Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fontana Pro XCT #2 / US Cup Triple Crown #2 Race Report

The Fontana race week started off with some good news, my new Giant XTC 29er hard tail finally got built and I was able ride it for the first time on a Tuesday night.  It's my first hard tail so it was nice to get a 20 mile ride in before heading down to the race.  I raced at Fontana last year so I knew the course and had a suspicion that the hardtail might be the better choice over the Tallboy, since the course consists of short punchy climbs and there's not really any rough pedaling sections.  I prerode the course on Friday and I was feeling pretty good on the XTC for the course but my only hesitation was the 1x10 gearing setup with a 36 tooth front chainring.  The course sends us up a very steep climb which could cause problems without having an easier gear.  I was able to ride "The Wall" a few times during my preride so I committed to the XTC.  I figured the gearing was going to be hard but it would force me to push it and go all out which is what I needed to do anyways.

The 2pm race time came on Saturday and I set off with a hundred or so other dudes around the start loop (which would be Sunday's short track course).  I had a start position in the 40's which wasn't bad and was up a few positions until we got to the first choke point.  It's a 180 degree left turn with a line through two boulders only a few riders ride.  And of course someone fumbled there and we had to stop, just before I got through.  Then as I'm scurrying to figure out how to get by, I see a group of guys dismounting and hopping over the ribbon cyclocross style and shortcutting the corner.  I scrambled to do the same as the pack was getting away, but I was really annoyed that 10-15 guys just got to leap frog me like that.  Oh well, a little anger helps put the hammer down. 

Here's a little video:
We finished the start loop and headed up towards "The Wall" where I learned that there was one important aspect in my bike choice and gearing I didn't consider: OTHER rider's gearing!  With so many riders around and in front of me and nowhere to pass on that steep, loose climb I had no choice but to ride at their speed.  Well they had a granny gear and could sit and spin but I couldn't.  And I wasn't able to maintain such a low rpm while standing.  And there began my day of having to run up this climb.  The rest of the course was pretty fun, but the combination of my gearing and not being used to hardtail style riding (standing and mashing) really wore me down.  There's not a whole lot of area to pass in places where I excel.  Needless to say I didn't have a very good day.  I see-sawed with a few guys at various times but I don't believe I was passed after the second lap.  Unfortunately because of that first lap mess and having to get off the bike a few times due to traffic, the field became very stretched out and I just couldn't make up a whole lot of positions.  I ended up 49th for the day but I didn't get pulled or lapped! 
Super D was just a couple hours after the end of the XC and I was spent, cold (nasty wind came up), and very hungry!  I hid out in the car and scarfed down some food.  I'd heard that the Super D course had changed from last year and was more technical, awesome!  I switched my number over to the Tallboy and set out to check out the course.  The course started at the top of the big hill, yeah... the one I'd just climbed 5 times in the xc race!  I climbed up the road to check out the lower half of the course first since time was running short.  I dropped in and was rolling through some good rocky stuff when "PSSHHHshshshhhhh!" went the air out of my front tire!  Ahh!  I did NOT have time for this!  AND I didn't have any CO2 with me.  I rolled the rest of the way down the course to check it out with maybe 5psi left in the front tire, trying my best not to ding the rim. 
Back from the car I rode the lower section again and then rode up to the top where they were staging for the race.  Everyone was hunkered down behind rocks and bushes trying to stay out of the biting wind.  I walked down the first few turns of the course that I hadn't seen and watched the first five riders go by, checking out their lines since I hadn't seen the course.  My time finally came and as I rolled up to the line the start official told me I had a ghost in front of me.  This was good news since we were only 30 seconds apart and the course was proper singletrack with no real room to pass. 
15 seconds... go on the sixth beep... breathe, breathe.... beep beep beep beep.... clip in... GO!  Down the first bit of rocks, feeling some flow, start to pedal and the foot comes unclipped!  Ahh... c'mon be smooth!  Clipped back in and I get around the first switchback, man I'm all over the place.  Be smooth, then fast!  Ok after the next switchback there's another set of rocks to shred and a drop with a blind line I learned about from walking down to that section.  After I start to feel good and get some good pedaling in, but now I'm getting into the part of the course I haven't seen.  This area has some consequence as it's on the side of a hill and there are blind corners because of the vegetation and rocks.  I took it a bit easy here, adhearing to Jen's #1 rule (don't die), but I was having a blast and really kicking myself that I didn't make the time to preride the course!  I could have really railed it!  When I got down to the flats I had caught the guy who started a minute before me and then caught another.  I hammered as best I could on fried legs and they began to cramp badly.  But just 20 more seconds of pain and I was across the finish line.  I finished 26th out of about 65 which I'm pretty happy about considering I didn't preride.  
The next day was round three, the short track race.  It was at 4pm and I was feeling a little drained so I tried something new... coffee.  Wow, I was ready to go!  That was great, after just one cup I saddled up the XTC and got a really good warmup in, lined up and was ready to attack.  I was mid pack on the start grid and it was a pretty big group with 64 racers.  The gun went off and the craziness started.  Gee... hope my muscles don't mind being oxygen deprived!  I moved up a few positions and managed to make it through the hairpin choke point ok.  As you can see in the video:

I kept moving up as the laps continued and was feeling great considering how spent I was the day before.  Was it the coffee???  Maybe, I need to remember that! 

The field got pretty strung out after a couple laps, it's just the way it is.  If you start where I did you need an unbelievable start or be super human to get to the front group.  I think I was in the top 25 or so after a few laps in coming through the start finish at about 25mph I'm in the open I set up wide for the left hand turn when out of nowhere I feel another rider trying to come around my right side.  There's not enough room and he takes out my right elbow and handlebar... we both get bucked.  My wheel got crossed up and I took a dive to the dirt, trying to tuck my left side down and roll it out.  My left shoulder took a good hit and as I stood up I saw the other rider still tumbling through the tape and crowd.  Both of my knees were bloody, left elbow, and it wasn't showing through but my left hip and shoulder were rashed up pretty good too.  There was no killer pain so I picked up the bike and hopped on giving it what I had left before things started to stiffen up.  I was able to pass a couple riders back over the next couple laps but ended up in a disappointing 47th place.  With lingering injuries to boot.  After the race my left wrist really started to hurt, stiffen up, swell, and change color.  Great.

No comments:

Post a Comment