So as you can see, it pedals well... REALLY well. I was truly amazed. But what I was really looking for after feeling a little beat up in last year's race on my "regular" Tallboy, was improved downhill performance. And OH MY did this bike have it! It is an absolute monster truck on the downhills and eats everything! I was having SO much fun! And dropper seatposts are awesome!! (took me a while to remember I had one)
Sidenote: Yeah, the bikes being named the same thing is a little confusing, especially to Jen when trying to tell her why I was getting this bike. "Why are you getting the SAME bike?" "No, they're not the same... this one says 'LT' so it's different." So Santa Cruz if you're listening... it might increase sales and make it easier for guys to pitch it to their wives if you start to name bikes a little more uniquely :-). For now... I just refer to the "regular" Tallboy as 'Red' (red graphics) and the LT as 'Orange' (orange graphics). Now back to the show...
Two things I learned on my preride though was a) I still really don't like wearing hydration backpacks and b) the 36 tooth 1x10 setup that came with the bike wasn't fast enough and I was topping out the gears on the downhills. The solution to the first problem involved some velcro, electrical tape, and robbing a bottle cage from my road bike to create a conveniently mounted bottle cage on the top tube... BRILLIANT! Works like a charm! And the solution to problem #2 involved cannibalizing 'Red' for it's double chainrings and shifter. It made for a bit of a cluttered handlebar with the seatpost button, 2 shifters, 2 brake levers, and a garmin, but it was the ticket.
I was able to get up and ride the course a couple more times and was feeling pretty confident on my new steed in a short time. I even felt comfortable on the infamous "waterfall" section of the downhill which I've never had the confidence to ride previously.
Race morning... I was a big pack of nerves! So it was really, really nice that Jen was able to get the day off from working the TBF Tri-4-Fun and come join me for her first D'ville Classic.
|The nice send-off before I warm up and she heads up to the top of the climb for a bottle handoff .|
Since I was racing the two day "All Mountain" I would have to weigh the bike before each day's race to make sure I didn't switch any parts. The XL framed, 5+ inch travel, 29 inch wheeled race steed came in to just 27lbs... nice! My choice of tires for the race would be a WTB Bronson 29 2.2 Race up front and a WTB Wolverine 29 2.2 Race in the rear. I went with this setup because of the high volume in both and the fact that they still grip really well when the psi is pumped way up (necessary for the Downieville rocks and speed).
I warmed up for a while but my legs just felt a little flat. I lined up on the front row next to many big names (Decker, Craig, Moeschler, Taberlay, Riffle, etc. etc...) hoping that my legs would get opened up quickly on the climb before all these guys would get away. And with a silent 5 second countdown... GO!!! We were off on the 8 mile, 3000ft climb to the top which never gets any easier. Everyone stayed calm on the first section of pavement and there weren't any breakaways, but the pace certainly picked up just before we made the turn to the dirt. I settled in farther back than I was hoping for, maybe about 20th. But after a few minutes on the dirt I started to gain some ground back and pass a few guys. I settled in the steady climb and was lucky enough to have two songs stuck in my head: "Whistle" by Flo Rida and, of course, "Call Me Maybe." I guess they were on the radio during the drive up. But there was no way I was able to whistle or sing along... I was pegged with my heart rate hovering about 175 and it would stay that way for the 37 minutes it would take me to get to "the turn" with 2400 feet of the climbing complete. This is my usual spot to take on some Hammer Gel and recover for a couple pedal strokes, but my heart rate only would get down to 167 before getting back on it and to stay with Kenny Burt who had just passed me and to keep Jason Moeschler in sight. One more steep climb and I'd pass Kenny back before we begin the traverse over to the top at Packer Saddle (still climbing, just gradual). This is always where I hope to make up some ground and stay as hard on the pedals as I was when it was steep. I kept on it and did make a few passes but it's hard to break away on your own and I ended up pulling three or four riders up to the last climb before the top where they passed... and I was hurting. I could tell that I was getting pretty dehydrated and my bottle was empty. But thankfully Jen was there at the top for the liquid replacement. I crested the top in 13th place at about 54 minutes, which I was disappointed with... I know I could do closer to 50, but the legs just weren't there.
I entered Sunrise trail behind Moeschler and Duncan Riffle, and hoped I'd be able to stick with them. But I was surprised that Riffle was actually holding me up... must be the bike... or he's just really gassed from the climb. But Moeschler was getting away and I just couldn't find a good place to make a pass stick on Riffle. So I sat in and recovered a bit, but Kenny Burt caught us right before the end of Sunrise and we all started the traverse over to the "Baby Heads" together. My legs were burning and I was really wishing that I had grabbed an extra water bottle at the top because I had sucked down maybe 3/4 of the 2nd bottle by the time we made it to Baby Heads... oh well. All downhill (sorta) from here!
I entered Baby Heads (named because of the big, smooth rocks that cover this trail) behind Burt and I was hoping to stay on his wheel. I knew my good lines through here, but he's a great descender. We made a couple passes before the trail got really rough and I was again surprised I was able to stick with him. Even feeling like I could be going faster... must be the bike. We passed Billy Damon who was having a great ride and then went splashing through Pauley Creek. And to the cheers and encouragement from familiar faces Obie Miller and Chris Schulze spending the day on their moto's instead of pedaling... I powered up the loose climb after the creek that many have to hike. I led Kenny around a Marin factory team rider and before getting into the techy stuff on Pauley Creek Trail Kenny wanted by so I let him go. Again I set out to stay right on his wheel. We were absolutely ripping it and it was awesome.
