Sunday, June 26, 2011

6/25 Annadel XC Race

So one of the answers to solving the CA budget crisis is to close a bunch (70 was the last number I heard) of State Parks.  Yeah, the places where people go to enjoy our beautiful state, get active and healthy.  Really makes sense to close recreational areas when another main political initiative is to promote an active and healthy lifestyle right?  Anyways, Bike Monkey Magazine decided to do something about it since one of Nor-Cal's MTB/hiking/horseback riding gem's was on the chopping block: Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa.  They worked their tails off and somehow got the OK to host a MTB race there, the first one in about 25 years, with proceeds to go towards keeping Annadel SP open for all to use.  And what an awesome event it was!

We (all 615 of us!) started out in downtown Santa Rosa in front of city hall in a massive "neutral" start going up Sonoma Ave. towards Howarth Park.  This neutral start was supposed to be a 15mph conversational pace until Yulupa Ave. and then we'd get a 1/4 mile to put the pedals down before hitting the trails.  I say "supposed to be" because it went quickly up to 20mph as we followed the Bike Monkey truck, and then faster, 24, 26, and I worked my way out of the middle of the peloton and up to 27/28mph to the front and tucked in behind my buddy Keith Hillier who was motor-pacing behind the truck.  
Do these look like the faces of riders during a neutral start???

We got to the cross street BEFORE Yulupa Ave. and the driver gassed it... uh ok, I guess we're going now!  I just stayed in behind Keith, who's a Cat 1 road racer btw, and didn't get anxious as more riders worked their way up to the front.  When I got to where we could finally see the trail head, I worked my way to the outside and up to 28+ and went around into a good spot, fitting in about 13th or so as we hit the first fire road climb.  

The first climb was actually pretty steep and loose, the perfect combination to sort out those who maybe shouldn't be up in the front for a MTB race.  And that it did as our lead group seemed to pull a gap on the rest of the field.  We kept climbing and the leaders were charging hard.  I kept in contact but didn't feel the need to blow up and stay in right up there on them since there were so many miles left.  And frankly, I just don't have that "burst" gear right now.  Just the big diesel motor.  

We entered into Annadel SP with some tight singletrack and I caught back up to the group as we traversed over to the Cobblestone Trail downhill.  It wasn't too steep or technical but there were definitely some places you could make some mistakes easily and ruin your day early if you caught a sharp rock wrong, slipped off a root or missed a turn.  A NorCal Bikesport (local Santa Rosa bike shop) rider came up behind me and said he knows the trail and wanted by.  No problem and there was a dual line banked corner coming up so I let him have the inside and then I got back on his wheel as he showed me the best lines.  We got to the bottom where we started the Channel Dr. flat road section at about 20 seconds back from the lead 7 or so riders.  We had some fun rolling singletrack along the road for a half mile or so before turning up the Richardson Trail fire road climb.  I dug in and found a good rhythm and passed up to 6th by the top.  I could see the lead group where it was open and they were maybe 10-15 seconds ahead.  

We got into some singletrack and fun rocky riding on North Burma and Live Oak trails and made our way around Lake Ilsanjo to climb up the back side of Richardson.  This was a bit of smooth fire road and when I came around the corner on the first climb I could tell there was a shake-up with the front group.  It looked like two riders had attacked off the front, leaving Dario Frederick, Will Curtis, and Brian Astell in a chase group.  Brian fell back a little as we got into the beautiful wooded climbing on Richardson and I made the pass into 5th.  We had some more climbing to do on South Burma trail where it got rocky and my Tallboy really shined.  Will fumbled a bit on a rock and slipped his rear wheel into a rut and allowed me to close right up.  I followed him as he caught back up to Dario and then made the pass on them both into 3rd before a sweet bit of rocky and tight DH on Marsh trail and extended a little gap.  

