hoping all the obstacles fast, and beautifully, and riding at the front of the race with Kyle Gritters.

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We caught the bunny hopper and Kyle on the second or so lap, and were a big group.  Having raced against the Gritters before I thought that Brandon might attack at this point, but he just sat in, it was really hot, and dry.  After another lap I got to the front and put in a good pull.  I didn’t know the bunny hopper, but I didnt like riding in a big group on such a fast course like this and wanted to break it up.  Both Gritters and Chris came with me and we had our own little group.  I bunnyhopped the log and got a little gap on the group but we call came back together pretty quickly, it was really hot, and dry.  I tried a few other smaller attacks just to see if I could cause someone to make a mistake, but everyone was on their game and strong.

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After another lap or so Chris went into the pit to get a feed, leaving Brandon on the front.  I knew what was coming.  As soon as we hit the longer straightaway before the stairs Brandon laid down some wattage and got a small gap on myself and his brother Kyle. (which is their plan) Chris caught back on to us shortly and I kept the gap fairly small, probably about 3-5 seconds.  We hit one of the straightaways on pavement and I asked Chris for some help, but he said he was toasted, it was really hot, and dry.  Very well then, Ill catch him myself, then I slipped out on some slick pavement turning back onto the grass.  Chris ran into me and dropped his chain, and Kyle, who was just slightly gapped off from us came around clean.

I didn’t loose too much time, and was right back with Kyle, but Chris had dropped his chain and was unable to chase back onto us.  I knew Kyle wasn’t going to do any work to catch his brother, who at this point had more like a 30-45 second gap.  So we took some turns leading each other around the course, and I was hoping for a sprint finish for a little redemption from our Lake Hodges race a couple years ago.

Kyle had other plans, and put in a small but successful attack with two to go, and that was all he needed.  The race stayed the same for the remaining laps, Brandon, Kyle, myself, then Chris, with Siegel rounding out the top 5.  I was glad to make it to the podium after the stress of traveling and car issues, and it was a good time racing with everyone.  Pretty stoked that we have some talent around here to make the races competitive.

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Crossin over to the East Coast

Originally having a local race planned for the 20th and 21st of September I didn’t think I was going to make it to Charm City CX in baltimore this year.  I was already planning on coming back to MD for a wedding on the 27th and after the local race got cancelled due to permitting problems, I changed my ticket and flew into Baltimore Friday the 19th.  My longtime high school friend Jeremy snagged me at the airport and we went headed over to the venue to pre-ride the course while he finished building the podium backdrop.

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Pre-riding the course with Jeremy

The course was semi-fast 90% grass with 4 sand-pit crossings, a fly-over, one set of barriers, two short steep run-ups, and one longish climb.  Most of the turns were fairly fast and overall the course was super fun.  This race felt almost like a home race as I might have had in Socal, since I grew up 30 mins south of the race venue there were some good friends there, and even my in-laws Jack and Libby cheering me on, it was awesome!

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Having some fun on the Mares. Photo by: Erik Annis / http://kitestringstudio.nextproof.com

The UCI officials were not on my side when it came time for the ‘random’ drawing of the call ups for everyone without UCI points.  I was about 5th from dead last Saturday and 10th from last Sunday.  In a field of 70ish this was a significant burden, I kind of shook it off on saturday and rode as hard as I could, but to see I had another bad call-up sunday it was pretty tough mentally.

I don’t have the pop to bridge huge gaps in the first couple laps at the moment, like Chris Jones did (ending up 3rd both days from the back which is pretty amazing), so it was all about riding steady the entire time.  Every lap I would pick off a couple more riders, never getting passed, and ended up 19th on Saturday and 22nd on Sunday.  I had really hoped to break into the top ten while I was hear and pickup some points, but thats going to have to wait until another race.

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Check out this super clean white shirt I just put on. / “Can you chop the beets” /  Do you have an apron

It was great to stay only a couple miles from the venue with Jeremy and his wife Victoria.  We also had another high school friend, Gary, come up from Virginia, so it was nice to sit around and catchup on whats been going on.  Gary was the one who originally got me into mountain biking 15 or so years ago, its pretty rad how cycling brought us all together as friends in the past and then can reconnect us years later.

