Thursday, June 19, 2014

Enduro Then Endurance - CA Enduro Series #1 (Battle Born Enduro) and NCNCA State XC Champs (Rockhopper Classic)

After dipping my toes into "Enduro" last year, I've been really looking forward to this years' races.  Yeah, I've always been more of an XC racer, but that's just because it's been convenient and it's the most efficient use of my time (pack the most miles in as small of a time period as you can).  But since I grew up controlling things with motors, and as a bigger guy I really, REALLY liked going downhill when I started out riding mountain bikes (Flashback to 2005), I've always had a love for speed.  And as great as the Highball and Tallboy c are at what they do, riding and racing my Tallboy LTc is just fun.  So off to Reno I went for the first round of the California Enduro Series on Peavine Mountain.  Reno? California series? The west side of the mountain is technically in California and though we didn't ride on that side, I guess it still counts :-).

Marshall and Ryan would also make the trip up the hill and we took to the baron, desert mountain in our flo-yellow. Stoked...
We had a seven mile, two thousand or so foot climb to start our day as the first "transfer" stage before we even started racing.  It's not timed, but I set out at a nice pace to get my body warmed up.  Plus it was already getting quite hot, and I didn't really want to be standing in line at the start of each stage in the sun.  I was the second rider to go off for stage one. I hammered the dry, loose and flat corners as best I could but it was really hard to find any flow and really open it up.  It was a nice long stage, but it seemed like every corner was blown out with vision blocking bushes, rocks, or hill contour on the inside.  The "bobsled" I remember from racing XC here was fun, as it snakes down a small canyon from side to side.  I beat the camera man, so here's Ryan and Marshall on the bobsled.

After finishing stage 1, I felt I had more to give but the corners were getting to me.  After a brief pedal back up the hill, I'd start stage two with even slower, tighter corners that I fumbled around in.  Feeling pretty frustrated with myself, I was happy that the second half of stage two opened up a bit and I could let her fly.  Finally! Some speed!  Stages three and four were much of the same.  Just trying to find a place to put power down while skating around in the corners.  Most of stage four I was familiar with from the old Peavine XC course, except for an abrupt trail turn at the bottom with signage that was a bit too late.  I blew right by, but thankfully I saw it and went back.

The final stage was for pro/expert only since it ran through the main rock gardens on the hill.  It was pretty fun, and thankfully I had seen it before so I knew just to point it straight and let the bike do the work.  The LTc soaked it all up and I'm really diggin' the TALAS 140 fork.  Especially dropping it down to 120mm for the long transfer climbs.

I ended up 12th overall, and even though times were very close together, I couldn't help but be frustrated with my performance.  I just need to relax and ride it, not tense up and try to pedal my way through everything.  But I was stoked with the trailer I picked up through craigslist while I was up in Reno, it's going to be perfect to use for TimeYourRace!  And maybe the occasional shuttle day... :-)

The next day was the Rockhopper Classic XC race at Lagoon Valley Park in Vacaville.  Last year I had to miss this race because I sliced open my hand with a saw, so I was happy to be in one piece this year!  We were timing the race as well, so Jen took the trailer early in the morning.  I set off a little later after dropping Logan off with some friends to watch for the day.  While I was so thankful for their help, I really didn't want to leave him since he's always incredibly cute in the morning and hard to leave!  Because of that, and my frustration with my enduro race the day before, I decided I'd really make this race count.

With the steep, punchy style of this course, the Highball was my steed for the day.  I got in an easy warmup, stuck six Clif Shot Bloks to the top tube (sorted by caffeine level), and I was feeling comfortable on the line.

 The legs were a little heavy once we got started, and I was happy the pace wasn't a sprint from the get-go. I think everyone knew there was a long hot race ahead, and didn't want to fry themselves early. I hung in there in about 3rd or 4th spot for the first couple climbs and around to the backside of the hill.  I got into 3rd as we made our way up the singletrack climbs and was feeling good so when we hit the first of the really steep climbs I went to the front and upped the pace a bit.  Jim Hewitt stuck with me as well as Justin Thomas, and Jim went by as we pedaled up the fire road climb in the middle of the course.  That fire road always seems to hurt more than I think it should, but the cold water on my back from the neutral aid station felt great after the initial shock.  Jim lead up the next set of switchback climbs and slowed the pace down a little.  He is always very good at pacing a race, so he may have been trying to keep us within his pacing strategy.  Since I was feeling up for it, I wanted to try and push the pace beyond what he was comfortable with, and went around at a break in the big climb before we got to the final switchbacks.  I made it to the top, with maybe a five second gap lap record!

It was really starting to warm up as I started my second lap.  And I tried to ride in the shade wherever I could.

I was still feeling decent on the steep climbs for the second lap, which was surprising to me since I haven't had the chance to do much training for them.  They were tough though, especially with the dead air making me feel like I was in an oven while climbing slowly.  I was slowly, slowly stretching my lead but Justin was still hanging on about five to ten seconds back so I had to keep my pace up.  Every time I'd look back to him, his effort showed on his face and his jersey was fully open.  He was ready to crack, I was just hoping it was soon!  I really wanted to ease up for a minute and take on a little more fuel and water without giving ground.  That finally happened by the time I reached the top of the mountain on the second lap.  And once I reached the bottom and headed out for my third and final lap, I had no chasers in sight.  I took down the last of my non-caffeinated Shot Bloks and a bunch of water as I started the third lap.  But half way through I was getting hungry and those steep climbs were burning hot.  On to the caffeinated bloks for the last boost of energy to the finish!  I started talking to myself... "They're still there, chasing... they're coming... just a few more minutes of climbing... one more set of switchbacks... you can do this keep it up!"  Finally I made it to the top, happy to rail the descent one final time.  I was a bit out of it though, and as I jumped over a rock about half way down, my take-off was poor and I didn't counter the force of the hot side-wind coming up the hill.  I landed on the bank of the cut in trail, the tires slipped out and I slid along for about ten feet on my hip and elbow.  I never let go of the bars though and was back on and rolling quickly with revived focus that carried me to the finish and the win.  

In addition to the wine and a little cash, I was also awarded the USA Cycling Northern CA and NV district state championship for the second year in a row!

 Jen also won some wine in the raffle!  It was a good day!

 I'm very happy I could pull this one off and feel a little redeemed after the Battle Born Enduro.  I've always made an effort to be well rounded and I'm thankful I have the support to do both types of events.  Who knew enduro would be the perfect leg opener for an XC race?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Son. That was a great read! Congrats on your win! Dad