Monday, May 28, 2012

5/19 - Sierra Cup Series #2 - Pine Nut Cracker

Coming off of a great 1st round of racing for the Sierra Cup Series at the Rockhopper Classic in Vacaville, I had my sights set on round two and another fun course at the Pine Nut Cracker in Gardnerville, NV.  But I really had to focus on my recovery during the week, that effort at Rockhopper capping off a 17+ hour week of riding really took it out of me.  Thankfully it was perfectly timed with an off week from Wednesday night races at Prairie City, so Jen and I went sailing in SF bay instead... and it was even a race!  A very fun and necessary break, both mentally and physically.

Anyways... back to Nevada at 5200ft... In years prior I had always ridden a full suspension on this course because it's pretty gradual climbing and almost constant seated pedaling over moto trails (a.k.a.- lots of small roller bumps).  But since it's not very rocky, I decided to give the Highball a shot this year.  And I was happy I did.  Combined with the fast rolling WTB Nano's... it was a rocket!

I took the lead right from the gun and tried to push through that first 5 minutes of leg burn that always seems to hurt the worst.  I guess it's the body saying "Oh not this again..."  But I got through it and onto the singletrack and I could hear one person in tow, but I was trying not to look back and just keep the power down.  The first half of the loop is a deceptive climb.  With all the rollers, small and big, there are lots of false flats where you don't think you're climbing but you are.  There's one steep and loose climb which I made up in lap 1 (but not 2&3 due to it getting chewed up by other racers hiking) and a couple other good pitches that sear the lungs, legs, and let you know you're climbing at elevation.  But the payoff is a long, gradual downhill with banked turns, rollers to pump and double and bushes to duck under while brake drifting.

I set off down the hill, still in the lead, and decided I was going to try to keep up with the lead moto who rides out front making sure the trail is clear from other users.  So at every opportunity I was sprinting and pushing the pace, absolutely railing this trail (pats self on back) and staying on his wheel.  Off road motor-pacing?!?!?! YES PLEASE!!!  BRAAAP!!! 

I swear I was smiling ear to ear, well, if I could.  I was totally gassed and going all out.  I was getting a bit dusted from the moto and couldn't really see the trail  in the faster sections.  But since I knew there weren't really many rocks to be had I just listened to his throttle and watched his suspension to know what was coming for me.  I was up and out of the saddle hammering but staying loose ready to absorb anything.  He would look back every now and then and I could see his eyes widen and he'd hit the throttle, surprised to see me so close (I talked with him after the race) until we hit the open rocky meadow with a gradual climb.  Couldn't keep up with him as easily there... but after a few more rollers there was a fast (top gear and pedaling) downhill and I was back on his wheel again to the last steep descent where I decided I could go as fast as he was willing to take those off camber turns too.  Again... FUN!!  Except he just got to twist the throttle up the last leg burning climbs to complete the lap.  Cheater.

I've always told myself that smooth and fun is fast, and that was certainly true here.  As I started lap two, my chasers were nowhere in sight.  Even as far back as I could see on the dirt road before entering the singletrack again.  But I still had my lead moto and I kept my pace as high as I could. 

He stayed a little farther ahead of me on this lap but I still was in super shred mode and put in a 36 minute lap time, starting lap 3 at 1hr 16min into the race.  Which meant that I had a good chance of finishing in under two hours if I kept the pace up.  This was great motivation though and I knew it would be hard.  I always believe that someone is going to sneak up and catch me near the end, so it helped to have something to shoot for and help me keep the pace up.  Thankfully nobody appeared after a fun 31 miles and I rolled across the line with about 4 minutes to spare before that 2hr mark for the win.


  1. Great ride Clint. Love reading the posts as this is my first year racing at all and have only been riding for about a year and a half. So you were the guy on the Highball! Saw it and wondered who it was riding such a nice new rig, then saw you pull up to the Cat 1 corral and figured you were a pro rider.

    So how much training do you do for these races? Like I said, this was my first race and I really enjoyed it (Cat 3, 19-39) even with coming in second to last. Just means I need to get out and ride a bit harder and more often, right?!

    1. Thanks! And glad you enjoyed your first race! Sounds like you've caught the bug too. No need to train as much as I do (6-7 days a week) since you're just getting into it. Riding more often and a couple hard rides a week would be a good start :-).

    2. Thanks Clint! Luckily I live here and have a TH about 2 miles from my house. Looks like I will be using my Kona Jake for some fireroad climbing and riding a bit more (and this is a problem how?!).

      My ultimate goal is to be in a good enough position next year to compete in the Steamboat Stinger put on my HoneyStinger.