Got a good few days of training planned before heading down to the beach for a wedding, then down to North Carolina to visit more family.  Hope to make it back to california soon to do some local racing and plan out a few more Pro CX races for the season.

Vegas baby…#crossishere

Ohh man, as I get older and have been there a few more times, Vegas really gets lamer and lamer.  Luckily this year I didn’t really have to do that much with interbike and could focus more on racing the largest cross race in the US, crossvegas!

I cruised out the day before the race with Jeff and Dan from Focus, and as soon as we got there I rode out to the course to get a pre-ride in.  I had been stressing at how thick the grass really was and how hard the race was gonna be so a pre-ride was necessary.  Afterwards I went over to Las Vegas cyclery and picked up my numbers, mainly because I suck at pinning numbers onto my jersey, especially the arms, and wanted a full 24hours to make sure it was good.

Race day I went to the venue again with Jeff and did some more laps while he was working, it was a balmy 105(+) degrees and there was no way to drink enough water.  We grabbed some lunch then I tried to get in a quick nap.  My only car ride out to the race got there a little early so I tried to sit in the shade as much as I could, while cheering on friends racing in the other races.

It actually cooled down quite a bit once the sun went down, and we started getting ready to race.  Ive done it a few times the past year, but Im still not too used to racing past 9 at night.  Timing of eating, and what to eat, etc… are a little more touchy.

I chose to ride the Focus Mares Canti bike (with WD-40 dry lube because its the F*ckin desert) because you don’t really have to brake, ever, and I have a lot more time on the bike since I just got the disc bike the day before.  I warmed up in a field with most other racers at the venue then cruised to the line for call-ups.  I wasn’t in a rush since I was about 5th to last, literally last line.  I guess thats what I get for doing practically zero CX races last year.  I made some jokes with Barry Wicks about how serious everyone is and then we were off.

The start, like most races, was very hectic, but the huge crowd, lights, and anxiety of the first race of the year made it a little extra crazy.  After some pushing, jostling, sketchy passes (sorry Adam Myerson) we eventually settled into a mini groove.  On the second lap we got gapped off forming the third group, I was 4th wheel behind the person that let the gap form so I didn’t really have an opportunity to immediately get back up there to the pack in front of us.  I was no where near where I wanted to be so I went to the front of our mini group and tried to close down the gap that had grown to about 30 seconds.

Killer shot of the pain by Phil Beckman

We would make up a little time, but no one else wanted to bury themselves to try to bridge and I was unable to do it alone, so I just settled in.  I had burned a good bit of matches at the start and trying to bridge the first few laps that I just went into TT/survival mode.

All alone cruising to the finish.  Photo by Jinna Thomas bike

All alone cruising to the finish. Photo by Jinna Thomas bike

I was happy to finish on the same lap as the leaders (37th) and not get pulled considering my starting spot.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the race, and died of dehydration, if it wasn’t for J. Rowe handing me up bottles in the pit.  I owe him some (a lot) of beers, and thanks to T. Hopper and Steven W.B. for letting me put my feet up in the team van.

I got the heck out of Vegas the next day as early as I could after walking around the show for a little bit.  It was a short trip but it was really nice to be back home with Ellen and Jacki, and out of the desert, even though we are currently having a heatwave in San Diego.  Got some good training in the last couple days with another hard day before I take off for Charm City cross back east in Baltimore, which I am super jazzed about.  I grew up near baltimore, and went to college there, so I feel like I need to do good, plus my kit has a MD flag in the background so…

Hopefully I will have the next (first) edition of the video blog out shortly, its a lot more work than I thought!  If you made it this far thanks for reading!

The NorthEast

Getting this one written while its fresh in my mind!  It’s currently raining in East Hampton, Mass. and I’ve gone to just about every coffee/bakery in a 10 mile radius.  It’s the day after the Catamount classic XC race in Vermont and Ive spent a good bit of the day contemplating this past season and trying to plan for next year.