Then came pretty much the reward for doing the long loop with the Lawndale Downhill.  Here you can really open her up and fly through the trees like a storm trooper in the Ewok Forest.  Here's a YouTube video (not me, just one I found while doing my "virtual preride" of the course) if you have 9 minutes to sit back and enjoy the ride.  I was having a blast and the Tallboy was just floating as I opened up the fork to 120mm and sat back.  I was getting a little spoiled with fantastic dirt conditions as I went into a right hand turn (time-stamp 2:53 on that youtube video I believe) and it was just a bit more loose than the others and my front wheel washed out.  I saved it from a fall but the front wheel slid into the bank and sprung back to the right and my body was so far over to the left from saving the slide I was completely out of position now and the bike was pointed off the trail.  I pulled myself back up right as the bike went off the trail and started going down the hill to the right.  "$#@&!!!" At that point I just laid it down on the left side to save time and body from a bigger trip down the hill.  Just loosing a few seconds I hustled back up a few feet to the trail, remounted and went back to work.  Whoa, ok settle down, deep breath... stay loose and find flow again.  I got calmed down after a few more swoopy turns of DH fun and reached the bottom of Lawndale and jumped the gate into the parking lot where there was a crowd cheering me on... awesome!  The race director had previously said that Camelbak would be at the base of Lawndale handing out bottles and I was counting on that.  I had rationed perfectly and made the turn in the parking lot taking my last swig and ditched the empty as the Camelbak guys came through with their Podium Chill bottle filled with nice cold water.  Nice... thanks guys!

Not having to worry about fluids anymore (it was in the back of my mind until that point) I chugged Hammer Gel and water as I climbed up Lawndale and Schulz road.  I could see the lead two riders and they were about 35 seconds (according to a helpful spectator) ahead as we climbed.  This road section wound about on a one lane bit of tarmac and it was kind of fun to rail the turns and make the knobbies hum.  I came around the last bend and saw a CHP cruiser roadblock and knew it would be back to the dirt and arguably the hardest climb of the day on Schulz trail.  

The Schulz climb becomes almost continuous rock as you climb and is pretty rough pedaling.  This climb was my deciding factor in choosing the Tallboy over the Highball (hardtail) for the day.  Boy was I glad.  The suspension and big wheels soaked up the bumps and I could stay seated, keeping the power down, and I caught and passed the #2 rider as we got into the winding trees of Pig Flat and Ridge trails.  These wooded trails were super flowy and full of MTB awesomeness.  Swooping in and out of the trees, up and down, in and around rocks and roots.  The kind of trails that almost make you forget you're in a race.  I did say almost, because I could see the leader as we wrapped around the contours and I was getting closer.  I was also riding scared because I was sure Dario, Will, Brian, Jason Moeschler or Mark Weir (and many more in this packed field!) would be catching me at any point.  Especially Jason and Mark, known for their descending and trail hammering skills, after the Lawndale DH.  So I kept pushing.  But each time I pushed a little harder the leg cramps would start to creep up and I'd have to back off.  So I'd play this game with my legs and tiptoe that line of pushing too hard and seizing up yet still being fast.  I still seemed to be gaining ground on the leader, Aaron Timmel, as we began the gradual descent of Canyon trail.  We broke out of the trees and the trail opened up to more of a fire road, but it was quite rocky.  I pushed it and flirted with the out of control line, two wheel drifting into corners and sprinting out of them if my legs would allow it.  More and more hikers and spectators began to line the trail and I knew we must be getting close to the finish.

I was close, about 10 seconds, inner thigh muscles fully cramped up and giving it all I had when we came around a left turn and I saw the finish line ahead.  I just ran out of real estate but I'm totally stoked on 2nd place!  I think if there was another climb, I could have taken it, but who knows?  It was a great race.  I rolled up to Aaron after the line and congratulated him on a great race.  He said "Man you were like the ghost in the woods!  You suddenly appeared out of nowhere!"  3rd, 4th and 5th soon rolled in to high fives from Aaron and I and we were all smiles after a great race on awesome trails.  

I quickly pedaled over and found Jen and gave her a big dirty, smelly hug and kiss :-).  

And then I got my free burrito and beer... Mmmmmm!

Fast company!

Hopefully we helped save the park, sure had a good time there.  As I rolled back to where our car was parked at the start I was a little jealous of all the people who lived in the houses I passed by.  You guys are lucky, get out there and enjoy it!

Here's my route/ride data from the GPS:


  1. great race bro! good read too :) I start to envision this nice calm ride until you start talking about double wheel drifts and leg cramps. then i remember, "oh yeah, those guys are cookin!"

  2. Stellar performance Clint! Great finish and thanks for representing! -mad cat mike

  3. Clint do you now have a Highball as well as your hardtail Giant?

    Great races...great results..and against some serious competition.

    How did the wrist turn out btw?

  4. Thanks Eric!

    I swapped out the XTC frame with the Highball. Still trying to sell the Giant frame.

    The earliest appt. the Ortho doc had was 7/18 so I still haven't been in yet. It's not hurting much anymore, but I can easily tweak it the wrong way still and make it hurt.