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:
Second lesson part A): dial in bike fit before big 100 mile dirt ride.
Second lesson part B): when ill-fit issues are self-discovered during big huge one hundo bumpy race it’s best to go ahead and pull over and spend five minutes fixing it because the pay-offs are huge.
Second lesson part C): see also part A) of second lesson as well as **Descend bumpy stuff in drops** to avoid slipped bars.
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.
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! -Brad
Cameron and I caught a ride with Andrew from the Vive La Tarte/Cykel team in their cream and orange team Vanagon. I guess it felt a bit more authentic heading to a cross race through some farmland in a noisy, slow, and cold VW van. Rumor was that we’d be racing at a nudist resort, so I was curious to see what lie ahead.
Sure enough, when we pulled in, it was a pretty nice venue with real bathrooms, showers, and a little lake, in the middle of nowhere outside Sacramento. There were only a couple of naked guys hanging around, one of whom was paddling around on a little raft in the lake. A quick pre-ride of the course confirmed it to be “boring” by comparison to Surf City or NCCX standards, but nevertheless fun because it was such a flat grass crit where you had to pedal the entire time (no technical spots or downhills to recover during), very grippy grass corners, a sweet little off-camber section, and a mini hay-maze. It was nice and sunny enough to wear just shorts and a jersey. The Sacramento Gheto Cross crew set up quite a party tent zone on the backstretch of the course, with AstroTurf, a DJ, two bullhorns, a chicken lady, Santa, and LOTS of beer. The A’s race was cooking! I hung on to the main group through the first lap, thinking “Cameron’s right there!”. I may have been hallucinating, but I swore I saw Cody Kaiser bunnyhop the preeeetty tall barriers. As the laps progressed, things got strung out, and I found myself dangling behind the second little group, then in a bit of a no-man’s land battling it out with some guy named Sam. I knew his name was Sam because every time we rode by people, they would yell, “Go Sam!”. I was thinking “I’m coming for you Sam!”, “You’re fading Sam!” and other silly stuff. I passed him and got a good gap, but he came back, passed me back, and finally got a bit of a gap on me. Waaaiit for meeee Saaaam!
One of the obstacles was Santa riding the course slow and downing beers. He got in my way both times I lapped him. At one point I stuffed him in a corner and heard him mumble something about “…..coal in your stocking…”. The Gheto Cross tent was raging and it was pretty intense going by every lap with a bunch of people screaming and 3 people shoving beers in your face at once. Pretty fun atmosphere!
Ryan Rinn came up and joined me from the single speed race that started behind us, and it was fun riding with him for a little while for once. He was in 2nd place in his race, and the gap to 3rd looked huge, so when I attacked him, he let me go and started taking beer handups. I finished 16th, and it would be awhile before the naked race, so we decided to bounce. We stopped at Phil Mooney’s secret taco spot in Davis, and the long (slow) drive home yet again turned a one hour race into an all day affair.
The Sacramento races may be flat and grassy, but they have a really good vibe, are seamlessly organized, with timing chips and prompt results, and a progressively more entertaining party scene. I definitely look forward to hitting a few again next year. Next up: Central Coast, Toro Park….. -Travis
Fun day out with Leah, Brad, and Jon in Cunningham Park in SJ. I was excited to test my bike skills on a very varied course. I pre-rode most of the course, opting out of putting my bike through the foot thick mud. The mud came as a surprise since we are recording the driest calendar year since 1849. Anyway, rode the long deep sand sections and the steep descent to get a feel for the rhythm of the course. I didn’t find that rhythm on the first two laps, making some poor decisions to stay on the bike too long in the sand. I thought that all my running practice was going to be wasted this year but in this race it helped me pull back half a dozen riders. Murphy had us racing for 55 minutes. That helped too. In the end great racing on a well designed course. Now if only the progressive city of SF would lighten up and support bike racing. RIP GGP.
Travis did a great job with the race report below, so see his for full details on the Men’s B race. Here is my side of the story.
Arrived at the Cal Fire training center in Bonny Doon not really knowing what to expect of the course. I saddled up and hopped onto the course for a couple pre-laps. It had lots of switchbacks in real fluffy loose dirt that created a cloud behind you as you rode. The next thing I knew, I was on a piece of singletrack in the forest with no sign of course markers…did I just get lost? I kept going forward for a couple hundred feet of awesomeness before finding the next course marker. Rad. This is going to be fun.
Spirits were high at the starting line in the 3rd row next to Travis, Scott, and Nick. Homies Walter and Garrett were in the mix, as well as a bunch of other familiar faces from the basp and norcal races.
The whistle blew and I started to pedal. I got a good jump off the line and no joke, a ray of light came down from the heavens and opened up a hole to the front of the pack. I floored it and was able to grab the holeshot before the first gravel turn. I was able to hold onto it until the loose uphill right hand turn before you left the woods. I bobbled a bit and the usual race leaders went by me along with Travis. My legs weren’t feeling too hot at that point, tired from going a little too hard in the first lap.