I took a red-eye out of San Diego on Wednesday night, something I told myself I would never do again, and flew into Conneticut.  I was scooped up by J-Pows wife, Emily, and headed to their home in Massachusetts.  I got in, built my bike, ate some pastries, drank coffee, then met Jeremy for a tour of the local trails.  They were a 3 minute pedal away and super fun!  We had a killer dinner that night, then packed up the truck and headed to Vermont the next day.

We got up to Catamount around 3 and ran into Spencer Paxson of Kona, and rode a few laps.  Spencer failed to mention any of the ‘A-line’ options and in mid conversation we found ourselves gapping some jumps and hitting some drops.  It was actually a nice way to be introduced to the obstacles, rather than standing around looking at them, trying to guess how much speed, and what lines to take.  This was the no BS approach; ohh hey by the way in the next .5 seconds you need to clear a 5 foot gap, or launch off a 3 foot drop.  The course had a decent mixture of fun singletrack through the trees, some wide-open turns through grassy fields, good technical sections, and the jumps/gaps/drops.  There was maybe a little too much of the grass, but it actually provided great opportunities for passing.

I had a decent call-up of 25th, but considering the course the start wasn’t as crucial as past races.  I knew warming up that I was a bit off and didn’t quite feel the way you want to on race day.  I didn’t really go forwards or backwards at the start, so that was OK.  I knew I just had to ride the race as best as I could and keep it going for the full 1:40 or so.  Some guys passed me, I passed some guys, yo-yoed with some other racers and ended up right where I started in 25th.  I had a goal of top 15 (dream of 10) in this race and I know it was definitely possible, pretty bummed at how it all played out but there is a lot to learn about traveling and racing.

Considering this is my first season chasing the tour, and the top mountain bikers in the country I think I did OK.  I had maybe set my goals a little too high for the season, but was able to attain at least some of them.  Considering the fact that this was one of the biggest mountain bike seasons in the US in years, with lots of international competition, I thinks its ok that not all my goals were met.  I learned a boat load at every race, all while having a good time, and thats whats important.  The second that bike racing is no longer fun, is the second that I stop, but I don’t see that happening for some time.

Huge thanks to J&E Powers for the home stay, I had a great time.  Obviously a big thanks to Ellen, Focus Bikes, Gordon and Laurel at Velo Hangar, Enve Composites, Giro, Skratch labs, Harmony Bars, Citizen Juice and everyone else.  Excited to get back home dust off the Mares CX bike and learn to ride the Focus trail bike, Sam!

 

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Massachusetts river and clouds

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Lots of crazy Canadians down for this one

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Blah, blah, blah ohh 5 foot gap

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Vermont poop truck, literaly

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MOOOOSSSSE!

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Green single track

Racing in Wisconsin

This last weekend was the 6th stop on the Pro XCT tour at Cascade Mountain in Portage Wisconsin.  Cascade Mountain is actually in fact a ski resort, yes thats right a ski resort in Wisconsin.  Usually ski resort style courses are a long (steep) climb up then a longish (steep) descent, but this course was one of the more “flowy” ones of the season and it had a couple significant climbs along with a lot of short ups and short downs.

Friday night the promotors put on the short rack race, and by friday night I mean 9 o’clock at night, like its dark outside I need to turn the headlights on in my car if I were to drive right now.  After we got lined up for the start we were sitting there getting eaten alive my mosquitos, everyone was whining and we were even slapping each others backs trying to take the little guys out.  The organizers were trying to light up a completely dark section of the course so they sent us on a little parade lap so we weren’t all welted up from the bugs.

They eventually got the section of the course lit up, with the headlights from two four wheelers, and we were off.  Everyone was pretty antsy the first two laps and most of the group stayed together for some tight racing.  I was pretty fast through some of the longer, fast turns on the grass, and moved up without exerting much energy as often as I could.  Eventually some guys started getting popped off the group and you had to start working to stay with everyone.  With people getting tired and starting to make more mistakes I eventually found myself off the main group dangling around, eventually Ryan Woodall from Pros Closet caught me and we ended up working together for a couple laps.

