I was at the venue early in the day to watch my brother take 4th in his Cat 1 race. After that I started asking around to see if I could wrangle some 12mm end caps so I could run my ENVE wheels on the Tallboy. HUGE thanks to Jordi, the mechanic for Team Cannondale Sho-Air for pulling them off of his bike for me. I seriously owe you!!
The first race would be the XC, and at 1:45pm it was pretty toasty in the sun. Well at least for what we've been used to. I got a decent call-up and was in the 3rd row... but not quite close enough to catch some shade from Jeremiah Bishop's umbrella.
As usual though when the gun went off I slipped back a bit, but not too far as we went through the first few corners.
I managed to keep a decent position and was feeling pretty good before having to slam on the brakes as we funneled into the first bit of singletrack. After we got going again I sat down and relaxed in the comfort of rear suspension and recovered, since there was nowhere to pass for a little bit. At the first opportunity I had, I tried to take a different line over the rough stuff to pass by some hard tail riders.
It was a short climb though and I passed one but couldn't make the second one stick so I fell back in line again. The pace was fast and I was feeling it but wasn't quite pegged, then we hit a short climb where slipped down a rut into some sand and missed a shift. Recovering from the stall out and trying not to let anyone pass put me in the red zone right away, and one guy still got by before we made our way to the pavement climb, which is the one spot I really felt the extra weight and rear suspension. Plus MTB tires on pavement always feels like it's sucking more energy out of you than it really is. The heat was radiating and everyone was gassing it... my rev limit was pegged!
I was passed by one rider on the pavement but was still able to keep contact with the front train, which was starting to get strung out even more as we went through the punchy, traversing singletrack along the contour of Southridge. Here is where the Tallboy started to really pay off. I couldn't pass...no room... but what I could do through the tight little turns, climbs, drops and rocks was relax and recover much easier than I could have on the Highball, and maintain my momentum. When we finished the first bit of climbing and had a doubletrack traverse to the other side of the hill, I had more pep than the guys I was following so I could power down and pass a few before the last climb to the top. Here it got a little steeper with some pretty tight switchbacks which are tough for a tall guy. The right handers would also tweak my sore knee a little bit, but I was still able to make it through just as fast as the other guys.
The lowered rake angle of the Fox TALAS fork in the short setting was great for these climbs, and then when I crested the top I opened it up to 120mm to rail the fun downhill... for a few seconds until I got held up... so I tried to relax and recover again. The downhill off the top (which is also the first part of the Super D) is legit, with some tight switchbacks, a few drops with good sized granite rocks, and a number of places where you really have to thread the needle or a rock on the uphill side will pull your foot or your derailleur off. A guy behind me was heckling the rider holding us up, yelling at him to pick it up and close the gap back up. He picked up the pace a little bit but we had some work to do once the course opened back up and we passed and put our heads down going up the next climb... aaaand back into the red zone! But then there was another traversing section to rail before a short climb up over the ridge to the flowy backside downhill. Here I opened up the fork and shock again and let 'er rip. Thankfully the two riders in front of me were able to keep a good pace and I think we gained some ground back before the flat slog around the north side of the mountain. There's always a headwind there as you come back so I was hesitant to pass, figuring I'd just end up pulling the other two along with a free ride behind the big guy, but I was able to break away and start making my push towards the front coming in for lap 2.
I really pushed it on the initial flats of the second lap where I knew the Tallboy would excel and made up some ground before hitting the pavement climb again, but I was maxed out and couldn't make any passes before getting into the singletrack again. After that effort I really had to recover and I was only able to make a couple passes through the remainder of the lap. I just kind of fell in line for a while and took in some Clif Shot and a bunch of water. I was feeling the heat for sure, but at least it seemed like everyone else was too. At the start of the third lap the legs were starting to come around again and I was pushing a good pace. As I wound through the bushes of the flats, I was reeling in a rider that looked to be Team Clif Bar rider Menso de Jong. I thought to myself, "Nah I can't be that far up, must be someone else." But before I started up the first sandy climb, it turned out to be Menso. As I went by I asked if he needed anything. He said no and that I was looking strong. That surprised me... I didn't feel strong! My legs were screaming, my low back was tight and in pain, and my sweat tasted like sea water! But I kept pushing and as I climbed I still caught people and was feeling better and better! My third lap felt awesome and as I started my last lap I passed fellow Norcal racer Michael Hosey and my brother said I was in 16th! What?!?! AWESOME!!! But he also said the next guys were about a minute ahead... DOH! Well... power down!
