Monday, April 15, 2013

US Cup Triple Crown Finals / Santa Ynez Valley Classic

Last week three new carbon 29ers were brought into the world... just in time for the final round of the US Cup Triple Crown at Santa Ynez (actually... Los Olivos, CA) where each would get their very own race!  Teammate Ryan Chandler also made it down for each of the three races... aiming to get more black and green on the podium.

First up was short track on the brand new Highball.  The course is fast and flat, starting off with some long singletrack into a headwind.
We'd soon make a u-turn and head up a short climb to a plateau and make our way back on some more singletrack, bust through a couple 'S' turns and head down into a banked turn before looping back around to do it all over again.
The group all stayed together because of that headwind and I sat 3rd or 4th wheel most of the time until the later half where Ryan and I would be 1-2.  At this point I really started thinking... how can we work together?  I guess we should have discussed this before hand but we've never had this happen before!  And we've never raced road so we had no idea about tactics.  Mountain bike races rarely have situations where you can work together.  So I sat in behind Ryan... thinking... when should I go? I feel good... but is it worth expending the effort just to get caught again after we turn into the wind?  The laps ticked by and I did nothing, and neither did anyone else.  With two laps to go I thought there were three, so I was waiting to try something on the next lap.  But then we came around with the one to go signal... oops!  Ok, well I figured I'd attack on the climb.  The pace picked up right before the corner at the climb and Cody Kaiser went with one other guy as we got there.  Just as we entered the corner I was getting ready to go when another rider cut in front of me and then slowed down as we climbed right when the front three attacked.  AHHH!!!  A gap opened and I tried to sprint around this guy, there wasn't much room but I pushed by and tried to bridge back up.  They were haulin' and I gave it all I had and caught back up by the time we hit the turns and the final drop down to the corner.  But that effort left me with nothing for the final sprint and I came in 4th.  Ryan ended up getting edged out by Cody in a final sprint to the line... but Ryan did awesome for his first short track race!
Next up... Super D just a few hours later and it was the maiden voyage for my new Tallboy LTc.  In my preriding I dialed in the Fox Float 140 CTD fork, Float CTD Boost Valve rear shock and D.O.S.S. dropper post to my liking.  So much adjust-ability and fine tuning options!  I'll probably be fiddling with it all for a while but I seemed to get it pretty dialed in by my start time.  The Super D course was SUPER climb-y... and my Tallboy c would probably have been a better choice since I didn't need much travel.  I just wanted to ride the LTc because it's so fun!  And it pedals pretty darn well anyways!  The course started off on the top of the ridge, with a small drop about 20 feet from the start line.  My first goal was to get clipped in before that!  Check mark!  Next were two more log drops I got to pedal into with some good speed and just soar... WEEE!!!  That fun ended way too quickly and after only about 10 seconds into the run the first climb up the next ridge started and it was time to feel the burn and try to chase down Cody who started 30 seconds prior.  Once I finally got to descend again, I railed the first banked turn into a hip jump... sweet!  I couple more banked turns and then a loose off camber led into a traverse over to I high speed trail along a creek bed where I could really open it up to about 30mph even though it was barely downhill.  It was smooth and had banked corners and rollers to pump off of before it eventually flattened out and turned uphill again.  The gap to Cody seemed to be stagnant so I kept pushing.  The next climb was a doosey and would take about two minutes to complete before finally getting to turn down again.  I caught a female racer in a bad spot, going around a knoll where the trail fell away.  She pulled to the inside slightly and I went outside on the loose edge of the trail.  I fell off the side a bit and had to unclip for balance but made it back on to the trail fairly quickly.  Right after that I hit one of the small doubles with speed, trying to make up the time I felt I lost and the crosswind just about took my wheels out from under me but thankfully I hit the dirt again before I got too sideways!  I absorbed the next big jump on the course to keep the pedals turning (and because I'm a penguin) and hammered home the last couple sections to the finish.
I felt pretty good about my run but the gap to Cody didn't really seem to close, so I wasn't sure about my placing.  Ryan would come down a few minutes later... also feeling good with his run on his Tallboy but also unsure of his placing.  While waiting for results I posed with some adoring fans... MORE COWBELL!!!
 But they were unimpressed by my wheelie skills... Moo...
After a while results were finally posted... Ryan 1st, me 2nd!  YEAH!!! Team Santa Cruz / Fox 1-2!!!  We were separated by just 1.5 seconds over the 10 minute course.  Was that the difference between the Tallboy c and the Tallboy LTc for all those climbs?  Hard to say... but pretty cool!
After the podium celebration Jen and I headed down to the town of Buellton for some dinner with my parents as well.  The first place we went was super busy so we went to our next choice.  Once we finally got seated I was starving and thankfully food came quick... ahhh much better!  After eating all I could we checked into our motel to relax.  I'd say fitting XL 29ers into a small motel room, such that you don't impale yourself on a handlebar or chainring in the middle of the night is a skill...
Sunday morning was the final race of the weekend and I'd be on my Tallboy c... ready to rock!  Or was I?
Multi-time Aussie National Champ Sid Taberlay, probably in the country for Sea Otter (next weekend) rolled up to the line late and he suddenly became the guy everyone would be watching.  We set off at 11am under beautiful weather for two laps of the 12.5 mile course, and Ryan jumped out front right at the start.
The first part of the XC course was the same as the Short Track, so I fell in line, about 8th place, until Sid went by just after the climb so I followed.