Right as we were about to make contact with the leaders again, which at this point was down to about 10 guys from the 30 or so field, someone put local Joe Maloney into the fence and caused us to hit our brakes on an uphill section.  With only 3 laps to go it was gonna be darn near impossible to bridge back up.  Joe, Ryan and I ended up riding in a group until the last lap when I got to the front on the last little climb, before a decent, and straightaway to the finish.  At the time I wasn’t sure exactly how many guys were in the top group but thought I may have had a shot at a top 10 so I dug in and sprinted to stay in the lead of our group.  The money goes to the top 10 and I ended up 11th.  All good though as its more for fun anyway and the xc race was the main focus as always.

I was so jazzed up from racing at nine at night that I couldn’t for the life of me fall asleep friday night, and didn’t get to bed until around 2:30, which the night before a race is no bueno.  I slept in and laid around as much as I could but had to check out of the hotel at 11, then went and tried to sleep in the car some before the start of the race at 4.

There were only about 50 riders at this event and I was stoked to have a top 20 call up, and was raring to go as I know I had a good shot at a top 15 (which is what UCI points and money go to).  After swerving around the moto that stalled out at the start, which was supposed to lead us up the first climb, (which is pretty funny cause at the start I said what if this dude stalls out in front of us, and then he did) I found myself  in a not horrible position! My legs were definitely a little dead and not feeling as stellar thanks to lack of good sleep, but I felt good enough to get through the race in a good position.  After the first couple laps (out of 6) I had made a few more passes and was in a solid position for a top 15 and riding strong.

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Quick down and up which got sketchy in the rain

Then at the beginning of the third lap is started raining.  At first the trails were holding it pretty well, then it started to get slick.  I found this out the hard way at a fast left handed turn in the grass, right near the pits, where just as I was about to straighten out my tires lost traction.  Being as fully committed to the turn as I was (I didn’t think it was gonna get slick yet) I hit the deck moving along pretty good.  I just slid a little bit, still clipped in, and only lost a couple of spots.  I made sure to let everyone around me know that the grass was, in fact, actually getting slippery and they should be careful 😉 Shortly after that about halfway through the lap I somehow managed to burp my front tire pretty good on a slippery little gulch.  Still not sure how it happened as I took the same line every time I road the course and didn’t see any significant rocks.  But it had lost a good bit of air and I had to ride super conservative on the descents as I felt it could roll at any moment.

Fun little bridge through the trees

Fun little bridge through the trees

Thanks to Enve’s awesome bead lock design my tire stayed on for the two or so miles to the pits where I managed to try to put some air in my tire.  I had some Co2 stashed in a bag and the guy that was helping me in the pits had it ready for me.  I was trying to twist the Co2 onto the adaptor and it wasn’t making the ‘cracking’ sound and definitely wasn’t working.  Turned out this one was already used at one point, F#uck!  I had another one and eventually got some air in there, then had to stop again 10 feet later cause I forgot to close the valve stem 😉 Ohh man was it one of those races the last three laps!

I lost a bunch of spots going slow and fiddling with the flat and the course at this point was oil slick.  I did a full on 180 on one turn and started to ride halfway off the trail to find any bit of traction I could.  If you didn’t have momentum going up short hills it was hard to get traction to even pedal up.  Spots became barely rideable and a lot of guys started walking.  It was just downright sloppy, but pretty awesome at the same time.

As bummed, angry, upset that I was knowing I wasn’t going to reach my goal of a top 15 I still had a lot of fun.  I don’t really get to ride in the rain on trails, well ever really, so I tried to enjoy sliding around as much as I could and just learn as much as possible.  I was the last guy to finish on the lead lap and ended up around 26th, but was truthfully just stoked to finish cause it was pretty brutal.

After that I washed my bike off as best I could, and luckily there was a break in the rain, and I packed my bike in the parking lot and drove to Milwaukee so I could fly out the next morning at 6am.  On the way to the hotel I encountered the hardest downpour ever, it was so bad we were going 35mph on the highway cause you couldn’t see anything.