I felt really good on the last lap and rode it all by myself. I tried to keep from looking over my shoulder and just pushing as hard as I could regardless, so the thought of being satisfied with 16th wouldn't creep into my head. But I couldn't help but sneak a peak here and there... and there was nobody coming. There were no rabbits to catch either... they were just too far ahead for me to catch in one lap. But I was STOKED to roll across the line with my best Pro XCT finish of 16th!!
After the XC I began to convert the Tallboy into a Super D machine... a Fox DOSS dropper post installed and a shorter 70mm stem. But I discovered the stack height of the shorter stem was different and I needed another spacer! (First time setting it up this way) Ahhh!! Sooo... when I returned the end caps to Jordi... :-) yeah... I owe him some more beer! The bike was soon ready to go and I was able to get a few turns in on the lower section of the Super D course. It felt totally different... better... but different and would take a little time to get used to. Unfortunately, it was time to head up to the top and get in line to race. All I wanted to do was lie down and eat everything in sight. I really wasn't in the mood to push the limits and take risks, but once my run started I just tried to be smooth and as fast as I could.
I had dumped everything into the XC, physically and emotionally, and I was done. I wasn't feeling it and was just on the brakes too much. I'm bummed about it because it is a really fun course. I just didn't have anything left to give and rolled across in 18th.
Racing was done for Saturday, and even though Super D didn't go that great, I was still VERY happy with the day's results! I woofed down dinner and went back to work transferring parts back to the Highball for Sunday's Short Track.
Easter Sunday, after a short warmup ride first thing with my brother, we got together with my grandparents and headed off to church. A good reminder and refresher about what's really important, and celebrate the sacrifice and gift of salvation we enjoy. After church my bro and sister in law whipped up another awesome brunch... I wanted to eat about 5 times more than I did! But with only two hours until the short track sufferfest I was able to have better judgement and off to the venue I was again!
I was feeling really flat in my warmup and it was really hard to get going. I popped some extra Clif Shot Espresso in the hopes of a good caffeine boost but it just didn't seem to be there. It was going to be tough, but I was going to give it everything and just hope I could avoid being pulled. The course was very short and flat, avoiding the climb and descent that was included the last time I raced here two years ago. I lined up 2nd row behind Todd Wells, Ryan Trebon, and Jeremiah Bishop. I could only hope to keep up with that power!
The gun went off and I fell back slightly, spinning out in the gravel before the first turn, but was able to keep contact with the front group! Well at least the back of it! The pain train was goin'... 15 minutes plus two laps! The first lap was incredibly dusty and as we went through the one tight area of bushes I SMACKED a rock with my rear wheel. Thankfully the dredded "Hiss" never came and I continued on.
I was feeling a lot better than I expected and kept my head down and pain level up. I played it smart and drafted where I could and attacked where I knew I could make the bridge to the next guy. After a few laps we separated into a few groups as the leaders pulled away. But I stayed in it and was surprising myself as the laps just kept ticking by...
With two laps to go I was in a group of three with Kenda/Felt rider Colin Cares and TJ Woodruff. Going into one of the last corners TJ got crossed up and endo'd hard! Thankfully I had a bit of space and was able to get around without getting caught up, but I lost contact with Colin. I ran the last lap solo but crossed the line in 12th!!! I couldn't believe it!!! I think a good part of it was that my niece and nephew were the best cheering section ever... :-)
Can't wait for the final round of the Triple Crown in Santa Ynez...
...and then Sea Otter!