Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fontana City Nationals

I made the 6hr (each way) trip down to southern California for the first stop on the USAC National Calendar and Fontana City Nationals/Pro XCT #1 last weekend.  Saturday morning my brother DJ and I went out for a pre ride of the xc course, and I really needed to loosen my legs up after Friday night's drive.  To start it off, there were 30-50mph winds bucking around the hills which is just not enjoyable to say the least.  I hate wind, it wriled me up and I get really agitated way to easily.  I had brought two wheelsets with different tire setups and I wanted to try out my "risky" and lightweight combo first.  A setup that was against the advise of most everyone I'd talked to.  We set off on the course, which is dry, loose, sandy, and rocky.  And for Cat 1's we got to climb the big hill that the pro's pedal as well, which they say goes to 30% incline and is quite loose.  The rest of the course consisted of tight single track with short "punchy" climbs you just have to stand up for and power over.  There is a fun singletrack section on the back which I had fun railing and then it drops into flat sections back to the finish.  I quickly learned that my "risky" tire setup (WTB Wolverine 1.95 front and WTB Vulpine SL 1.9 rear) was just a bad choice for that course because of the very loose conditions requiring more rubber, the rocky sections requiring more volume, and the wind bucking around creating general unstability.  After one prelap I was eager to get back to the car and change wheels to my trusty WTB Nano 2.1 front and rear setup (go-to favorite).  After the first few turns on prelap 2 I was instantly more comfortable.  I got to know the course a little better but really just wanted to get out of the wind.  I left the site not feeling very good about my prelaps and in a general fussy mood...
A bad dress rehearsal makes for a good performance...
8:30am race day morning... NO WIND!!!  It was a beautiful day and the sun was hot, luckily my race was early enough that temps were still perfect.  After a good warmup I was ready, but not feeling as great as I did two weeks prior at the Cool MTB Race.  My goal for this race was to come in with a top 5 time over all Cat 1 age groups, one of the requirements for a USAC pro upgrade.  It's a tall order but I've been working hard and I feel I can do it.  On the start line I'm nothing but a figity mess with a heart rate of 135 just sitting there waiting.  The whistle blows and we're off and I get a great start!

After a few turns and the initial start sprints I settle in at 4th.  We make our way to the base of the famous climb and I pass for 1st.  I ride up about half way but have to get off and run it, which is just as fast it's so steep.  A couple guys were able to ride past initially but eventually everyone was running.  I get to the top in 3rd and play a little catch up on the single track.  After a few turns and climbs on the fun stuff I'm in 1st and pulling away, already catching some of the Pro SS, 30-34 and 35-39 groups that started before me.
I'm feeling great going into lap 2 and DJ tells me my lap time is not far back off of the leaders.  No issues on lap 2 and just tried to settle in to a good fast pace.  Into the start/finish shoot beginning lap 3 DJ tells me my lap times again and I yell to Jen for a bottle next time by.  Then I lean in to hug the inside of the left turn like before but BAM my left elbow smacks a gate that is sticking out more than the others into the corner.  I stayed upright but blood was instantly gushing off my elbow and I could feel it running down my arm into my glove.  I look down and see a lot of blood but it doesn't look serious, I still have full movement, so I continue on.  I'm still catching and passing people on lap 3 and feeling great.  But I think I may have started to loose focus a little because I got caught by one of the 19-24 guys that started with me.  I let him by after the first section of single track and stayed on his wheel.  He was pushing a good pace for a while but then either he petered out or I got another dose of energy because I dropped him as soon as we got to the flats.  At the start of the final lap DJ tells me I'm about 40 seconds off the 5th place pace as I get passed by another younger rider.  I stay on his wheel and we work together for a while, but he was a better climber and my quads started to fire slower and seemed like they were wanting to cramp on my standing efforts.  I pushed as hard as I could and was able to reel him back in on the back half of the course but he got me by 2 seconds and I had cut that 40 second gap off of 5th to 21 seconds.  I finished 1st in my age group, by 5 minutes, but was still dissapointed that I missed my goal by so close, feeling I could have pushed a little harder.  But in reality I did the best I could have hoped for, especially when I'm competing against guys I can't see who start at different times.

Now the wait for the Super D... about five hours.  I watch DJ race Cat 2 and he was doing great, in the top 3 overall, until the last lap when he was battling cramps.  Come to find out his race was only supposed to be three laps, but they changed it to 4 laps on the start line!!!  So he wasn't prepared for that length with food and water.  He still managed a 3rd place finish in his Cat 2 age group though!
After some more waiting around I go check out the crazy guys on the DH course.  There was a nasty "waterfall" section that at least half of the guys crashed on and a handfull weren't able to continue on.  But I have to say it was definately exciting to watch!  Killing time was finally over and I take one pre ride of the Super D course to see how it has changed after all the day's XC racing.  It's gotten even looser but it was generally the same second half of the xc course I'd raced earlier that morning.
The Super D always has some sort of circus act for a start, but this one was pretty mellow.  They had us run uphill on the pavement to where our bikes were leaning against a fence before mounting and taking off.  Once on the bike I'm in 3rd place and the trail splits for a climb.  The guy in front of me cuts me off to take the route I prefer and I settle in behind him looking to pass.  Then he CRASHES ON THE CLIMB!!!  Sprawling about on the whole trail so I have to dismount and run... as the freight train goes by.  I'm so pissed at this point once I'm mounted back up and to the top of the climb I'm going all out.  But I feel like everyone is gone, and I can't see anyone close.  I still push as hard as I can, and I catch a couple riders spread out along the single track descent.  I'm made some risky passes in bushes and where there is no trail, almost over shoot a few corners as I jump into them over the rocks or skid on the brake bumps.  On a few of the g-outs I hear my tires roll over a little but the bead holds and after powering through the flat section at the bottom I can see two more riders going up the last rockly/loose climb ahead.  I power up it and begin closing on them.  I close the gap on one guy and make a close pass in the very last corner as we go into the finish shoot.  Turns out that pass was for 2nd place!  1st place was the next guy 3 seconds away... so close!  But I was stoked to have battled back to a great finish after a horrible start.