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Im skipping Nationals in PA this weekend cause it really is pretty pointless without any points, although it would have been good experience.  I’ll be at Vermont though the following weekend for the Catamont classic to finish out the tour.  Its been fun so far!

 

Driving in big sky country

Originally I had wanted to update my blog everyday on my two week trip, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen.  Its been too hard just to find cell service let alone time to sit down and type everyday while trying to drive.  But the last week has been a blast.

My first stop was Gooseberry Mesa in Utah, which offers up some great slick rock and elevated desert type riding (not to mention some amazing views) Its about a 7 or so hour drive from SD so I was able to get some riding in that night and the next morning, after finding a sweet little camping spot right near the trailhead.

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View from the Mesa

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Sweet camping setup at gooseberry

After riding the next morning I hit the road and headed to Ogden, UT and got a tour of the ENVE factory.  The awesomeness of the factory and  company deserve a blogpost all in its own.  There were so many different tests being performed on their own product as well as competitors wheels and components.  After seeing the failure rate of some of the competition, lets just say I added a  bunch of wheels to my list to never ride.

As everyone was heading out the door at ENVE they mentioned  local MTB race up in the mountains at snowbasin.  One goal on this trip was to keep a loose schedule and partake in some things I might usually skip, so 15 minutes later I found myself driving into the mountains to race.  They had gotten about 10 inches of snow the night before and the trails were in a super fun condition, a little wet and slidey but almost loamy compared to the same boring desert terrain I always ride.  Not to mention trees, single track through trees!

The race was only $15 and I was peeing on a tree when they said there was 30 seconds to start time.  I got there just in time to make it and work my way through some traffic to get third overall.  It was a super fun grassroots race and it was nice to get to know AJ and Dylan (the three best wrapper of all time) from ENVE.  I tried to camp at the base of the mountain that night but with the combination of altitude and the cold dry air I was having problems passing out.  So around midnight I hit the road and knocked a couple more hours off the drive time and slept at a rest station.

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Machine at the ENVE factory. Who knows what it does but it sure does look rad

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There were about 20 bikes right inside the door, cause just about everyone that works there rides in.

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Midweek MTB race, Snowbasin, UT.

The next day I made it to Missoula, a really laid back mountain town in Montana.  I now know the meaning of big sky country, I kept trying to to take pictures to capture just how big everything was (like the sky, why was it so ‘big’ looking) but they never did nature any justice.  I got a quick pre-ride in at the course that thursday, then setup camp at the race venue.

Friday night was the short track race, and by Friday night I mean freaking 9 o’clock at night.  Usually at 9 I have already eaten dinner and am pretty relaxed, so it was a little strange getting ready for this.  They ran a new format called ‘Miss N Out’ Where they pull riders every lap until there are only 10 or so remaining then they do two laps.  I brought with me both the 650b and 29er Focus Ravens and decided to run the 29er for the short track due to the flatness of the track and stiffness of the frame.  I had a decent starting position but a horrible start.  It took a couple laps to get the legs moving then, after a few more I was pulled finishing 21st.  Wasn’t really too amped for this race in the first place but it sure was a TON of funning hitting the single track, (called ‘local glory’), wheel to wheel with some of the best bike racers in the country, full gas at dusk with a bunch of people screaming and cheering you on in the woods.

The XC race took place at 7p.m. mountain time on saturday, still not used to racing this late at night but its understandable why the race organizers decided so.  On that note, this was one of the best run/hosted races of the year.  Ben Horan and his volunteers did a great job with everything, there was even free coffee and pastries so he definitely won me over.  This is arguably one of the most fun courses on the tour as well, I will definitely be back.

I had a top 30 or so call up, and was hopping to finish in the top 30 or 25, given the amount of competition out there it would be tough but doable.  There were a lot of tight switchies and steep descents so I chose the Raven 650b for the XC race.  I had a decent start and was right around the riders that I knew I needed to be around after the gun.  Its a fire road climb for about 4 minutes which meant there weren’t nearly as many bottlenecks as previous races and really gave racers the opportunity to move up if they were having a good day.

