Bay Area based cyclocross squad representing Fresh Air Bicycles in San Francisco and Hunter Cycles from the mountains of Santa Cruz County.
Besides our title sponsors, we are fortunate enough to have the support of some fantastic folks: San Francisco based companies like De La Paz Coffee Roasters and Una Pizza Napoletana, in addition to Thunderbird Energetica & EpicBar, Vans, Pacenti, Sim-Works and Paul Components.
See you in the dirt.
was hard. And beautiful. And I explored my darkest corners in the bright bright Sierran sun light with rad men and women racers who looked out for each other.
The race was in the Sierra foothills north of the Tahoe area around Lake Davis. My buddy Zac Stanley (Rock Lobster cross racer and all around rugged dude) and I drove up the morning of from the Bay Area to race the ride, ride the race, and camp at the campgrounds with Cameron Falconer.
We were late.
But we had a bunch of coffee and I was electric buzzing and stoked and didn’t forget to put sunblock on or chamois cream and we just jumped in as the huge group of renegade riderz stormed onto the road. The asphalt quickly gave way to dirt and the route remained mostly dirt until the end.
The beginning was dusty and it was hard to see the good lines through the car tire ruts, gravel and soft puddles of dust. I was caught behind a big pile-up of crashed riders early on but luckily I didn’t go down. I learned a lesson that it’s best to try to get in front early on and fade back a little later - just because it’s safer.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, I was caught right behind another rider’s crash. This time it was bad ass Rock Lobster racer Ellen Sherrill. We were all cruising pretty fast through a really dusty area with a lot of ruts and I think Ellen’s wheel just disappeared. She went down pretty hard on her forearm and rolled. I later found out that she got up and pressed on, only to have had four flats.
After that, I basically just tried to keep up with Zac, my teammate Cameron, and Chris McNally. Cameron is fast up the hills. But down the hills - bow howdy and holy crap. He flies. Or floats. Or something. But it’s ripping and beautiful to the point that I loose my own concentration and my eyes tear up and shit….
Near around 40 miles in I was really starting to hurt. My back was pretty sore and my saddle was a little too high. Also, my bars slipped on one of the bumpy descents and so my lever hoods were low. Here-forthwith is my second lesson in three parts:
Zac was super sweet and somewhere around mile 50 he said, ‘get on my wheel’; I said something like, ‘thanks brother dogg’, and he just smashed it. Zac has 3 or 4 different types of engines. I think he did these major pulls with his turbo diesel ultra efficient, high torque engine. In fact, a bunch of other riders hopped on our train. We all worked alright together. I remember a Strawberry-Cal-Giant rider sitting in for a while who looked to be hurting a little. He didn’t pull much at the beginning but at some point he went to the front and drilled it for a good stretch. He put in his time and rotated off and faded off the back. I like that. He didn’t just mooch- he put in his time for the group with an honest effort. But Zac did most of the work for like ten miles of windy, windy dirt double-track. We got to an aid station - i was tired - Zac took off and I lingered.
Then I took off too and rode on my own for a while. And this is when I explored some of my dark places. I knew the 60 mile mark was coming up and that was the spot we could turn towards the start finish for a short-cut. And I considered it strongly. I soft pedaled - and pulled over and finally fixed my bars and saddle height - but I decided that I’d go ahead and finish the hundred miles.
So that’s what I did. Passed some people. Got passed. Scared myself on some descents in the drops. I whanged some big rocks and holes but never flatted. Thought about how perfect my bike felt after fixing saddle height and hood tilt. Relaxed a bit and enjoyed the ride. Got to the Paul Components aid station and talked to Paul. Paul is the shit. That is all. Had a pepsi. I love cold pepsi. Paul sponsors our team. I got on my bike…
And then the climb started. Cameron told me about this climb. I knew that if Cam mentions it as something to consider in his dead-pan way, then that means that it’s about to be really hard. And it was.
The climb is long and long. But kind of rad in a way because it’s sort of like it can’t get any worse. Really steep sometimes and pretty steep the rest of the time. I caught up with Zac on this climb at about his forth flat. I was moving really slow so I chatted with him for a second and then just kept climbing. Passed some people. Got passed.
Climbed for a while and got to the WTB aid station. I had an apple wedge with peanut butter. Wish those could be packaged for jersey pockets. Couldn’t stomach anything else at that point.
But then the descent and cruise began for the last stretch to the finish. And I really enjoyed this part. The part where you know you’re close to the finish, but you’re still in it. Just get there mode. Not really racing anymore because there’s no one close. Just riding. Pedaling the circles the best you can. Loosening the arms. Sitting at that perfect place on the saddle. Thought about lasagna and chocolate milkshakes.
Rolled through the finish at 7 hours and 7 minutes. I didn’t have the timing chip but the sweet folks that organized the race helped me get to the lasagna, salad, and beeeeeeeeeeeeeeer. Took me a minute to reset my stomach for the treats but then I ate. And I swam in the lake to get the grime off me. I love mountains. And alpine lakes.
I rode my Hunter cycles team bike with a steel fork and some big meat WTB nanos 40 mm borrowed from our team director sportif and shop owner Travis. Rick Hunter, our teammate and sponsor, makes our bikes. The Super Crown fork is perfect. I like to call it a ‘Cathedral Tuning Fork’ because of the cathedral look to the crown and the perfect tone sine wave that it sings when I whang it on rocks.
Extra wide Pacenti SL23 rims and Paul hubs and mini-moto brakes from our sponsors.
WTB Silverado saddle, Sram force with clutched rear der and wide range cassette, and soft, tacky, thick, plush silicone bar tape from Fresh Air Bike shop.
Picture taken by Zac while using his artists motor to steady camera. You can tell my saddle is too high here. Should have fixed it right then.
I hope I get to do this again next year. The race itself was so well organized in such a rad setting. The course marshals were sweet and the course was very well marked. The food and beer was all that I could ask for.
OK. Love fred
On Friday at 4:45pm I found out about the first race in Bike Monkey’s 3 part series at Lake Sonoma. Since I didn’t have any other plans and have been wanting to get my feet wet with some Mountain Bike racing, I figured why not hop in?
Caroline and I packed up the car early Saturday morning and drove north. Neither one of us had ridden there before and really had no idea what to expect. Since I goofed and set my alarm wrong, we got there a little too late to get any kind of pre-riding in….doh! All good. Lined up in the Men’s Expert Class (I wanted to do 4 laps even if it meant getting last place) and went for it.
The race started an uphill road section, the only pavement in the entire course, and dropped into some sweet single track after a couple hundred yards. “Holy crap this is awesome!” I remember saying after the first couple turns. I found my rhythm and was cruising along with a group of riders through the first half of the course feeling pretty good until I felt the thump thump thump of my rear tire deflating…nooooo!
I pulled over and watched everyone go by me, the sport class, beginning class, and kids while I fixed my flat. Oh well! From there, I figured I was just out on a nice Saturday ride and was going to enjoy the new terrain. The course was really challenging and did not let you relax one bit, it was 90% singletrack and the only time you could “rest” was on the brief fire road climbs between trails. I had a blast and can’t wait to do another mountain bike race.
Bike Monkey put on another rad event, they never disappoint. Can’t wait to do the next!
Huge thanks to Travis and FreshAir Bikes for the support and love!