I felt like I was barely hanging on even though I was working as hard as I could.  It just didn't feel right.  I looked down and my heart rate was only at 160.  What's the deal!?  I had warmed up for about 45 minutes, but since I had my GPS off to save battery and couldn't see my heart rate, did I not warm up hard enough?  Regardless... I just hung on as we climbed up the first set of switchbacks to the top... and the leaders started to pull away.  I had nothing.  It felt like I had already been riding for three hours or so.  The legs were just flat and I had no power for the climbs, or really to push it period.  So I changed my focus just a little and really tried to maximize the speed I could generate on the downhills and flat pedaling sections where the Tallboy is king.  About half way through the first lap I was in 5th with 6th place right on my wheel and I pulled him through the rest of the lap.
I could see Ryan and Cody Kaiser about 30 seconds to a minute ahead but I just couldn't get there and it was so frustrating!  I was passed by my "trailer" going up the first big climb of the second lap and I still had no power to stay on his wheel.  I just hung on and survived the rest of the lap, trying not to get the wheels blown out from under me in the cross wind if I caught air, and trying to make clean passes on the Cat 1/2 traffic we were catching.  As I was cruising into the venue area to finish up the final lap, I heard a spectator yell "GET 'EM CHUCK!!!" to someone behind me... I looked to see a grimacing face sprinting towards me with about 200 yards and one corner to go.  I had to at least try to protect my position so I pulled out whatever power I had left and gave 'er... protecting the inside on the final corner.  He was right there now, we turned, I stayed left to protect the inside on the corner exit.  The finish shoot was on the right and I made my way, sprinting, to the right as he was slowly coming up on my right and slowly gaining.  The finish shoot came and I was able to hold him off for 6th place.  Afterwards I congratulated Ryan on his 4th place finish and we debriefed the race.
Looking back feel like I know what happened and the mistake I made.  And it's as simple as not eating enough, soon enough, after ending the days riding on Saturday.  It left me in a fatigued state (my average heart rate for the race was 147!) and I know better... which is so frustrating.  So then I kicked back with my Mom and had some tacos and a Firestone Double Barrel Ale to help improve my mood :-).

So three races, three bikes, and three podiums!  I know what you're thinking... Short Track, Super D, he didn't podium in XC so what's the third?  It's the top step of the US Cup Triple Crown Series!!!!

Huge congrats to Ryan for his very strong weekend which put him in 2nd for the Triple Crown races on the weekend!  We're both looking forward to Sea Otter coming up fast next weekend and getting the black and green out there to mix it up with the big boys!

No comments:

Post a Comment