Although it was SO dusty I couldn't see squat. I was watching Kenny's movements closely and mimicking his actions to absorb and work the trail, but the trail was getting rougher and I was feeling the need to back off a bit in order to save my equipment. Just as I was backing off, leaned over in a right hander, SMACK!!! PSSHHSHSHSHHH!!!! I had hit a root (I think) pretty hard but it just happened to have a sharp nub or something which punctured the front tire... "NOOOOO!!!! DAMMIT!!" Stan's sealant was shooting everywhere and the tire was flat almost instantly. It was a huge gash... two actually and a chunk of tread was torn off. I busted out the CO2 in an attempt to get it to seal up tubeless again but that was a lost cause... the Stan's just went everywhere! So I busted out my tube to throw in the tire but ran into two problems: 1) Since I'd never had a flat with the new ENVE carbon wheels, I didn't realize the standard valve stem didn't hardly stick through the deep dish rim which caused problem 2) the new CO2 head I'd just bought didn't fit on there enough to inflate the tube!!! Aaahhhhh!!!!! And I wasn't carrying an old fashioned pump. My day was done so I set off carrying the bike down the trail and tried to stay out of the way. After about 15 minutes of hiking I came across another rider who was pumping up his tire and just finishing up. "Can I borrow your pump?" I humbly asked. "Yeah... but you'll have to carry it down." That was an easy choice, he handed me his pump just as I was getting my tube in and he set off. Thank you!!! Hopefully you got it back from the race announcer! I pumped up the tire with the tube visible through the puncture holes and prayed it would hold up for the rest of the downhill.
Once I finally got going again I was right in the mix with the middle or back of the expert field and maybe the front end of the sport riders. Man was this frustrating. I'd never experienced mid pack riding at Downieville before but that stinks! These guys are working hard, so kudos for them pushing their limits, but can I just get by?? But after a while I just accepted it and figured I'd benefit from "saving" myself for the DH on Sunday. On 1st Divide trail I was stuck behind a group of three and since it's on the side of a cliff, there was no getting by. I started whistling and singing the two songs that were stuck in my head, and I even asked what songs those guys had stuck in their heads (happens to everyone right?) and offered to sing them. I didn't get a response... they were probably thinking to themselves "Would this jerk shut up?!" I finally got by before the lower, faster section of the trail...
I finally rolled across the line in 2hrs 36min... and extremely bummed.
I kept telling myself that it's just the nature of racing here at Downieville and you HAVE to have good luck in order to do well. Just regular luck means you break something or flat but you can still fix it and finish. Bad luck is when you have to DNF. So I tried to be thankful. Turns out Kenny flatted a little ways down the trail too so I was bummed for him as well. I think we were going to get up close to the top five.
So then I set out after some things that make me feel better...
And then we were headed back home to get ready for Sunday... the DH for me and TBF for Jen. I patched up the tire and refilled with sealant and 'Orange' was ready to rip it again.
I would be the 10th rider to set off on the DH course so I wasn't going to have much traffic or dust. But since I knew I was out of contention for the All Mountain I really just wanted to make sure I didn't hold up Moeschler and Craig who were starting behind me. I knew based on previous years times that it was inevitable that they would pass.
I had a clean and smooth run on Sunrise and the Butcher fire road and plunged into the upper Butcher singletrack. But not long into it I hear "Clint!! Buddy!!" Jason had already caught me and thankfully there was a good place to pull over so I did right away and he blew by. Amazing. I got back on it hard to try to stay with him and learn but he passed me too fast. I was able to keep him in sight for a while but he was gone by the waterfall. I rode my line clean through it though and finished up Butcher trail with one of my cleanest runs ever. But towards the bottom switchbacks I could feel my back tire getting squishy. Not again... Was it just in my head? Nope. After I crossed the bridge and set off up the climb to 3rd divide I looked down and it was getting really soft. I was able to make it to the top of the climb however but with the 40mph singletrack of 3rd divide ahead I needed to fill it up. So out the CO2 came again and as I was hooking it up Adam Craig came powering by. Well at least I didn't hold him up either. I finally got it full and set off to tear down the hill some more. Again I had one of my best runs on 3rd divide, hitting lines I'd never done before and really blazing it. A couple times I had some "Oh $#!^" moments and almost flew off the trail but was able to save it and keep it smooth. I had a smooth run on the upper section of 1st Divide trail and kept up a good pace on the flats. But speaking of flats, the rear tire was going down again about half way down the lower, faster part of 1st Divide but there was no way I was stopping again! I made it to the pavement without too many rim strikes and finished my DH run with my best time ever of 48:27... even with two stops. Not too shabby and it was good enough for 19th fastest in the DH with a pretty stacked field. But based on my prior day's poor XC result my All Mountain result was just 40th overall for the Pro men. Oh well. But at least I got to have a BLAST racing a sweet new bike... and just being at the Downieville Classic is always fun. Next year...