I was not having one of those good days, one of the worst in a while for me actually.  I usually get faster and faster as the race goes on but I was pretty much out of energy and power on the third lap.  Im not really sure exactly why, probably a combination of multiple things, but as you can’t explain the awesome days you have on the bike better not dwell on the bad ones.

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Suffering (slowly) up a climb at the Missoula XCT race.  Photo: Mark Thome

Im currently nestled up in Ft. Collins, CO after driving through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.  Im gonna get some good rest in (on a real bed!) some fun riding, some rafting, and try to hit up the short track series in Boulder before heading to Co. Springs for the last race of the US Cup.  Thanks to everyone for reading, and thanks to Focus bikes for letting me use the sprinter, ENVE for making the BEST components, Gordon and Laurel at Velo Hangar, Skratch labs for real food and hydration, Lorenzo at Citizen juice, Giro.  Don, James, Jamie and Caroline from Raleigh/Clement for making the best dinner Ive had in a while on Friday night after the short track, and everyone else who has reached out to me along the way.  Also none of this would be possible without my awesomely supportive ‘wife’ Ellen either!

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Wonder where this guys was coming from/going to

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Overcooked that corner. Rescue crews trying to figure out how to get a car out of the river

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The ‘A’ line

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Loaded up!

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Setup at Missoula

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Focus Sprinter in MT

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End of the cup, but not the end of the road

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If you’ve been to Yellowstone you’ve probably seen this guy

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Focus Sprinter in Yellowstone

 

Altitude, dry air and gels

Going for it on the single track!

Going for it on the single track! Photo by PB creative

 

With the second part of the season only three weeks away Ive been trying to get in as much racing and high intensity in as I can, and holy hell is it tough.  Considering that the next two Pro XCT events are at altitude Ive been trying to get in as much thin air training as I can, and this past weekend I went up and raced at Big Bear.  Depending on who you ask its between 7,000 and 9,000 feet up there.  To make things worse there air has basically no humidity in it!

The course starts with a 10 or so minute climb, I truthfully have no idea how long it is because I am usually too oxygen depleted to look down at the Garmin.  It could be 2 minutes for all I know but it feels like 25mins.  Shortly into the race 5 of us had a little gap, but knowing how bad you can implode at altitude I had to back off for fear of finishing dead last if I didn’t.

This left me around 6th place or so, but once I gathered my thoughts and surroundings, it turned out we are only 30 minutes into the race.  Being 25 or so miles long I knew we still had about an hour left of racing.  I started putting in some good efforts and riding right at my limits making sure to not overcook it in the thin air.

I shortly started reeling in a few guys and was sitting in third.  I knew the two off the front probably weren’t that catchable but I figured I’d give it a go.  The trails at this point were mostly flowy, loose, techy singltrack with a lot of switchbacks and the Focus 650 was a definite advantage over 29″ wheels.  I saw Jason Ranoa from SoCal endurance about an hour into the race and he said the two leaders had about 2:30 on me.  It would be tough but I thought if I rode mistake free and put in some good efforts I could catch them.

Then with about 5-8 or so miles to go I hit traffic from the lower categories who were doing a shortened version of the course, and unfortunately we were on single track.  While some racers where stoked to slow down and allow you to pass the majority of the riders weren’t to keen about letting you by.  Even after asking nicely and understanding they are racing as well, it was still tough.  I could only hope the leaders were slowed down as much as I was.  This continued for the rest of the race and really is quite a bummer.  It just doesn’t allow you to get into a good flow and concentrate when you have to constantly be talking to people and passing.

I finished 3rd, and while it would have been huge to reel the leaders back in (as they are legit pros) I will just never truly know.  But its all good the main goal was to get some racing in, and this one was at altitude to top it off.  Ive got a knarly cough to back up my effort from yesterday too, thanks to an untimely gel that didn’t want to go down, or come back out for that matter.  Im gonna keep getting in as much racing as I can before I depart for Montana on the 16/17th.

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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…