I could see Travis ahead of me in the switchbacks and I mentally put a target on his back. The rest of the race was focused on riding the parts I felt good in well and not making mistakes in the challenging sections. I caught up to Travis’ wheel on the last lap and thought I could take him in final sprint. Boy was I wrong!
He saw me behind him and took off securing his well deserved 3rd place finish! Stoked. The Surf City crew throws really awesome and fun races. Glad we made it down there and I am looking forward to the next.
I took a couple weeks off cross racing to do the Rapha Gentleman’s Race, and while I got a couple good long road rides in, I was missing some intensity, and feeling rusty with the dirt handling skills. Luckily the course wasn’t super technical. It was kind of flat with a lot of turns like the Sacramento race I did, but instead of grass, is was deep, fluffy, powdery dirt, getting deeper every lap. There was one fluffy run-up, but with some pre-race experimenting, I found the line, and was able to ride it every lap. The dust clouds were coating everything at the tent.
I lined up front row, on the side I wanted, hoping to get a good start, and then they decided to do call-ups, and having only done one Surf City, I didn’t get one, and had to start 3rd row, less than ideal for the sketchy gravel corner we would go sprinting into. I played it safe during the start, and found myself back a lot farther than I wanted to be, and with all the loose dust corners, I had to really work to move up, and saw the lead group of 5 or 6 building a nice gap on the rest of us. Brad was up in it though, so that was cool. I got stuck behind somebody on the singletrack section though the woods, where there was no room to pass, and finally got past everybody I was stuck behind once we came out of the woods, and focused on closing the now even bigger gap up to the lead group.
Luckily they were falling apart a little in front of me. I worked my way up to Brad, who was being blocked hard in a un-classy way by another racer. I passed Brad, and finally forced my way past “Mr. Speed-up-&-cut-you-off”. I caught another rider, and settled in to 3rd. Daryl was giving me gap times and the two leaders were smoking, getting a bigger gap every lap, so I settled into a pace to defend my 3rd. I only crashed once, in a thick dust corner, with the bike somehow landing backwards, and got back up and on it pretty quick.
Brad clawed his way up to me, and actually gave me a run for my money, and we came across the line in a sprint finish together, dude is on fire!
Andrew from Vive-Le-Tart won, and earned himself his final victory before upgrading to the A’s. I plan on trying the A’s myself this coming weekend, and look forward to some serious challenge!
Yet again my Pacenti rims with WTB tires were flawless and fast, and my Hunter frame to seems to yawn at me, asking “Is that all you’ve got? We can go faster.” My Paul MiniMotos are super light, stop better than most of the cross disc brakes I’ve tried, and are made in my hometown Chico, so of course they work great!
Everyone should go check out a Cross Crusade. It’s unlike any cross race I’ve ever done - for one thing, men and women elites race together (along with 35+As) for a whole hour. For another, it’s huge - CC races are the biggest cross events anywhere, as far as I know. Getting beginners to try the sport is a big deal to the promoters, so there are a lot of different categories to handle all the racers and to help people feel comfortable.
Oh yeah, and there is actually mud in Portland. I really am jealous of all the mud. Besides being super fun to ride, mud = no dust.
I got to the venue a bit later than planned, and didn’t have time for much warmup or course inspection. After riding a bit of the course I was pretty excited for the conditions - muddy but super tacky thanks to the sun making a rare appearance. Pretty much ideal for ripping around corners. I scoped out the heckling spots including a sort of hairball off camber descent and a run-up to a hard left to the finish line - genius. I’d already heard stories about how that feature has made for dramatic finishes in the past.
I got a crap start thanks to no call-up (by the time they were done with call-ups, there were only five of us left!) and many rows of ladies, but I started moving up pretty fast. The longer race was tough in many ways, but it somehow felt easier because I was really pacing myself differently. I know I’m not fit enough to go balls out for an hour, so I kept it at a level I knew I could handle. The course was really straightforward with a lot of gravel road flats into the wind (roadie tactics were the deal), two sort of heinous run-ups, a noteworthy absence of barriers and a couple of fun single track sections. My tubulars hooked up great and I didn’t have to dab once, pretty awesome.
7 laps later, I ran the run-up for the last time to finish 14th out of 30 ladies with a huge smile on my face. Of course, my first thought was…it sure would be fun to do a few of these and get a call-up next time! Maybe next year…
Thank you Daryl for the borrowed bike box and Steven for the heated van and VIP bike treatment!
This was my first double header weekend and I think I was equal parts nervous and excited about it going into it Saturday morning.
Sierra Point at night is the most fun race all year because you’re under the lights and there are 10x more people there cheering/heckling. The course was really fast and dusty with a small mud patch and another small sand patch. Nick described the course best (see below!).
I got a 2nd row call up in the B’s based on the last BASP race result and it made all the difference. It was pretty intimidating to look back at the 80+ person field behind me…Got a good jump off the line and tried to hang with the lead group as best I could.
