Friday, July 15, 2011

7/9-10 Downieville All Mountain Championships Race Report

Last year they barely got the snow cleared in time for the Downieville Classic, and this year there was even more snow!  This led to a cross country course re-route, cutting out Sunrise Trail, the traverse over to the "baby heads" and Pauley Creek Trail.  Cutting out about 8 miles and to me, what really makes this a cross country race instead of one big climb then a downhill race.  Even with cutting out all that mileage, they had to shovel and snow-blow out the top of Butcher Ranch trail.  Normally I try to get up there and pre-ride a few times before the race, but this year I only made it one time.  And since the top wasn't accessible yet, I rode up the downhill trails (you don't realize how steep they really are until you ride UP them! No wonder we go so fast!) to the snow line. Most of what I rode that day was in very similar condition to last year, but as I learned during the race, what I didn't ride got gnarly.

The Santa Cruz Tallboy would be my race rig set up with WTB Stryker TCS XC 29 wheels WTB Wolverine 2.2 tires.  Even with the 774g tires (my usual XC tires are 560g) she weighed in at 25.12lbs all set up with the spare tube and Garmin taped on the frame.  Sweet.
I got in a good warm up and lined up at the front next to a few other fast guys, Carl Decker (last years winner), Aaron Bradford and Sid Taberlay to name a few.
Once the gun went off it was on... with 700+ other guys and gals who willingly paid a lot of money to suffer up the climb from Sierra City, about 3200 vertical feet.  But it's for a good cause right?  No... not just to get the free beer at the end, but to promote the building and preservation of some pretty awesome trails.  Well suffer fest it was as in years past.  The pace started out fairly calm but then picked up after about a 1/4 mile when a guy from the Marc Pro / Strava road team went off the front.  I think all of us in the lead group thought to ourselves... "Nah... not yet, we're still on the pavement dude."  It got a little more stretched out and the pace seemed to progressively pick up when we hit the dirt, and I think I was in the top 15 or so.
Not much to talk about with the climb, it's a steep, loose fire road that climbs 3000+ feet in 8 miles... it hurts. I pretty much spend my time picking my lines to make sure I don't slip out and staring at my heart rate trying to keep a strong pace but not blow up.  I wasn't able to keep up with the lead few unfortunately and crested the top in about 10th, in just about 54 minutes.  This is where the course deviation began.  Instead of diving into Sunrise Trail, we turned down the paved road for maybe a half mile, trying not to slip out on the wet snow run-off going 30-something mph on tires you have just a little more inflated then normal because it's Downieville and you hit big rocks, hard.  I dove into the Butcher Ranch fire road just a little fast, hit the first hump and launched!  I landed with just enough time to lock up the rear and hit the berm for the corner.  Phew!  That was almost bad.  The road was in pretty good shape for the first few hundred yards, then started the snow run off and water crossings.  And boy were those deep!  I tried to wheelie across the first one and came up a little short, the front wheel dove into a hole and I just about endo'd.  I kept on through the few mud bogs and then through the last g-out before putting on my glasses.  Didn't want a ton of spackle on there when I entered the trees.  I had to slow a bit to put them on and Kenny Burt went blazing by.  I tried to catch up but he was a man on a mission!  And I still hadn't seen this part of the trail yet this year.  With all the snow run off, a lot of the dirt had washed away leaving a much gnarlier, rockier, flow-breaking trail than I remembered. This is the part of my race which really frustrated me.  I really tensed up and went into survival mode, trying to protect body and bike.  I lost a lot of time there, but finally made it to the "waterfall" which was roaring.  I played it safe and decided to run through it.  Pansy.
Shortly after the waterfall I was passed by Greg Stone who I've been evenly matched with the last few races, but he's a better descender than I am.  So I stuck on his back wheel since I knew the trail from here on and I knew he'd be predictable and pick good lines.  Once we finished up Butcher we crossed the bridge and started up "Cramp Climb" as I like to call it.  Because after the hour long climb and then being in a neutral descending stance for the next 10 minutes or so, that's just what happens.  Greg cramped but kept going, and it was the same for me.  I could still pedal but I couldn't push it as hard as I wanted.  Aaron Timmel didn't cramp I guess, because he was able to pass me just as we crested the top and started the super fast 3rd Divide Trail.  I let him by because I figured he wouldn't hold me up and I still wouldn't lose sight of Greg.  Well I guess Aaron blew himself up a bit on that climb because right away I was on his wheel and Greg was gone, dang.  After a little bit I asked to pass and he pulled over in a good spot and I put the hammer down.  3rd Divide trail is so awesome.  Warp speed... trees blurred, eyes tearing (from wind, and joy), knuckles white, and heart rate pegged.  I get to the bottom and climb up onto the fire road and Aaron passes me again along with Kevin Smallman, dang.  I stay with them all the way down into 1st divide and we're riding it all together.  That was pretty fun, hammering as hard as we can racing together at D'ville... that NEVER happens!  It's usually so spread out.  We catch as pass Menso De Jong (fast MTBer turned Pro Roadie) on the lower portion of 1st divide, on a climb no less, which I was really surprised about.  But as soon as I dropped down onto the road for the last "TT" to the finish Menso and his 6'6" legs power on by, wow.  I rolled into the finish with a 14th place of the Pro Men but 12th in the Pro All Mountain field.  Pretty good for me considering it was a much more downhiller friendly course this year and I totally seized up on upper Butcher.

This year I wasn't staying in Downieville for the weekend but elected to drive to/from home each day.  2hrs each way probably didn't help my recovery and prep, but it was nice to see Jen (and my Mom who was visiting and helping Jen out with our reg/timing duties with TBF), eat good food and sleep in a real bed.  Only problem was that Jen had to get up at 3:45am each morning and on Saturday she accidentally turned my alarm off too!  Thankfully I woke up just 20 minutes after I was supposed to get up!  But that was a real "OH @#%#" moment!

I didn't have the alarm issue on Sunday thankfully and made it up there early enough to catch a ride to the top with Billy Damon, but I forgot my water bottle in the car!  Doh!  Thanks to Cody Kaiser for lending me a spare Kinetic Cycles bottle... it was even red and matched my kit too.  I got in a good warmup and was in the start gate early, the 20th rider to go off.  I was determined to have a better run through upper Butcher, and I did.  I was able to stay much more loose and try to flow with the trail a little better.  I made it to the waterfall with confidence and a good line and was determined to ride it.  I went up over the first rock and when I took a pedal stroke to power up over the next rock there was nothing there, the chain had fallen off!  So I pogo'd off that rock and got bounced into the bushes to the left.  I hopped off and put the chain back on, remounted and rode out the rest of the waterfall from there.  After that I felt clean, smooth and fast all the way down to 1st Divide where I think I rode that as fast as I ever have.

I still play things fairly conservative though, just not quite willing to leave D'ville by helo or ambulance I suppose.  I came across the line with a time of 42:08, 3 minutes and 18 seconds back from the DH winner Aaron Bradford.  That put me into 19th for the DH, and with the new points system I came in 17th for the overall All Mountain World Championships.  And if they still calculated it by combined time, I would have placed 11th.  I'm happy with a top 20 either way and a fun weekend!

After the DH race I went for a little exploration and had some fun cruising on the South Yuba Trail.  That is some tight, real true singletrack!  Fun stuff!  And some good views too.

Just found this nice little video recap of the weekend on