The first half of the race was spent chasing the chase group. I was able to make contact and slowly move past riders 1 at a time. The Hunter bike was doing it’s job, huntin dudes down! (bad joke?) Back to it, I ended up being about 20-30 seconds behind a rider in a polkadot’ish jersy and spent the last 2 laps trying to catch him but no dice. I crossed the line in 6th and couldn’t be more stoked, my best BASP result!
Waking up on Sunday was a little rough and I was not sure if I would be able to race, let alone ride my bike with how sore my legs felt. Packed up the car and cruised out to the Kitten of Vallejo.
The course was completely different from the night before - grass climbs, off camber turns, big sand pit, run ups, baseball diamond loop, and even a jump! I rode a couple pre-laps, felt good, and set out to have fun out there with my teammates Tom and NIck.
I had a front row call up in the B’s and figured I might as well go for it! Got a good jump on the uphill start into the grass soul sucking climb in the holeshot. Somehow I’m smiling in the picture above, but trust me, I was hurting pushing it up that hill!
This was the first time that I have ever led a race and as nervous as that thought made me before, it was completely awesome. I wasn’t working on chasing anyone, just riding my own race. I made it through the majority of the first lap in the lead before a rider passed me, but I got him back on the grass switchbacks. Led the start of the second lap and decided to hit the jump as hard as I could (yolo!). My left foot unclipped when I landed and the chase group went by me. Oh well, it was worth it!
Photo by Caroline
I focused on trying to not make any mistakes, to ride smoothly (thanks Cam!), and keep the power going. The course was super fun, which made the laps go by quickly, and I was able to pass a couple of the riders who had gone by me earlier. I moved up to third place for the last lap and a half, but couldn’t catch #2 and Andrew from Viva La Tarte who won the race.
This was my first podium ever and I’m really happy about how the race went. Huge thanks to Travis and Rick, the team, all of our sponsors, race organizers, and all the riders. Cross is really fun!
Double Race Weekend: Sierra Point & Kitten of Vallejo
It’s been a long time since I’ve raced twice in one weekend, but it’s hard to pass up the opportunity when both races are relatively close to home.
The Sierra Point night race is not only one of the funnest races of the year, it’s also only a twenty-minute drive from San Francisco. The course is wide, mostly flat, bone dry, and not much of a technical challenge. However, there are a couple things that can make it tricky:
- It’s night (duh) and very dusty (duh), which makes the course details difficult to see. Not the end of the world, but it is much better to get a pre-ride in while it is still light out so you can feel out the good lines before darkness covers them up. But even if you do pre-ride the course…
- …small mistakes can add up to lots of lost time. Overshooting turns, getting caught on a dirty line, and bad gear selection can easily cost you a few placings by the end if they happen often enough. Death by a thousand cuts.
This was the first race of the year where I was got a good starting position and was actually able to capitalize on it. The first couple rows on the grid were reserved for call-ups, with the rest filled according to when you registered, and I ended up in the third row (I always pre-reg weeks in advance because I am paranoid.) This put me ahead of most of the traffic before the race even started, and I was able to cling on to the front(ish) group on the first few laps before things strung out and it became a drag race to the finish. The course was fun, the crowd was great, and all four teammates in the race were riding strong.
The Kitten of Vallejo was the following afternoon. This course was completely different from Sierra Point, with lots of elevation, power-sucking grass, and some particularly evil off-camber switchbacks that went up the side of a sandy hill. The field was small but motivated, and it took a few laps before my legs showed up again after the previous night’s thrashing. Murphy was also kind enough to tack on a few extra laps for us since we were the last race of the day. The Bs don’t usually get this kind of treat at other races, and I appreciate the opportunity to squeeze out a little more racing for my money. I’m definitely looking forward to what the SuperPro crew has in store for their series finale.
Not much to report actually, at least for me! I was in the wrong place at the right time during staging and ended up near the back of the grid, and then REALLY in the wrong place at the wrong time on the first lap when a rider tipped over in front of a group of us on the ride-up to the stairs. The few seconds we lost getting around the spontaneous roadblock was all the front half of the field needed to scoot up the hill and open a gap that few were able to bridge. I spent the rest of the race trying to find a my own groove and counting off laps.
The one thing that did go well was my core strength. Stafford Lake has always been hell on my back and midsection not only during the race but also for a day or two afterwards, thanks to all the gopher holes and rutted hardpack. I’ve been doing core exercises lately to prepare for the season, and Stafford proved that they worked! I felt more smoother over the rough stuff and was able to put power down in the last half noticeably better than in previous years.
It was great hanging out with Heather, Tom, Jon and Brad. The team vibe is always awesome, even when your race doesn’t go well. Stafford Lake also has great facilities, the park staff are nice, the community seems genuinely supportive of the racing scene, and it’s just a damn beautiful place to race at. I hope it stays active as a race venue for many years to come.